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Subject: Does it play well with 2 and how well does it scale? rss

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Jeran Delapp
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Castle Rock
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I primarily play board games with just my wife or just my brother. So typically we try and play a games that are for two players or play best with just two players. It is a constant frustration when I find a game that looks fun or interesting that either does not play with only 2 players or plays terribly with only 2 players.

Mystic Vale, it may or may not be the first game to impliment the "card crafting" twist on the deck building mechanic that has become such a standard and commonplace mechanic in games of late. I know that Custom Heroes is another Alderac Entertainment Group game that uses the same mechanism with the card crafting and has had similar success. Instead of drafting new cards or rather by purchasing the entire card to add to your deck as in a deck builder, instead you purchase a 1/3 of a card's potential abilities with each purchase and work on a starting deck of cards that are either just blank or that have weak/hindering abilities.

Before I get too far into it, I want to point out that I think this game design or mechanic is truly awesome! Crafting the cards is fun and new and takes a whole new twist on the genre and it is done pretty well in this game and I imagine that fact is what is allowing them to make all the expansions that are coming out in droves for this game.

That being said, I have played this game now multiple times and at least once at each player count. It isn't as fun as I think it should be at any number of players, in my opinion. And at 4 players is just tedious. The luster of the card crafting I felt wore off relatfively quick and post gimmick you have a middle of the road deck builder with a twist and without the gimmick this game loses any luster it had, There are numerous deck building games out there that steal the spotlight from a game like this and make me hesitant to want to play this game more than certain other deck buikders. Keep in mind, I am referring solely to the base game, no expansions.

As for how well this game scales. The biggest and most glaring issue I had with adding more players to the game is the same I have in many others, it adds more time to the game. Mystic Vale isn't a long game inherintly and once you have played it more than once, you learn how easy it is to "preload" your turn and be ready to rock as soon as your opponent gives you the go ahead. But by adding a 3rd or 4th player, the game can really bog down and almost feel tedious, especially because the game uses a push your luck mechanic where you may not get to do ANYTHING on your turn and instead have to wait for your turn to come all the way back around just to hope not to spoil the next time.

I personally would not want to play this again at 4 players. At 3 the game is still fun and the turns aren't outrageous to wait through and there is a little more chance of taking cards away from your opponent and screwing up their strategy and keeping the game lighthearted and fun. Once again though, and maybe im crazy, but i think if i were going to try and sell someone on this game and want them to get the most fun out of it possible, I would say to play it as a head to head two player game. I think for keeping turn speed and AP under control and having that solid back and forth constant race for most points, the game shines and plays it's best at just 2 players. I will say that the game is not overly complex, it is very much like a deck builder and can be learned or taught to someone with little or no board game exp in only a few minutes, or less if someone at the table already knows how to play it. Set up is quick and the components are awesome. The theme and the art are pretty removable, but that doesn't take away from the game whatsoever.

This is obviously my opinion but I hope my observations support my argument and have in someway helped someone get a better understanding of how well the game does or does not scale at the different player counts. I find this to be one topic that alot of reviewers never touch on.
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Doug DeMoss
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Jeranimal wrote:

That being said, I have played this game now multiple times and at least once at each player count. It isn't as fun as I think it should be at any number of players, in my opinion. Strategy became more and more apparent to me after a couple of play throughs and I found the way fo win was to gobble up every card that would get me the symbols to allow the purchase of the vale cards that had the VP on them and to not focus or worry to hard on generating much money or worry about abilities that make my cards lose/gain the trees that either hinder or favor me.


There's more to it than that. You need mana (and growth helps in this regard) to get those cards in the first place. While you're collecting that, somebody prioritizing quick crystal generation may end the game before you're able to get enough vale cards to matter. You may also find that the spirits you need just aren't available quickly enough.

What the game is REALLY about is adapting to the environment it gives you. It took me quite a few plays to realize that; my initial opinion was, like yours, that the game is fairly shallow. I was wrong.
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Rick Teverbaugh
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I don't agree at all with the OP but do agree with the second opinion
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steven smolders
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2 player fun and not at all unbalanced
3 player still oke but can be unbalanced already
4 players is a really bad random luck fest i won't ever play again
 
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Greg Lunsford-Davis
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Jeranimal wrote:
I personally would not want to play this again at 4 players. At 3 the game is still fun and the turns aren't outrageous to wait through and there is a little more chance of taking cards away from your opponent and screwing up their strategy and keeping the game lighthearted and fun. Once again though, and maybe im crazy, but i think if i were going to try and sell someone on this game and want them to get the most fun out of it possible, I would say to play it as a head to head two player game. I think for keeping turn speed and AP under control and having that solid back and forth constant race for most points, the game shines and plays it's best at just 2 players. I will say that the game is not overly complex, it is very much like a deck builder and can be learned or taught to someone with little or no board game exp in only a few minutes, or less if someone at the table already knows how to play it. Set up is quick and the components are awesome. The theme and the art are pretty removable, but that doesn't take away from the game whatsoever.

I'm excited for the Conclave expansion around the holidays which will increase player count up to 6. While that probably sounds nightmarish to people who hate it already at 4, the explanation I got from John Clair is that it will have simultaneous turns so playing with 6 will take about as long as playing with 3. This would probably be confusing for new players, but it doesn't take long to figure out how to prep your turn and be ready to go again soon.
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Jeran Delapp
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I don't disagree that this game has more ways to win than what I described. I simply meant that I felt the game was too simple and not fun enough to warrant playing at more than two players. The main emphasis I wanted to make with my review was how the game felt at different player counts and how/if it scaled.
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Crazed Survivor
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Jeranimal wrote:
That being said, I have played this game now multiple times and at least once at each player count. It isn't as fun as I think it should be at any number of players, in my opinion. Strategy became more and more apparent to me after a couple of play throughs and I found the way fo win was to gobble up every card that would get me the symbols to allow the purchase of the vale cards that had the VP on them and to not focus or worry to hard on generating much money or worry about abilities that make my cards lose/gain the trees that either hinder or favor me.


I'd totally eat you up with playing my whole deck each turn and then buying 13 VP if you went that route
Or end the game so soon you'd end up with a mere 20 VP by playing cards that instantly net victory points.
There's much more to the game than just that.

I like the game 2 players the most. It's faster, less downtime, and you don't lose anything in the process unless you're playing two very specific Leaders, and you can reasonably expect to have enough time to take the Advancement or Vale you need without 3 other players having bought it before you.
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Jeran Delapp
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I feel like the overall point i was attempting to make with my review is being missed. This was not a review about strategies or how to win or best win path etc. This is simply MY OPINION, about how well the game plays or feels at different player counts as I feel this piece of information is often overlooked in reviews. The example I use most often for this is Smash Up. A great game, with tons of replay and expansions and fun to be had. But the box says 2-6 players and at 2 players the game is terrible and 0% fun. The same is not true for Mystic Vale but it is my reason for writing the review.
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Gal Gregor
Austria
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Maybe you should try to play my mystic vale variant: mystic vale ultimate. I think it give you more tactical play options and downtime is also less, because it is less likely that someeone pushes through the whole deck..

and I think it is best played with 2-3 players. 2 is fastest, but 3 is important for certain leader cards (3rd expansion) to have full effect.
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Schwarz
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I got it by Santa this year. Played it only 4 times with my wife (which is quite often for us) and we both love it, my wife even more.

It's an ultra fast game if both players trust each other. And there is a very nice machine effect (last rounds you can place your whole deck in one round typically and generate 20 or more points).

We played 3x base game and 1* with expansions.
 
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