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Subject: Fun and Fault: A Review of Mysterium rss

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Marina Paul

Iowa
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***DISCLAIMER***This BGG forum post was composed as a course requirement for an honors seminar at Central College (Board in Class: An Academic Survey of Modern Board Games, SP18). Constructive feedback and conversation from all BGG users is welcomed and encouraged!

I recently learned and taught the collaborative, deductive game Mysterium for my board games honors seminar. The game quickly became a personal favorite for me. From the surreal artwork on the cards to the silent ghost player, my teammates and I found Mysterium to be both fun and challenging. However, like many board games, I noticed a few faults that I think could be improved upon that would enhance the gameplay experience.

The theme of Mysterium is well-developed through the rule book, artwork, set up, and the players themselves. The theme is not just a pre-cursor to the game but instead has an important role throughout the gameplay since one of the players is a ghost who cannot speak during the entirety of the two phases. The dream cards, clock and ghost screen all display artwork with haunted mansion motifs that keep the spooky theme alive. The artwork on the dream cards is especially good; the cards portray surreal scenes that add to the difficulty of choosing and interpreting them. Probably the most notable element of Mysterium is the silent ghost player whose soul must be put to rest. The silence of this player can cause some frustration both for them and for the other players, but more often, the challenge of deciphering the ghost’s odd dream cards is pretty comical and fun for everyone. Another positive element of the game is the use of clairvoyancy tokens; the tokens act as a sort of catch-up mechanic because even if you are struggling to find your correct suspect, location or weapon, you can still be gaining points for phase two on the clairvoyancy tracker. By guessing whether you think other players are correct or incorrect, you can still gain points that will help out the group later. The tokens also keep everyone involved with one another; using a clairvoyancy token requires a player to look at the others’ dream cards and make their own interpretation of it. This benefits the collaboration of the group overall. Another sort of catch-up mechanic is the crow that the ghost can use to discard six dream cards and draw a new, and hopefully more useful, set. This can help the players move through the first phase a little quicker. The collaboration of the game is another positive factor. Since all of the players work together, including the ghost, to uncover the true culprit, the game requires everyone to be involved throughout the entire game. Most of the fun comes from working with the group to interpret one another’s dream cards. I like that in the first phase, even if you disagree with someone, the team can still benefit because of the clairvoyancy tokens, so whether or not the person is correct, the team as a whole will profit.

Another enjoyable aspect of Mysterium is that it is fairly easy to learn. I would consider this to be a medium-light weight game because once you read through the rulebook, it is not hard to understand, and it does not require incredibly deep thinking. Most of the challenge just comes from interpreting the dream cards. The rulebook seems long but is mainly just comprised of set-up details. There is some luck involved in the game- which dream cards the ghost player draws; however, a majority of the game is controlled by the ghost and the players. The difficulty of the game can also be easily adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of cards available for the players to choose from when deciphering their dream cards.

Though there are many good aspects, I have found a few faults in Mysterium that, if changed, could improve the game. One of these faults is the lengthy set-up time. Searching through all of the ghost’s cards to match the numbers of player cards drawn can take a while, and it is easy to make a mistake in doing so. Speaking from experience, discovering half way through the game that a wrong ghost card was mistakenly placed in a character’s column and having to start over is not enjoyable. Players can help lessen the chance of this mistake happening by sorting out the cards at the end of each game to make set-up easier next time, but it is still a lengthy, tedious process. Another fault in the game is the ghost screen. It is obviously necessary to keep the cards secret, but the ghost often has to sit fairly far away from the other players, so that players cannot see the cards in the pockets on the sides on the screen. Having the ghost farther away makes it harder for them to see which cards on which the players have placed their intuition tokens. For shorter ghosts, it can also be hard to see over the screen at times, meaning the ghost has to look back and forth between the screen and the table often. If the character columns were all in the center fold of the screen, and if the screen were wider and shorter, some of these issues would be eliminated. A thematic issue I found confusing was that the ghost does not know who the true culprit is until the second phase, and it is randomly decided. This is just an error in the game design; the gameplay still works, but it does not really make sense when considering the theme. Lastly, simply as a statement of opinion, the two-player version of the game is not very fun. I find most of the fun stems from working with your team to interpret the dream cards, so doing it alone does not have the same collaborative element. I recommend playing with more people (4-7); it makes the game more challenging and gives the opportunity for more discussion and collaboration.

Overall, despite a few minor faults, Mysterium is a great game. The theme, artwork, and element of a silent player make for a fairly simple, collaborative game that is fun for all ages.

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Chris Rees
United States
Cleveland
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There are some good comments somewhere around here that explain a much better way to look at how the ghost is piecing together the actual murder, which makes phase two fit the theme. Basically it boils down to how
Matt L.
United States
Seahurst
Washington
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explained it:

LunaWolvesMan wrote:
Thematically you're helping the confused ghost unwind the events of a long past crime.


or as
Karl
Austria
Salzburg
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explained it:
kilrah wrote:
After all the previous rounds are played so that the ghost gets in tune with the psychics and that it can made up its mind to what really happened. The result of that seances is his final hand. And therefore the logic culprint. So you could also say the ghost doesn't choose, but only (re)disovers the true culprint in time to tell it to the psychics.
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Jeff Wood
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Davis
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This should be in the Reviews forum section. Don't be surprised if the admins agree and it moves.
 
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Liam
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Moved from General to Reviews.
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