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Subject: A Review of Misty Ruins by Joe Magic Games rss

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Mike Fox
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Review of Misty Ruins

When I first received Misty Ruins, I thought it was going to play somewhat like Space Hulk: Death Angel, which uses card arrangements to simulate directional movement and encounters that result in conflict. After a closer look, I realized it was very different. Misty Ruins does simulate movement with card laying, but it basically works like a tile-laying game. It also combines this mechanic with a character-guessing dimension that sort of reshapes Clue and those sorts of games. So Misty Ruins is an attempt at a card laying, fantasy themed, dungeon crawling, guess-who hybrid meant to be played in 30-60 minutes. When I realized what it was, I had some doubts . . . but boy were those doubts wrong! It turns out Misty Ruins is a fun, relatively quick, well done game that all sorts of different types of gamers will enjoy. Let’s take a closer look.

Below: Gamebox and all contents


Publisher: Joe Magic Games

Shipping Packaging: The game arrived well packaged. It was boxed in a sturdy shipping box, which was then put in a larger shipping envelope. Since the physical quality of the gamebox is literally the first impression of a game, this was important – It started me off on a positive note!

Components:

1. Aesthetics (or, How does it look?): Opening the game for the first time was fun. Overall, I found Misty Ruins quite aesthetically pleasing. For one, there’s a lot of variety. There are both wooden and plastic parts. These have various colors, but not too many. Some will find the plastic coins a bit basic, but I personally don’t have a problem with them. Also, the cards look very nice. Their backs have an orange and yellow sunburst with a single, round symbol in the middle. The card fronts have a light brown, worn scroll look that fits the game’s theme very well. The art, scripts, symbols, runes, and variety on the card fronts are very cool. Also, the game sheets are nice, clean, and sleek; the same can be said about the rulebook, which is basically a folded, poster-quality, large sheet of high gloss paper.

My overall opinion of the aesthetics is positive. The game just looks cool. It has variety but isn’t cluttered, a quality that LOTS of games out there can’t pull off. The wooden pieces are a very nice touch. If it merely had plastic pieces, it wouldn’t be as great; but, the combination of wooden and plastics counters and pieces works very well for me. My favorite component of the game is its assortment of cards. They look terrific. I have no doubt that the vast majority of gamers will appreciate them. Almost forgot – the gamebox also looks very cool! Don’t get me wrong – you can tell that Misty Ruins is made by a smaller, independent publisher . . . but it still looks great! Well done, Joe Magic Games.

2. Quality: Overall, the quality of Misty Ruins is pretty good. The cards are not as nice as, say, the textured cards in games that Fantasy Flight Games makes, but they’re nicer and more durable than those in games like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh. They seem to have a thin layer of lamination on them, which I like. You can get grime or water droplets on them and just wipe them clean. The wooden and plastic pieces and bits are pretty much on par with most other games of this type. Some folks won’t like the plastic pawns, but I don’t have a problem with them. Because players don’t know their own identity, minis aren’t really an option. Besides, the pawns just feel “gamey” to me (in a good way!). The game sheets are high quality, high gloss, cardstock-thick paper, but they’re still paper. Games like Descent and Castle Ravenloft have sort of conditioned me to expect thicker cardboard for these sorts of pieces, but the paper is of the highest quality, even a bit water resistant, and should see many many plays. I think the overall quality is good for the scope and size of the game. Again, you can tell it’s made by a smaller, independent publisher if you look closely, but it’s still very well done.

Gameplay:

1. Rulebook: The rulebook is really just a large, high gloss, poster-quality sheet of paper folded so as to make a 4-page book. I found it clear and easy to follow. If you have to look something up in the rules, you can find it quickly. I peronally found the rules a tad wordy, but some folks will appreciate the precise explanations. I suppose it’s better to err on the side of caution than to frustrate gamers with ambiguities. So, the rulebook works well for me.

2. Mechanics: Here’s what makes Misty Ruins unique and enjoyable: the mechanics! The game basically plays like this: Each player draws a character card and homeland card at the beginning of the game, and no other player sees these. They are actually the character and homeland of the player to your right. That’s right, you don’t know your own identity; rather, you know somebody else’s identity.

Each player chooses a pawn and gets its same-colored tokens and blocks. One unique card is the start card, and you play this card first and place all the pawns on it. Before starting, players draw and choose various item cards and determine who will go first. There’s more to this, but I’d rather paint a broad picture than get bogged down.

As the game progresses, players lay cards and explore different caverns and lands while battling monsters and finding new items. Since the evil mage has erased your memory and you can’t remember who you are (part of the back story), you’re sort of rediscovering your identity as you progress in the game. The way this works in real time is that you try to perform an action while the player to your left (who knows your identity) tells you how your action plays out. You look at your identity sheet and continually eliminate certain attributes and characters based on how your actions perform. The game ends when a player confronts a monster and correctly guesses his or her identity, which sends the monster fleeing to warn its evil master that the heroes know who they are again! The player simply says something like, “tell your master that I know that I am Kelvin Nifan of the Zambun Jungle, foul beast.” The player to your left, who knows your true identity, reveals whether you are right or wrong.

When a player guesses his or her identity and ends the game, final scores are tallied up. Players get victory points for gold collected, monsters they’ve defeated, correctly guessing their character after the game is over, etc. The player with the most victory points wins the game.

As you can see, the game is a clever hybrid that blends dungeon crawling (tile placement), some hand management, and a variation on Clue type games (the whodunnit aspect). When you get the rules down, it should play in under an hour. Keep in mind that I have only played this with three players, so I’m not sure how 4 or 5 players would work. It looks to me like more players means a bit more time. Actually, my son and I tried playing with 2 players as well. Officially, the game is 3-5 players, but I’m all about tweaking games so my son and I can play them together. This wasn’t a problem with Misty Ruins, but in truth I enjoyed it more with 3 players.

Overall Evaluation: This is a great game. I think I’m going to rank it at 8.5 with the potential to move up even higher. It definitely won’t be moving down in rank for me. I think it’s meant to be a hybrid, fantasy-based, attention to the details sort of game that plays in an hour or less. Misty Ruins pulls this off brilliantly. If you look closely, you can tell that it’s published by a smaller, independent publisher and not one of the big boys like FFG or WotC; and yet, it’s very well done, professional, sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and is solid in overall quality.

I heartily recommend Misty Ruins as a relatively quicker fantasy game that involves hybrid mechanics and requires some focus and thinking. If you’re looking for an epic fantasy game that occupies your entire game night, this is not it. But, if you’re looking for something more accessible (time wise, that is) that still feels great to win, then you owe it to yourself and your fellow gamers to at least take a long, hard look at Misty Ruins.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review.

EDIT:
I forgot to mention that one reason my review is so positive is that the list price for this game is $24.95. I can immediately think of several card games that go for the same price yet don't include all the bits and pieces. Considering its price, this game is a terrific buy. Check it out!
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Mike Fox
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thanks man!
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Barry Kendall
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Thanks for bringing this title to light and for a very good descriptive review. You've captured my interest!
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Mike Fox
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Thanks for the kind words, Barry. One thing I should have mentioned is that this review is so high b/c the game is only $24.95 (at least it is at discountgamesinc.com). I've noticed lots of card games list for the same price, but they don't even come with all the bits and counters that this game does
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LSU LSU
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Great review. Very interested in the game now.
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Mike Fox
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Thanks for the nice words, LSUtigers. BTW, I really think your Tigers have a shot at another special season next year. Of course, I hope my Hawgs get the best of them next November
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LSU LSU
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Awesome, another SEC fan. We look like we could really be good. Most of it will come down the the QB.
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Mike Fox
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LSUtigers wrote:
Awesome, another SEC fan. We look like we could really be good. Most of it will come down the the QB.


Exactly. For the most part, I think Les is a great coach. His Achilles heel seems to be that he can't manage his QB situations very well. On another note, my Hawgs are replacing the Gunslinger Ryan Mallett, so I'll have to wait and see how things go for us too.
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Chad Miller
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Quote:
I found it clear and easy to follow. If you have to look something up in the rules, you can find it quickly. I peronally found the rules a tad wordy, but some folks will appreciate the precise explanations.


I just discovered the game last week (someone donated it to my playgroup) and cannot disagree harder on this point. It took a friend and I over a half-hour of poring over the rulebook to even figure out how the game played and we still aren't completely sure we have it right. I mean, even 15 minutes in, I was saying stuff like, "This sentence says 'Note that you can't explore and attempt a passage in the same turn' but I can't figure out why, other than that sentence!" (we did eventually figure that one out) The stats don't seem to be called anything in the book, which became a nuisance when nobody could figure out what the yellow starburst symbol was supposed to be (Holy? Nah, that knight with a cross-looking symbol has 0 in that stat. Impact damage? Then why does a poison ring have it?) so we had to ask each other questions like "is my yellow starburst stat thingy less than 3?" Maybe the copy we got was some early non-proofread edition but ours had entire paragraphs with word constructs only vaguely approaching sentences.

I have a similar opinion of the production quality in general; the word "amateurish" was bandied about a lot before and after the game (even though we were enjoying ourselves during). We couldn't help but notice things like how the markers are too big for the character spaces on the sheets, how we ran out of them in a five player game, or how "Forest" was misspelled on the character sheets. We even joked that the manual suggests "secret codes" for which markers mean what on the sheet to cover for the fact that they had irregular numbers of each color for no apparent reason. I'm not knocking the mechanics but this is a rare case where I'd consider paying more for a good PnP version than the actual game.

BTW, I cannot stress enough that I am only savaging the manual and production quality here. In fact it was kind of an awkward moment when we finished muddling through the rulebook, making fun of it all the while, tried a game and then immediately started inviting other people to play. "No seriously, it's pretty fun, just let us explain it and don't read the terrible rulebook. Honest."
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