Mysterium: The Haunted House

There aren’t enough cooperative asymmetric boardgames, especially not ones that feature a silent ghost trying to give players clues by means of cards with completely abstract art on them.

If you have ever said that to your self then Mysterium is the game for you… Before I start lets talk about the elephant in the room, you may have noticed that the title of the box in the image above doesn’t say Mysterium, it says Tajemnicze Domostwo, which is apparently Polish for “Haunted House”, the reason for this is that Mysterium doesn’t have an English edition, yet…

There is an English Edition on the way, and it will have some improvements / slightly different game mechanics, but as far as I’m aware it doesn’t have a concrete release date as yet. The thing is, that doesn’t really matter. Mysterium has not text in it, apart from the rules which you can get a translated version of over at Board Game Geek.

The story of Mysterium is that there is this house on the outskirts of Paris, and 100 years ago someone was murdered there. The wrong person was put on trial and executed for the murder and they have haunted the house ever since. In an effort to appease the spirit the owners have called upon the worlds foremost paranormal investigators to spend a week in the house to try and figure out who the real murderer was and put the spirit to rest.

Mysterium plays like the bastard child of Cluedo (Clue) and Dixit, but it’s better than both put together… One player plays the ghost, the other players play the paranormal investigators. Over the course of 7 rounds the players have to figure the circumstances under which the murder took place and who the real murderer was.

This is done by way of visions that the ghost player gives each player, the visions are large art cards, which are very reminiscent of the cards from Dixit, each player is assigned three cards in secret:

  • An item: representing “What”
  • A location, representing “Where”
  • A person representing “Who”

The players have to first figure out the what their assigned person was doing, then where they were doing it, and finally who they actually were (I think the new English version changes this order) based on the vision they were given by the ghost. Discussion is allowed among the investigators who can assist in interpreting the vision, but at the end of the round each player has to chose what they think the ghost was referring to with the vision by putting their token on it.

Once all the tokens are placed the ghost is allowed to affirm or reject the investigators guess. If an investigator guesses the correct item they then have to guess the location in the next round and then the person when they have guessed that.

The interesting thing about Mysterium, are first that the Ghost isn’t allowed to communicate with the investigators in any shape of form apart from giving them their vision for the turn and telling them that they guessed correctly or incorrectly at the end of the turn, this leads to a lot of frustration and hilarity on the Ghost’s side because the vision cards are so vague that most of them could literally mean anything. Trying to keep a straight face and not yell at the investigators for being idiots when one immediately guesses the correct card but is then talked out of it by the other players if really difficult

The vision cards are beautifully  illustrated, with tons of elements that you can use to try and hint to the players, the thing is not everyone see’s the same thing when they look at the cards, in fact it frequently occurs that a player will point something out on a card that you never noticed, for example one of the items is a clock, it was multiple play throughs in with 3 three different groups before a player to said they thought that the vision was eluding to the clock because there was a mermaid on the clock, none of us had seen the mermaid up to that point…

Being the ghost is really fun because you essentially know what is going on, and you have to think laterally to try and pick visions that will guide the players to pick the right cards, however, given how bonkers some of the cards are you will get a lot of abuse from the players for picking cards that in their eyes have nothing to do with what they are trying to guess, or worse cards that are blatantly telling them to pick the wrong one, the thing is you can’t defend yourself until the game is over, you just have to adjust your card choices the next turn to line up with the different players’ way of thinking.

With one group we played a game where I was the ghost for the first game, one of the investigators spent the whole game incredulous at my choice of visions, I was “Clearly doing it wrong” because nothing I had played made any sense. That player was the ghost in the second game and they saw quite how difficult it is to guide a bunch of players with only a limited number of really abstract cards.

I genuinely love this game, it looks nice it plays well and it gets your brain going. It also works well for anywhere from 2 to 6 players.

The English version should be out later this year, it changes the setting to a Scottish castle, adds a screen for the ghost to keep his cards in order and hidden, and changes some of the art. To be honest it is probably worth waiting for the English version just for the screen, but the game plays really well as is and you don’t need to speak a word of Polish to play the Polish version.

Hive: Nothing Buggy About This Game


There are some games like Chess, Draughts (Checkers), or Go that are incredibly simple and so easy to teach, but can take ages to master. These games usually have a set of really simple rules and a win condition, that is easily understood. Hive is one of those games.

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Hive is hexagonal chess with bugs, in the base game each player has 11 pieces which represent 5 different bug types, each of these bugs can move in a different way:

  • 1 Queen Bee: Can move exaclty once space.
  • 2 Spiders: Can move exactly 3 spaces.
  • 3 Soldier Ants: Can move around the outside of the hive as many squares as required.
  • 3 Grasshoppers: Can hop over the hive in any straight line
  • 2 Beetles: Can mount the hive and move exactly once space.

There are expansions that add a Mosquito, a Ladybird and a Pill-bug, the first two are included in the Pocket and Carbon edition out of the box.

Players take turns either placing a piece or moving a piece, with the ultimate goal of surrounding their opponent’s Queen Bee.

The only real rules are that you have to place your Queen within your first three turns, you can’t move any placed pieces until you have placed your queen, and you cannot break the hive.

That’s it! It’s that simple!

Of course within that is a world of strategy, do you place the queen early or late? Do you go on the full offensive and hope that you can capture your opponent’s queen before your opponent? or do you play defensively moving your queen out of the way? Can you trap your opponents crucial pieces to prevent them from using them?

The beauty of this game is the simplicity and variety of bugs, which allows for and astounding amount of variance in game-play styles. Although when playing with just one opponent I’ve found that the game can fall into a stagnant rhythm of playing the same moves or trying variations on the same strategy, which can get very frustrating, it’s astounding when playing with a new player how you get those “I never thought of doing that!” moments. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

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Hive probably isn’t as deep as Chess for example, but it’s a lot less intimidating, and for a new player it has the advantage that there aren’t books upon books written on how to play this game effectively, I’m sure there are winning strategies and patterns to be discovered but I think that the permutation space for hive might actually be large enough that it’ll take a while for them to be figured out.

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Putting all that aside, hive is a joy to look at, the pieces are gorgeous. Whether you are playing the original game, the pocket edition, or the new “Carbon” edition, the hexagonal pieces are stunning, and feel really nice in your hand, like Dominoes or nice Mah Jong tiles.

Hive is also a great travel game for two people, it takes up very little space, and comes with a carry case/bag to keep all the tiles in (At least Carbon and Pocket do) and you can play it on any flat surface.

Hive is also available on iOS (£1.49) and Android (Free).

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Tanto Cuoro: Do-maid-ion First impressions

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There are two types of board gamers, those for who the theme of a game is important and those for whom the theme of a game doesn’t matter a toss as long as the game has solid mechanics. (OK so putting everyone who participates in a hobby on a binary like that is ridiculous but I’m not exactly about to formulate an ontology of board gamers based on mechanics Vs. theme I’m just writing the opening paragraph to a shitty review, calm down…)

I bought Tanto Cuoro as a gift for a friend, partly because I’d read that it wasn’t terrible, and partly because she is obsessed with some really weird Japanese niche cultures. I wasn’t expecting the game to be that good, I didn’t even expect to play the game at all to be honest. But then I did…

Gameplay

At it’s heart Tanto Cuoro (Which is Italian for “A lot of heart” apparently) is a deck building game not dissimilar to Dominion, your goal is to assemble the a collection of maids to serve you and become the ultimate master of the house.

Each turn you get a hand of cards from you deck which contains a set of maids and or some “Love” cards which are the games currency, (Yes maids are paid in love not money, I’ll let you think of that what you will) and initially you are allowed to be “Served” by one maid per turn.

Being served by a maid means you play that maid and gain the benefits that maid provides usually this is one of:

  • Extra Love: Giving you more currency to buy maids.
  • Card Draw: Allowing you to draw more cards in the hope of getting more love to spend.
  • Extra Servings: Allowing you to play more maids
  • Extra Employment: Allowing you to hire more maids to your household.

Love is spent in the Town where you can either employ maids or purchase events, the maids you buy are added to your discard pile and are shuffled into your deck when it runs out, you can also buy private maids which don’t go into your deck but give you an ongoing effect which is usually helpful.

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Events are basically a way to screw the other player over by making their maids ill which negates their bonuses, or giving them bad habits which loses you victory points.

You can also promote maids to “chamber maids”, which takes them out of your deck permanently and may give you bonuses at the end of the game.

Once two of the piles of maids is depleted the game is over and each player tallies up the the maids in their house hold and whomever has the most victory points wins.

Opinion

I wasn’t expecting to like this game, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it would be a terrible game… I just didn’t think it would be for me. I actually really enjoyed playing it though. Behind the cute anime maids in skimpy maid outfits, are some pretty solid mechanics, the art is also very well done if you are into the theme then that is a bonus, but building a household of maids and then trying to figure out how to chain them to get the most victory points is actually quite fun.

I’ve not played Dominion in 5 years, so the rules for that are a little rusty in my head, but I think this might oddly have a little more depth than the games of Dominion I played, which I found surprising.

If you like deck building games and either the theme appeals to you, or you are willing to ignore it then this game is well worth a look. Also if you don’t want to invest in the physical game there is a version available for iOS and while it’s not free it’s pretty cheap (£2.49 last time I checked) it also benefits from having a tutorial built in to it and varying levels of AI.

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My crowning achievement was chaining a set of maids to add love and servings to my pool such that I managed to accrue 18 love allowing me to employ two copies of “Marianne Soleil” who is worth 6 victory points.

 

Street Fighter: Monopoly Edition

You know what computer game series was crying out for a Monopoly edition? Street Fighter! No not really…

Although, to be honest, I’m not sure that any game is “Crying out for a Monopoly  edition”. The little metal figures look nice I guess, and the art is nice, but aside from that it’s the same, game that has ruined Christmas for families for decades.

 

Twilight Imperium: First Impressions

I’ve had the Twilight Imperium box sitting on my “to play” shelf for nearly six months now, it’s been taunting me: “Play me, together we will rule the galaxy as player and game.” I’ve got to admit I’ve been more than a little intimidated by this game.

The box this game comes in is the size of a small car, at least it’s the biggest boxed game that I own, and all the anecdotes I’ve heard about this game have suggested reserving an entire weekend to play it if you planned on using all the optional rules and play it with 6 players.

Last night we finally cracked it open, and with the assistance of someone who;d already played it once we got down and dirty and tried to conquer the galaxy.

It’s difficult to describe Twilight Imperium, it’s not a space combat game, it’s deeper than that. Each player takes control of a race, each of which have a number of abilities and disadvantages and the players race to get 10 victory points (or 14 in the optional rules). Victory points are gained by completing objectives, one of which is revealed every turn or so in addition to each players “Secret objective”.

Play progresses with the players selecting a strategy for that round (in a 3 player game you pick 2 strategies) which gives you a special ability you can activate and determine turn order, such as:

  1. Initiative : You go first
  2. Diplomacy: You can declare a truce preventing you and another player from attacking each other
  3. Political: Handle a political event which the players have to vote on.
  4. Logistics: Get more action tokens
  5. Trade: Get trade goods
  6. Warfare: Expand
  7. Technology: Get new Tech
  8. Imperial: 2 free Victory points

The players then take “actions” in turn until no one has anything left to do (You are limited in what actions you can do by the number of command counters and action cards you have so this isn’t going to last forever).

Your actions can be:

  • Activating your strategy allowing you to reap the rewards of it’s primary effect, and allowing other players to chose to spend a token to activate it’s secondary effect.
  • Activating a space area allowing you to move ships to it, attack ships that are there, or attempt to colonise planets.
  • Playing an action card which have various effects.
  • Passing.

Combat is relatively quick each unit has a target which they have to roll to damage or destroy a unit, there is no advantage to defending VS attacking, and the player receiving the damage can allocate it as they see fit among their fleet, two lone X wings can take out a Deathstar in a crazy suicide mission.

The ships are blatantly “Inspired” by ships from science fiction films and TV shows like Star Wars, StarTrek DS9 Battlestar Galactica etc.

Here is the cool thing YOU GET TO BUILD DEATH STARS! That’s right plural, not one but two!

Different ships have different abilities, fighters are cheap but can’t travel between systems by themselves, carriers are rubbish at combat are required to carry ground troops to invade planets, dreadnoughts can bombard ground forces from space and so on, you have to build your fleet using your space docks which do nothing more than build ships and you can’t have more ships in any one fleet than the number of tokens in your fleet pool.

It’s one of those games that looks really complicated from a distance, but once you get the hang of it it’s really simple. It took us a whopping 6 hours to play a 3 player game but we had no idea what we were doing to start with, it didn’t take long for us to get the hang of it.

So what did I think?

I really liked this game, I’ve played a lot of Risk lately due to my friends getting Risk: Legacy, Risk: God Storm and Risk: 2210, if you want it to be Twilight Imperium can be a slightly more complicated “Risk in Space”, but you are missing out on a lot and if you go full on battle crazy then you probably won’t win.

I really liked the exploration facet of the game, we played with a rule, which I think is optional, that puts face down tokens on each of the planets; these tokens are uncovered when you first land on a planet and can have good or bad effects it really gave you the feeling you were exploring the galaxy.

Twilight Imperium in a way reminds me of a game that I used to play when I was in school on my old Mac LC II called Spaceward Ho! It’s a lot more complicated than Spaceward Ho! in some ways but in others it’s simpler (You don’t really upgrade your ships that much in Twilight Imperium for example).

If you like space exploration, politics and battle, then you will love Twilight Imperium, I’m already looking forward to my next game, which I hope will be fairly soon.

Pokemon Magic the Gathering Cards

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Lets forget for a moment that there is already a Pokemon Card game, Reddit user cameronc65 uploaded this set of Pokemon Magic the Gathering Cards that his cousin has been working on. It’s pretty cool, not particularly balanced but cool none the less.

But wait there’s more! In the comments another Redditor (teenelmo26) also shared his set of Pokemon Magic the Gathering cards. There’s three generations of the damn things!

What’s pretty cool about this set is that he’s put in the trainers too. Although I would have treated the trainers as analogous to Planeswalkers  rather than as creatures.

You can see them all (Or at least most of them I may have cocked up the WordPress Gallery while writing this post so some of them might not be there) after the break.

Continue reading “Pokemon Magic the Gathering Cards”

Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak Expansion

Fantasy Flight Games are releasing a new expansion for Battlestar Galactica called Daybreak!

I’ve not written up a review of Battlestar Galactica the board game because I’ve not had time to do the game justice, but it’s safe to say it’s one of my favourite board games, if not my favourite.

4 new characters, 4 new Cylon leaders, 4 updated characters new crisis cards, new skills, a mutinee mechanic and much more…

BUT MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL

ASSAULT RAPTORS!

Raptors finally have a point in the game!

I’m going to have to struggle to find a reason not to buy this the day it comes out.

A Study in Emerald By Treefrog Games Neil Gaiman Meets Sherlock Holms Meets HP Lovecraft The Board Game!

A Study in Emerald

What happens when you get a veteran board game designer to create a board game based on a short story by Neil Gaiman which features Sherlock Holmes in a world ruled by the monsters from the works of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos?

You get A Study in Emerald by Treefrog Games

The setting is an alternate reality 1880’s where the great old ones have risen and rule over man. You can read the story it’s based on on Neil Gaiman’s web page. It’s worth a read as it’s quite good.

I’ve not had a chance to read through the rules of this game but it looks really interesting. You are assigned a secret identity as the start of the game, I assume ala Battlestar Galactica, you are either on the side of the restorationists, who want to overthrow the great old ones, or the loyalists, who want to keep them in power.

You travel the world and do things with cards (Like I said I’ve not read the rules I’m still excited though).

You can download the play test files off the games site and have a look, they aren’t much to look at because they still haven’t added artwork yet, but you can get an idea of the game from looking at them.

I definitely think this is on my “to buy” list, unless I hear really horrible things about it.

 

Custom Fallout Board Game Based On Monopoly

This thing is a labour of love, Reddit user XsimonbelmontX made this amazing looking Fallout themed board game out of a Monopoly board for his wife pookiemccool.

Apparently it’s only based on Monopoly but the rules are different. I love the use of bottle caps for money, it looks like he’s added perks that will alter the game play, and from them you can infer that there is some kind of combat mechanic?

I’ve asked him for the rules on the thread and I’ll update this if he posts them. Hopefully he’s deviated away from Monopoly enough to make the game actually fun to play.