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Subject: Mysterium - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of W Eric Martin

This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type – Co-operative Social Deduction\Party Game
Play Time: 40-60 minutes
Number of Players: 3-7 (Best 5+)
Mechanics – Co-op Play, Deduction, Hand Management
Difficulty – Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 20 minutes)
Components – Excellent
Release – 2015

Designer – Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko (Major Debut Title)

Overview and Theme

In a house in Scotland a presence is felt by the new owner, a presence not altogether of this realm. So it is that Conrad MacDowell invites the world's foremost mediums\psychics to the house to see if they can communicate with whatever force is present via a séance on Halloween (a time when the visible and invisible worlds meet). Sure enough contact is made with a spirit, a ghost of a former servant that came to an untimely demise on the night of a masquerade party. MacDowell not only wants to clear up the mystery, but he also wants his new property to be free of its dark past. To free the ghost from its aimless wanderings through the halls and rooms of the house, the mediums must try and interpret the visions that they are sent by the spirit to solve the age old mystery and lay the spirit's soul to rest.

Welcome to Mysterium, which can be aptly described as a cross between the concepts of Dixit and Cluedo\Clue. For those unaware of these titles, this essentially translates into a game that requires a series of clues to be given, in artwork form, in order to solve a mystery that involves identifying a victim (as it is now 28 years later), where they were murdered within the mansion and how (with what object). The game itself is a co-operative design, meaning that one player takes on the role of the spirit and the other players assume the roles of the mediums\psychics that must interpret the clues as they are given. But the players all win or lose as a collective.

Mysterium comes to us from a relatively new design pairing from the Ukraine, which is just another sign of the growing presence of our hobby in Eastern Europe. Most notably in Eastern Europe we think of the publishers and designers of Poland and the Czech Republic in the last decade...and names like Czech Games Edition (CGE), Portal Games, REBEL, Vlaada-Chvatil, Michal Oracz and Ignacy Trzewiczek to name some of the more recognisable. It really is great to see another corner of the globe getting into the tabletop arena.

So what are you waiting for? Oh a sign right! I produce a card with images of eyes, a clockwork owl and a smile. That means keep reading!

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The Components

It is fair to say that Mysterium is a pretty lavish production, some may accuse it of being overproduced. I don't think that is the case. Put simply, Mysterium is something of a labour of love and for a game with artwork at its core, it seems fitting that the production is aiming to catch the eye.

d10-1 Vision Cards – The Vision Cards will instantly feel familiar to fans of Dixit as they come in that lovely oversized format and share a spirit part whimsical, part brooding, part improbable, depending upon the artwork. The quality is up there with the cards from the original Dixit...they are perhaps not as sharp as of the later Dixit expansions.

But they certainly set a tone or mood and have enough elements that the players can draw many things from them.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-2 Additional Cards - Mysterium then uses a whole bunch of other cards to represent the Characters, Locations and Objects that are integral to the play. These cards require multiple copies also so the Mediums and the Ghost player can have their own copy. These are all done really well and work in the required smaller formats.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-3 Spirit Screen – This is a lovely component that is equal parts form and functionality. On the table it depicts to the Mediums a gorgeous double staircase leading to a balcony in a mansion of yesteryear. On the inside it uses plastic strips to hold various cards in place and assign them to the Psychics the players have chosen to be. It also creates a nice barrier between the Mediums and the Ghost players and allows the Ghost to go about their role in private.


Image Courtesy of MisterPoncho



Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-4 Tile Templates – The game requires all manner of templates to help delineate various areas. Where appropriate glass-stained window artwork is used to help tie a location to the cards that need be placed there (this artwork features on the back of the appropriate deck) and it helps to make the set-up a little more clear.

The Clairvoyancy Track Template is double-sided to allow the game to scale for the number of players also.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-5 Clock – This is perhaps the one aspect that could be accused of over-production as the game allows for the construction of a 3D Cardboard clock. But having said that it doesn't feel out of place and it adds to the games 'aura' as it sits on the table all set up.


Image Courtesy of Cpt_Rawz


d10-6 Crystal Balls – These are nice plastic representations of a crystal ball sitting atop a holding base. Coloured to match the other components held by a given player, they do the job and help to evoke the theme of the game.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-7 Tokens, Character Sleeves and Sand Timer – The Character Sleeves are another example of an addition that may not have been found in another design, but it is clear that Mysterium is something of a labour of love and it sits up there with titles from companies like Days of Wonder that have made their name for producing great looking titles. The sleeves not only give each Medium a visual identity and colour, but cards can be placed in them when required.

The Clairvoyancy Tokens are all about functionality and have two sides to help make them dual purpose, which is clever thinking. One side features a number and the other features a tick or a cross. I'll cover the reason for these later.

Then there are a few other tokens that represent crows and a numerical value (called Culprit Tokens). Another smaller set of tokens are also provided to keep track of each player's level. These are a little small for my liking but they do the job.

A Sand Timer is also provided that lasts for two minutes and the sane is coloured blue, which is a nice tie-in with the main colour palette of the box.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-8 Rules – In keeping with the rest of the production, the rules are a rather lavish affair. The first few pages are dedicated to the backstory of the game and short bios of the Psychics. A double-spread is used to outline all of the components and assist with set-up and then the rules themselves do a pretty good job of outlining the game and how it works.

They are a good example of a rule-set that require several readings to get it all clear in your mind, but once you've played a few times they make perfect sense and help clear up a question mark or two you may have had.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


Make no mistake…there is a lot of stuff inside the box of Mysterium. Cards of varying sizes, tokens and cardboard templates. For the most part it is of very high quality although I do wish those damned Clairvoyancy Level Tokens were a little bigger. But I nitpick at best as Mysterium represents excellent value for money.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


Set-Up

There is rather a bit to do to set up Mysterium and the game requires a fair chunk of real estate to lay out. The rules dedicate a full double-spread to outline it all. After a few plays though the set-up becomes second nature.


Image Courtesy of Cpt_Rawz
Setting the game up is really all about how many players are playing and the difficulty level the players want to attempt. Both of these aspects will determine how many cards are selected for each of the 3 key elements of the game (characters, locations and objects). The game offers up easy, medium and hard options. The key difference between them is how many cards confront the players and how many Ravens the Spirit Player receives.

There really isn't too much point in outlining all the options but most games will see somewhere between 5 and 8 cards needing to be selected for each of the 3 areas mentioned above. These cards are selected from random from the appropriate decks. Once selected, the matching cards must then be found from the Ghost Cards. To help make this easier the card backs feature numerical values and finding the matching numbers is easier than scanning a lot of sometimes complex artwork.

These cards are given to the ghost player and for each of the 3 types of cards, they shuffle the respective cards and select one card at random for each player. This is done 3 times over and each card is placed in a Psychic Player's slot on the inside of the Ghost Screen. In the end the Spirit Player will have 3 cards for each other player in the game, which are vertically oriented. It looks something like the image on the right.

The Psychic Players then take a Crystal Ball, Character Sleeve and Clairvoyancy Tokens of matching colour. How many of the tokens they receive depends on the number of players. The Crystal Balls are then placed on the Character Template to show that all players are at the Character Identification phase of the game.

Then it is time to set out the various Templates, the Clairvoyancy Track and the in-game cards. Each Template features a symbol that relates to the Character, Location or Object Cards. Below each of these (Templates) the cards that were drawn at random earlier are placed at their required location. This creates a panorama of cards that lead to the Clairvoyancy Track, which is the Psychic Player's destination.

The Mediums then place their Clairvoyancy Level Markers at the 0 location of the Clairvoyancy Track. It's also important to note that this track has two sides, based on the number of players. Oh the clock should also be assembled and placed on its base. The time is set to hour 1.

The Spirit Player then takes the Raven Tokens they are entitled to, the Culprit Tokens and the Ghost Tokens for each colour of player in the game.

The game is pretty much ready to get underway. One thing worth noting is that the Spirit Player is wise to keep the left over cards (those that were not selected to go into their screen) placing them face-up behind the screen. The reason for doing this is that it is important to also see the artwork of the cards that do not represent an important part of the puzzle, least you give clues that may be misinterpreted. Sure the larger cards are on the table, but they can sometimes be a long way away from the Spirit Player and so it is easier to look at the smaller versions close up.

Oh one last step...The Ghost Player draws 7 Vision Cards to form their initial hand.

The Play

Mysterium makes use of two distinct phases of play. In the beginning the players are trying to reconstruct the possible events that took place on that fateful night. If all of the mediums are able to form a strong enough connection (identify the 3 pieces of information related to them) they must then attempt to correctly identify the actual victim and the details of that unfortunate evening.

The game plays out a little like this :-

mbmbmb Phase 1 – Reconstruction of Events mbmbmb

d10-1 Vision Interpretation –

Image Courtesy of egillespie
Before I begin please note that from now on I will refer to the players taking on the roles of the psychics as 'Mediums' and the Spirit player as the 'Ghost'.

All of the Mediums must try to make contact with the Ghost of the mansion in order to identify its identity, the location where they were murdered and how (what object was used).

Each Medium has their own trio of facts to uncover, different to those of the other players, and all players start by trying to identity an identity (their character).

The Ghost player will always have a hand of 7 Vision Cards at any one time. It is their job to look carefully at the Character Cards that have been assigned to each of the other players (in their Screen) and then try to identify any possible connections between the artwork on the Character Cards and the artwork on the Vision Cards they hold.

The Ghost can give any number of Vision Cards to a single player, but they only have 7 to choose from and every Medium must receive at least one card. When these cards are given, they are always given face-up. The lovely catch of course is that no clues of any kind can be given except the card(s) themselves. So the Ghost may have had a specific aspect they were focusing on when giving a card (a particular colour, object, feeling, emotion etc) but the Mediums may totally fail to interpret what was intended. This is largely the fun of the Mysterium experience.

Once all Mediums have received one or more cards, the Ghost turns the Sand Timer.

d10-2 Making a Connection with the Spirit World – Now it is up to the Mediums to discuss, amongst themselves, what the various visions they have received may mean and where, they believe, they are being lead to. Players can focus solely on their own card(s), discuss the cards of others and offer suggestions or do both. The rules are pretty open here but they only have until the Sand Timer runs out to make their decision. All the Ghost can do here is listen, keep a straight face and laugh\cry\die on the inside as the Mediums nail their clue(s) or travel down blind alleys.

When a player thinks they have identified the possible identity of their character they move their Crystal Ball from the Character Template to the chosen Character Card. All players must do this before time runs out (the Sand Timer offers 2 minutes). More than one player can place their Crystal Ball onto the same card because they may think that their clue(s) is\are a better fit or that another player is simply wrong. But making a selection isn’t the only task that can be performed in the time allotted.

d10-3 Placing Clairvoyancy Tokens – Each Medium also has a number of Clairvoyancy Tokens, which can be used to highlight their skill in interpreting clues from the ‘other side’. These tokens offer up an equal number of green ticks and red crosses. Correctly using these tokens can give bonuses in the final phase of the game.

In addition to selecting the identity of their character, the players can also place these Clairvoyancy Tokens such that they point to another player’s Crystal Ball. By placing a ‘tick’, a player is saying that they believe this deduction to be correct. Naturally the placing of a ‘cross’ means they think the deduction made is incorrect.

A Medium can place any number of Clairvoyancy Tokens in the one turn, but they can only place one token against a single Crystal Ball. Of course these tokens are limited so they won’t last forever.

d10-4 Spectral Manifestation (or The Reveal) –

Image Courtesy of Libellud Team
Now it is time for the Ghost to reveal how successful the Mediums have been in interpreting the visions they were given.

In any order of the Spirit’s choosing, they will reveal to each player if they were successful or not. The game suggests getting into the spirit of role-playing by making this clear without the use of speech. This may be facial expressions, ghostly noises, knocks on the table…whatever your group wants to go with.

So in turn each player finds out if they were successful or not. If a Medium successfully deduced their target card they get to move their Crystal Ball to the next tile template (either to Location or to Object).

If a player was incorrect in their deduction, their Crystal Ball is returned to the tile template of the current round they are on. They have failed to advance. shake

d10-5 Rewarding Clairvoyancy – As each deduction (Crystal Ball) is addressed in this way, the players must also assess the success of any Clairvoyancy Tokens that were pointing to it. Whether right or wrong, all of these tokens are lost and are placed at the base of the Clock.

As one would expect, tokens that failed to get it right (thought the deduction was correct but it wasn’t or thought it was wrong but it was indeed correct) are awarded nothing. But those tokens that get it right will see the player of such a token move their Clairvoyancy Level Markers up one position on the Clairvoyancy Track (yes there are a lot of similar terms used in Mysterium and it can make the rules a little tricky to get your head around on the first read). I’ll outline the importance of this shortly.

d10-6 The End of a Round – Once all Mediums have learned how successful they were and points are awarded for correct Clairvoyancy Tokens, the current round or turn comes to an end. The Clock is advanced one hour, representing the passage of time. The Ghost draws Vision Cards from the deck to return their hand to a total of 7 and a new round begins.

Oh I should point out that a player who was unsuccessful will keep all Vision Cards they have been given to them for the current section they are in (character, location or object). Mediums that have been successful though can discard any Vision Cards from the just completed section they were at and they take the card they correctly identified and slide it into their Character Sleeve.

In this way the number of options remaining for players still stuck at a particular stage will diminish in time as cards are removed and they also know which cards are not theirs (thanks to earlier incorrect guesses).

d10-7 Rinse and Repeat With a Twist – The above process is repeated but now the Ghost may find that they have players at different stages of their divinations. Some players may still be trying to identity their character visions, whilst others are trying to interpret the correct location. At most the Ghost may have mediums at all 3 stages of the game (character, location and object).

As this first phase unfolds, the Ghost will need to look at a wider set of cards that the players are trying to choose between, but they still only have the 7 Vision Cards in their hand to give out and try to find elements that they have in common with the options on the table. wow

d10-8 At the Chime of 4am - At the start of round four something important happens. The Mediums get back all of their Clairvoyancy Tokens that they have used in the first 3 rounds. This allows the players the potential to get enough correct guesses to reach checkpoints one and two on the Clairvoyancy Track (why? See Phase 2 below). This implies that the players want to be using those tokens in the early parts of the game, knowing they will get them back once.

d10-9 The Crows – Of course playing as the Ghost can be a damned tricky task at times and 7 cards is not a huge selection to try and find really obvious clues for the Mediums. Thankfully the Spirit has a small ‘helping hand’. Based on the skill level being played by the players, the Ghost has access to a number of Crow tokens. By using one of these the Ghost is allowed to discard any number of Vision Cards they hold and draw the same number of replacements. Of course there is no guarantee that the new cards will be any more helpful. devil

d10-1d10-0 Success or Failure – The First Goal of the Mediums is to correctly identify their 3 cards (those slotted under their colour in the Ghost's Screen) before the end of the 7th hour. Given that a Medium cannot progress more than one stage in a single round\turn a few incorrect deductions by several Mediums at the same location can quickly see the hours slip away, and that can make things rather tight. meeple

Mysterium will end in failure for everyone if all of the Mediums do not advance past the Object\Item deduction hurdle before the 7th hour has expired. Those that have made it past the first 3 hurdles are welcome to assist other players still trying to join them.

If all players can advance their token from the Object area to the Clairvoyancy Track, the final phase of the game can begin, which represents goal number two.

mbmbmb Phase 2 – Revealing the Culprit mbmbmb

Image Courtesy of kainarchy


I’ll start by saying that this is a really odd title for the final portion of the game as the word Culprit implies a guilty party. It really should be ‘Revealing the Victim’. A small quibble but still…

Each Medium must now take the 3 cards they have acquired and place them on the table under their Character Sleeve. The Ghost then flips the character templates to show a number to assign to each set of cards.

Now it is time to really test the skills of the Mediums and see if they can correctly divine which particular character was indeed the ghost, where they were murdered within the mansion and with what object.

To do this the Ghost must again redraw Vision Cards so their hand is back to 7 cards. From these cards they must select any 3. One of these will offer a clue as to who they were, another will hint at the location in which they came to their demise and the final card will lead to the object that was used to kill them.

The tricky part is that all 3 cards must match up to a single set of cards associated with one of the Mediums...the cards cannot be split amongst the sets of cards. The good news for the Ghost is that they can pick any one set of cards to target...really whichever ones have (in their opinion) the most in common with the Vision Cards they hold.

In this way the Ghost will pick the set of cards they will target and then select the 3 cards to serve as clues. To ensure that the Ghost is not cheating, they must select the Culprit Token with the number that matches the set of cards they are targeting. This token is placed face-down on the Clairvoyancy Template.

The cards the Ghost selects are shuffled together and the 3 cards are laid out face-down on the table. Now it is over to the Mediums.

The Mediums will not necessarily have access to all 3 clues. This is where the game rewards the 'in-tune' Mediums that did a good job of nominating if the predictions of their fellow Mediums were correct or not. Each Medium will have moved their Clairvoyancy Level Tokens to some point on the Clairvoyancy Track. The track itself has two checkpoints of note. If a player has failed to reach the first checkpoint, they will only be given access to the first Vision Card (of the 3) to be revealed. If a Medium has reached the first checkpoint but failed to reach the second, then they will have access to the first two clues. Of course reaching the final Checkpoint means a Medium will receive all 3 clues.

In this way the final set of clues are revealed one card at a time. All of the Mediums to only see one clue card must make their prediction on which set of cards represent the Ghost and their demise. Remember that the card they see could relate to character, location or object (because the clues were shuffled). Consider that the Mediums could be looking at 12-18 cards in total and it quickly becomes apparent that this final divination is no easy task.

The other tricky part is that the Mediums cannot discuss in any way their thoughts on what a clue card may mean. This time the psychic work must be done totally independently of one another. Once Mediums have made their choice, they secretly select the Clairvoyancy Token with the associated number to match the set of cards they have chosen. These tokens remain face-down at this point.

Then the second card is revealed for those Mediums entitled to 2 clues and they do the same. The 3rd clue is only revealed if a Medium managed to reach the final checkpoint on the Clairvoyancy Track and they have the benefit of all 3 clues.

Once all Mediums have made their decision, all of those tokens are revealed to show what everyone thought. If there is a majority vote for one set of cards - then that is who the Mediums belief was murdered, where and how.

If there is a tie, the player with the best Clairvoyancy (highest score on the Clairvoyancy Track) gets to make the choice between the tie.

Now it is time for the Ghost to reveal who they really were and the circumstances surrounding their death. The Culprit Token is flipped and the players cheer in celebration or groan in disappointment at the final outcome. All players win or lose as a team and the game is done...well there may be some recriminations to play out. whistle

The Strategy - What Makes the Game Work?

Some reviews flow really easily but I recognise that the above overview is quite a bit to take in so let’s summarise the flow of Mysterium.

d10-1 The Play Flow -

Image Courtesy of bellelayne
Essentially the Mediums have 2 tasks. They are all trying to correctly identify a character, location and object card that has randomly been assigned to them personally (in secret of course). The Ghost must then give the players one or more Vision Cards each round to serve as a clue. This Vision(s) Card should have something in common with the features of the card the player is needing to identify.

The Mediums only have 7 hours (that would be turns) to correctly identify the 3 aspects they are looking for. Due to the fact that only 1 area can be cleared in the one round, that only leaves 4 spare hours for errors. Getting a couple of incorrect predictions can make things...how do we say...'interesting'.

If all Mediums manage to do this they move onto the Final Reckoning, in which the Mediums can only gain access to limited clues in order to make their final deduction as to who the Ghost actually was and what happened to them. The final prediction is selected via independent 'group think' and not all players will have access to the same information.

This pretty much sums up how Mysterium is structured.

d10-2 How Does The Game Feel for the Mediums? - The Mediums have a pretty tricky time of trying to interpret the Visions that they receive. A given clue could be looking at a subtle detail, it could be an interpretation of a 'mood' or object in the artwork or it may be trying to intimate at a common colour scheme used in both cards. The fun here, as a Medium, is in the discussion between colleagues, making that guess and hopefully getting it right. Oh...there is also a bit of fun to be had in cursing the Ghost when they can't respond in any real way lest they give an illegal clue of one kind or another. So feel free to cuss away! laugh

If the clock is approaching the final hours, fun can also be had in the tension that is created. Mysterium does a pretty good job of creating tension and those last Mediums to join their fellow mystics can really begin to feel the pressure.

d10-3 How Does The Game Feel for the Ghost? - The Ghost actually has quite a tricky job in trying to find a commonality between a Vision Card and the card a Medium needs to identify as theirs. Actually I'll re-phrase that slightly. It usually isn't that hard to find a common aspect between cards. What is tricky is not giving a Vision Card that can be interpreted as a clue to another card in the set of offerings. That's where the real challenge lies as those damned Mediums will make all manner of connections between cards that just aren't there! angry

It really is quite funny to hear those Mediums converse about the meaning of the Visions they have received. It can be hard to keep a straight face when you are hearing all manner of crazy theories being bandied around. It's also an interesting conundrum to decide when to use those limited Crow Tokens and when to hold them in reserve.

In many ways the Ghost is really the player that has to manage the time factor within the game, decide when one player needs more clues than another and sometimes this may hinge on how close or far away their conjecturing has been. I've always found playing the Ghost to be a heck of a lot of fun and I welcome other players cursing me. In truth I think anyone who likes being the captain of a game like Codenames will probably enjoy the challenge of being the Ghost.

d10-4 The Real Fun - In my experience some of the real fun to be had in Mysterium is when a player finally works out their set of clues and can move on to the next area. This is because it allows the Ghost and Medium to converse openly about why the clues given were genius or ridiculous...depending on which side of the screen you sit on.

I always enjoy this banter and opportunity to mock others in a friendly way. I am widely known in our group as one of the most obscure clue givers in history, whether the game be Dixit, Codenames or Mysterium and it makes me smile.

And having mentioned those other titles, it is worth pointing out that Mysterium has very much the same soul as those other two titles at its core. Mysterium is a social deduction game where interpretation, deduction and sometimes knowing your fellow players are all important. What differs between all 3 titles is the forms of communication that govern the experience.

d10-5 The Importance of the Final Reckoning -

Image Courtesy of igknight
The final reckoning is really the lynch-pin that makes Mysterium just that little bit more involved than the other two social deduction games. This is because the players are rewarded for carefully considered use of their Clairvoyancy Tokens in the main portion (Phase 1) of the game. Essentially it gives the Mediums another goal to address and their success or failure is rewarded in the final reckoning in the form of how many of the 3 final clues they get to witness before casting their final judgement.

This is clever game design and could easily have been omitted in a lesser design.

d10-6 The Challenge - So is Mysterium challenging, because in truth it needs to be? I state this because both Codenames and Dixit have their own form of challenge in that you are trying to beat one another (team or individuals) to the end goal. Those games are competitive social deduction games, whereas here we have a co-op and co-ops are never fun if they are too easy.

This requires an answer in two parts. I think the difficulty of the opening phase (and in truth the main portion of the game) can be quite variable. This is because the difficulty is often dependent on the success of the Mediums. If a number of them are able to correctly identify their target card and move on quickly that generally makes things easier for those left behind. This is because they have less cards to choose from as well as already knowing the cards they have tried and were incorrect.

For me the opening phase of the game is most challenging when 2-3 players get their initial guesses in an area incorrect. It leaves more cards in play as viable options and everyone is somewhat unsure. It's also worth noting that when a Medium receives multiple Vision Cards (either at the same time or over multiple rounds) that can up the difficulty for them as well. This is because often multiple Vision Cards can be hinting at quite different aspects of the target card. The more information a Medium has, the more potential there is for them to completely misread the intention of the Ghost!

In my group's experience, we only tend to lose the game in the opening phase perhaps once out of every 4-5 games. I tend to find it a little easier than I would like...but we usually play on Medium so perhaps we should give difficult a go.

Then there is phase two The Final Reckoning. This is a much harder affair for two reasons. First is the number of Vision Cards that the players are allowed to see. Quite often our group may only have 1 player gain access to 2 of the cards and rarely has anyone seen all 3. Most of our players only get 1 card, perhaps two and this tells me that our group has not placed enough importance on carefully using their Clairvoyancy Tokens in the opening phase of the game.

The other reason why the Final Reckoning is quite hard is because the final selection or deduction is based on group-think. It's a majority rules thing and you only need one or two players to mis-interpret something or not gain access to one of the better clues (because they are randomised) to spell failure for the whole team.

d10-7 Variability - It is always important to raise this factor in a game that is relying on a set of cards that are integral to the play (in this case the Vision Cards and the other cards that the players are trying to identify). Some games can become dull when the same cards are being seen over and over again. Mysterium gets away with this partially because it is the combination of when Vision Cards are used in conjunction with a randomised set of target cards that creates a pretty good degree of variability.

But that said, our group is 5 games in and we are enjoying it immensely. However I am pretty keen to get the expansions before we play too much more as we are seeing some cards regularly and I don't want to create a situation whereby we start to see repeated clues given. The faster you can up the card variety in a game like Mysterium the greater the longevity I think for a play group.

d10-8 So is Mysterium a Good or a Great Game? - Well that is the question. In truth I think there is something of a disconnect between the challenge inherent in the two phases of the game and that is a shame to some degree. But the interesting thing is I don't think it matters that much. The fun of Mysterium is not really in the success or the failure of the team overall. The fun is to be had in the creation and deduction of Vision Cards, in the groans and the mocking and the laughs in the ridiculous threads of reasoning that the players are using.

I sometimes think that in analysing a Social Deduction game, too much emphasis is placed on the deduction aspect. For me Mysterium is a great title because it really amps up the social aspect in a good way.

Beyond that, a game like Mysterium is a 'beauty in the eye of the beholder thing'. People tend to love or hate them. Personally I think that Mysterium is a game that definitely has its place within our hobby and for many people it is a must have in their collection as it is a game that can entice both regular game players and those that have played very few games in their lifetime.

The Final Word


Image Courtesy of Altaica27
Mysterium is a really fun and interesting experience that I am happy to play when it comes out. Each role has interesting things to do with the mediums being able to discuss and share their thoughts on the clues that are given and the spirit can ham it up if they want to in the way they let each Medium know if their guess is correct or not. That said, the Ghost player is somewhat isolated from the rest of the players and they have to be able to get enjoyment out of their important but limited role. Anyone with DM experience in role-playing games or those that often play the 'bad guy' in 'one versus many' games will be well versed in what's required.

But how good is the game? Does it deserve to sit in our list of favourite games that we could play at any moment and regularly each month? Of course there is no easy answer to that. For me the answer is probably not. I'm happy to play it once or twice a month every few months but I wouldn't want to play it all the time. The reason is that the game is still pretty simple at its core and I think it is a game that can become a little stale if overplayed.

The next question I'd pose then is this - Is Mysterium a Dixit killer (I use Dixit as the comparison because they both use art as the central element)? For me the answer is definitely not, and initially I was surprised to come to this conclusion as surely a game that uses a central mechanism and then expands on it has to be regarded as better right? Many people have said that they would wait for the next game that takes the central concept of Mystic Vale and adds to it. Is Clank! a far better game than card only deck-builders like Ascension or Star Realms? Is Coloretto the better game and the additional elements of Zooloretto simply fluff? When I answer this question for myself I find that I enjoy Star Realms every bit as much as Clank!...just for different reasons.

Well it turns out that the answer (to the question, 'Is Mysterium a Dixit killer?') is not necessarily a yes. For me Mysterium is a neat experience but it does have some drawbacks. First it has quite a bit of set-up that Dixit does not and it also requires a fair bit of fiddling with cards through the play. It also creates quite the footprint to play once all is laid out on the table. Dixit has none of these issues and to some degree it presents as a simpler but also cleaner experience with less barriers to getting in and playing. I can definitely see times when I would prefer to simply grab out Dixit instead of going through the steps needed to getting Mysterium ready to play. In short I think both games are similar but they have their place. It's also worth noting that Dixit can be played in 20-30 minutes whereas Mysterium will take somewhere between 40-80 minutes (depending on how long the Ghost is taking to select Visions and how much think time the Mediums take in the Final Reckoning).

But I digress. I'm glad Mysterium exists and I have a place for both it and Dixit in my collection (as well as Codenames...but I do have a large collection). Five games into this one and our group is having fun with it but I think it is a title that could be overplayed so I will bring it out with decent breaks in-between. What I like here is the humour in listening to the mediums discuss the possible connections between the clues and the options before them. Likewise the groans of 'how the heck is that a connection?' are equally enjoyable.

I do think getting the expansions is something of a must for fans of the game. The first expansion (Hidden Signs) simply adds more cards to add greater variability, which I certainly want. The second expansion though (Secrets and Lies released in 2017) offers up Story Cards that replace the object cards and change the game in quite a significant way, so that will be interesting.

Till next we meet, be aware of signs from beyond the graaaaaave! mb

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Neil Thomson wrote:
I sometimes think that in analysing a Social Deduction game, too much emphasis is placed on the deduction aspect. For me Mysterium is a great title because it really amps up the social aspect in a good way.
This is what I love about Mysterium. As the ghost, hearing peoples reasoning and being wrong and them still picking the right card is usually quite amusing.

I have played it with 3 different groups with varying levels of rule strictness and accuracy - the clairvoyancy guessing part feels a bit tacked on. But every time everyone has had fun.

I like it for playing with larger groups without increasing the play time much and not turning into a full random party game.

Have you played it with the original simpler rules from Tajemnicze Domostwo?
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Paprike wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
I sometimes think that in analysing a Social Deduction game, too much emphasis is placed on the deduction aspect. For me Mysterium is a great title because it really amps up the social aspect in a good way.
This is what I love about Mysterium. As the ghost, hearing peoples reasoning and being wrong and them still picking the right card is usually quite amusing.

I have played it with 3 different groups with varying levels of rule strictness and accuracy - the clairvoyancy guessing part feels a bit tacked on. But every time everyone has had fun.

I like it for playing with larger groups without increasing the play time much and not turning into a full random party game.

Have you played it with the original simpler rules from Tajemnicze Domostwo?


No I haven't Rysh - I'm not actually aware of them in truth.
 
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Neil Thomson wrote:
Paprike wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
I sometimes think that in analysing a Social Deduction game, too much emphasis is placed on the deduction aspect. For me Mysterium is a great title because it really amps up the social aspect in a good way.
This is what I love about Mysterium. As the ghost, hearing peoples reasoning and being wrong and them still picking the right card is usually quite amusing.

I have played it with 3 different groups with varying levels of rule strictness and accuracy - the clairvoyancy guessing part feels a bit tacked on. But every time everyone has had fun.

I like it for playing with larger groups without increasing the play time much and not turning into a full random party game.

Have you played it with the original simpler rules from Tajemnicze Domostwo?


No I haven't Rysh - I'm not actually aware of them in truth.
Apart from the different artwork there are a few rule changes.

No clairvoyancy tokens in particular, meaning the final phase is a bit easier.

https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/44259/publisher-diary-mys...

Ps. I forgot to write it the first time. Great review
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Cool, thanks. This was helpful.
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Jemma Hodgson
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Thanks for your thorough review! Very interesting to read.

I couldn't help noticing that you may have misunderstood "Revealing the Culprit". You mentioned that it would be better to call it "Revealing the Victim". If you revisit the rules you will see that the Mediums are trying to find out who murdered the Ghost, where, and with which weapon. You are not trying to find out the identity of the Ghost, but of the murderer.
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Can you perhaps up the variability by taking Dixit cards and using them as new clue cards?
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Yes.
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