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Subject: Cooperative deduction is a hit with our family - The Board Game Family review rss

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Trent Howell
United States
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Another death has occurred and it's up to your team of psychics to unravel the mystery.
How familiar does that sound?

Perhaps it’s because plenty of deduction board games have that same premise – to solve a murder mystery. The most popular is Clue.

Yet Mysterium takes the familiar premise and shakes it up to make a fresh and fun new family board game.
Many people have compared Mysterium to a mash up of Clue and Dixit: Clue because of the mystery of trying to discover a person, place, and thing and Dixit because of the bizarre and evocative imagery on the cards.

But even that comparison can’t quite capture the essence of the game.

Because one of the differing aspects of Mysterium is that it's a cooperative deduction game – everyone either wins or loses together.

Everyone we’ve played Mysterium with has loved it. And we’re more than happy to tell you why.

How to Play Mysterium

As we’ve mentioned, in Mysterium players work together to solve a mystery. However, the person with all the answers, the Ghost, isn’t able to talk!

The only way the Ghost player can communicate is through pictures!

During the game, the Ghost will hand out Vision cards to the other players (Psychics) to help them correctly guess a person, location, and object. If successful, they’ll all win!

If not, well, too bad for them.

Set Up

The Mysterium rulebook does a good job diagraming the set up of the game. Rather than get into all the details, here are the basics.

Players first decide who will play the role of the Ghost. That player gets the Ghost screen, the 3 decks of Ghost cards (characters, locations, objects), and the deck of Vision cards.

All the other players will be Psychics and each get a player pouch, crystal ball pawn, and clairvoyancy tokens.

Then the players randomly select a certain number of Character Psychic cards depending on the number of players and how difficult of a challenge they want. For example, with 5 players at the Easy level, they’ll select 6 random character cards and place them face up on the table in the Character area. They’ll read out the numbers on the back of these cards and the Ghost player will select those same 6 Character cards from the Ghost Character card deck.

The same thing is then done for the Locations and the Objects.

The Ghost then randomly assigns 1 Character, 1 Location, and 1 Object to each psychic player by placing them in the slots behind the Ghost screen. Any extra cards are placed back in the box without being seen. This creates a unique set of 3 things for each psychic to guess before the end of the 7th round.

Players place their crystal balls on Character progress board and are ready to begin.

Playing the Game

To get to the truth behind the mystery, each psychic will follow their own line of investigation. Each Psychic must discover their unique set of Character, Location, and Object. To help them do so, each round the Ghost will hand each player one or more Vision cards, from his hand of 7 cards, to help them guess the matching card.

For example, in the first round, the Ghost will hand everyone at least one Vision card that relates to their specific Character card.

Once everyone has been handed cards, the timer is turned over and the psychics have until the timer runs out to place their crystal ball on the card they think is correct. During this time, players can also vote whether they think other players have correctly placed their crystal ball. They do this using their Clairvoyance tokens with either a check mark for ‘Yes’ or red X for ‘No’.

Once the time runs out, the Ghost indicates if players correctly guessed their cards or not.
If a player was correct, they collect that card into their pouch and move their crystal ball on to the next progress board. Players that voted ‘Yes’ to that correct guess also move their Clairvoyance markers ahead one spot.

Players who guessed incorrectly move their crystal balls back to that section board to have another go at that same area in the next round. Players that placed their ‘No’ vote on incorrect guesses also move their Clairvoyance level token up one space – since they were correct in their ‘No’ vote.

For subsequent rounds, the Ghost will hand out cards to the Psychics based on the section they’ve advanced to. Some players may still be guessing their correct Character while others have advanced to Location or Object.

Since it’s a cooperative game, players are not racing to be the first to get their 3 correct. Instead, it’s in the interest of all players to help one another make correct guesses.

Play continues this way for 7 rounds.

If every player correctly guesses their matching set of Character, Location, and Object, then they advance to the final round.

If one of more players fails to correctly identify their set by the end of 7 rounds, they all lose the game and there is not a final round.

Final Game Round – Revealing the Culprit

If all the Physics figured out their set of 3 cards – Character, Location, and Object – they’re close to winning.
Now the Psychics have to correctly identify the set of cards that is the answer to the mystery. Meaning one of the Psychics has the actual correct set of who did it, where, and with what.

Each Psychic removes their 3 collected cards from their pouch and places them face up in front of them. They also place a ghost token number next to their set of cards. For example, with 4 Psychics, the sets of cards would have number tokens 1 – 4.

The Ghost player chooses one of the displayed sets to be the real solution and places that numbered culprit token face down on the culprit space of the epilogue progress board.

The Ghost draws 3 Vision cards from his hand and must use these cards to help the Psychics with their final guess. One of the cards must point to the Character, one to the Location, and one to the Object of the set chosen.

He then shuffles the 3 cards and places them face down in the center of the table.

The final vote by each psychic is done in secret. There is no talking by anyone at this stage.

Where a psychic’s clairvoyance marker is on the clairvoyance track determines when they get to vote.

Psychics with a low clairvoyance level will only get to see one Vision card turned over before they must vote. Psychics at the medium clairvoyance level will see two Vision cards turned over before voting. And psychics at the highest level will get to see all 3 Vision cards flipped over before voting.

To vote, the psychics use the numbered side of their clairvoyance tokens. They pick the one they believe corresponds to the set of cards of the real culprit and places that numbered token in their pouch.

Once everyone has voted, players take the tokens out of their pouches and reveal their vote.

If one set of cards has received the majority of votes, it’s chosen as the suspected set. If no single set has a clear majority, the tie is broken by the psychic furthest along the clairvoyance track.

Then the real culprit token is turned over to reveal the answer from the Ghost. If the set chosen by the psychics matches, everyone wins!

If not, everyone loses and the ghost will never rest in peace.

Can the whole family enjoy Mysterium?

Mysterium is a fun deduction board game that family members can very much enjoy playing together.
That being said, it’s not a game well suited for young kids to play. It’s not that they have to worry about any reading – because the game is completely visual. But rather they may struggle deducing the meaning behind the clues.

(Of course, that could really be said about everyone too. Because the whole game is centered on deducing what the ghost is trying to communicate through pictures.)

Everyone we’ve played Mysterium with has really enjoyed it. And everyone wants to have a hand at playing the Ghost role as well.

I have to admit that being the ghost is super fun. It’s also a quite a challenge.

The ghost screen provided is amazingly helpful in making the challenge doable. I played the original Polish version of Mysterium a couple years ago and it was tough for the ghost to keep all the cards organized. So this new screen is fabulous.

As the ghost, you get to have all the cards associated with each player nicely organized and always in view. So when choosing which cards to pass to which players, you can have all the info at the ready. And you can hold the Vision cards in front of all these images to more easily find similarities that you may want to pass for clues.

It’s also very helpful to listen to the player discussions to find what types of things in the photos they’re zeroing in on. If they get their first guesses wrong, you’ll have a better idea as to where they’re going wrong and try to steer them in a correct direction.

As a Psychic, it’s fun to puzzle out what in the world the ghost is trying to tell you from the strange images he gives you.

It’s a good thing psychics start by trying to guess the characters because those can be the most challenging. Even though each Character card has unique traits, there are still a lot of similarities among the cards.
Once you pass that test and move on to the location cards, there seem to be more differences in color, lighting, and items included in the image. So it can be easier to zero in on the correct location.

Another cool thing about this version of Mysterium is the ability for players to vote on whether they think other players’ guesses are correct or not. Doing so correctly is a huge advantage at the end of the game.

Each time you guess correctly, you move your marker on the clairvoyance track. How far along you are on this track determines how many cards you’ll see in the final game round to nab the true culprit. Seeing just 1 card before making your final guess will severely hamper your ability to get the final set correct. So good discussions among the players will go a long way in making sure everyone is moving nicely along the clairvoyance track.

If you haven’t guessed, we think Mysterium is a fantastic cooperative game for the whole family to enjoy.

Mysterium components are top notch

We’ve already mentioned how much we love the Ghost screen. But we’re equally smitten with all the components of the game.

Obviously much can be said about the artwork in the game. Since visuals are the central component of the game, they’re the most noticeable. Players spend plenty of time pouring over not just the Character, Location, and Object cards but also all the Vision cards they’re given during the game. And the Ghost is constantly pouring over the images behind his screen too.

So it’s wonderful that the art on all the cards is so captivating and contains so many nuances that players don’t get tired of looking at them.

The final thing I’ll mention specifically about the quality components is the Clock. It could have been very easy to leave the clock out of the game entirely. Players could keep track of the 7 game rounds in any number of ways. But the large clock for marking down time (game rounds) is ever-present and foreboding.
Not only is it easy to see how much time is left before needed to guess all your cards, but also the style of the clock is yet another visual that solidifies the game theme so well.

Mysterium is a top notch game all around!

How does Mysterium score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Mysterium scores very high on our “let’s play again” game meter. Actually we should clarify that. It’s more like an, “I want to be the ghost!” call because everyone wants to try their hand at being the ghost.

Yet, win or lose the game is still super fun to play again even for the psychics.

The deck of Vision cards is plentiful and every card has tons of things that could be used to drop hints to the psychics that every game will play out differently. You may think that a certain Vision card will be used to peg a certain Character every time for example. But the probabilities are extremely low that a certain combination will present itself in a future game. So there’s a ton of replay value in Mysterium.

Plus there are a lot of people we’re looking forward to playing the game with as well. Whether they generally like playing board games or not, we’re sure Mysterium will be a hit with them as well.

Follow The Board Game Family:
A list of all our family board game and card game video reviews can also be found on BGG in this Family Video Reviews GeekList.
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