Designers – Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko
Publisher – Asmodee and Libellud
Year Published – 2015
Number of Players – 2 – 7
Playtime – 42 Mins
How to Play-
Mysterium is played over 8 rounds with one player trying to silently que the other players of who killed them.
Play begins by appointing a ghost who will be supplying the other players with visions. It’s best to appoint the player with the most experience with this game or just games in general because they will have a different kind of experience than the other players and will not be able to communicate with them.
Three sets of psychic cards are placed on the table which consist of suspects, locations, and objects. The number of cards placed per set is dependent on the number of players and the difficulty level chosen. The ghost player also has a all of these cards and and assigns a suspect, location, and object to each of the other players.
Mysterium is broken up into two phases. In the first phase, players will have seven of the eight rounds to correctly guess the unique set of psychic cards that the ghost has chosen for them starting with the suspects. Think of it as a murder mystery type game. The ghost will be giving the players visions in the form of cards. These cards of artwork is intended to steer the players toward a certain suspect, location, or object.
Once all the players have received their vision cards from the ghost, they will choose which psychic card they think the visions are directing them to. During this time the players can talk among themselves as to crowd source ideas and then make their guesses. They will then place their intuition tokens on the psychic card of their choosing. Players also have the option to place clairvoyance tokens in favor or against other players guesses.
The ghost then reveals if the guesses are correct or incorrect. If correct, players will advance from their current step to the next, discard the visions they were given’ and claim the guessed psychic card. In this example, they would advance from suspects to locations. If incorrect, players will keep the given visions and stay at the current level. Players will also advance on the clairvoyance track for every correct guess using the clairvoyance tokens and are discarded.
This continues until all players have correctly guessed their suspect or if the timer reaches 8 rounds. If the game reaches the 8th round and all the players have not completed their set of three psychic cards then the game ends in defeat. If everyone managed to get their set of three then play continues to the second phase.
Players attained psychic cards are set out on the table in sets and are assigned a number. It’s in this phase that the players will vote on the true culprit of the murder. The ghost draws a fresh set of vision cards and chooses three visions that connect to the ghost’s chosen culprit. This is where the clairvoyance track comes into play. The higher you were able to get on the clairvoyance track allows you to view more of the ghost’s vision cards. Each player casts their vote and the culprit with the most votes is the accused. The ghost reveals and if it was the accused then the group wins. If not, then the ghost will continue to haunt the mansion and the players lose.
Fun Factor –
There is something exciting about solving a murder with clues given from specters from beyond. This is obviously due to the popularity of crime TV.
Mysterium is a very involved experience that has its claws in you from the start. It’s easy enough for anyone to get into because of its interpretive nature. Both sides of the table, the ghost and the psychics, will have different experiences but with its collaborative element will be cheering for another go around regardless of its outcome.
I will say that the fun to be had here is dependent on the player’s ability to mentally sync up. Psychic players on a different wavelength from the ghost might find the experience a practice of patience or anger management.
The game definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome. Most of my games seem to be right around an hour even without the use of the timer that comes in the box. The player interaction seems to control the flow and time of gameplay.
I’m not exactly sure the precise method of measure when they printed 42 minutes on the box. Perhaps, I’m playing the game incorrectly.
Ease of Access –
This is a tricky subject to breach. The gameplay itself is very simple to teach to new players even with the slightly more difficult clairvoyance track. It’s definitely “learn as you go” type experience that is best explained in a breath and elaborated on as play continues. The player collaboration makes for a very seamless transition from learning to playing.
My concern with this game which was elaborated on earlier is the rule book which makes for a very confusing learning process for the player who must teach everyone else. I would definitely encourage to utilize the surging power of the internet to answer any questions you might have with the rule book.
Overall I would place this among the levels of most party games for ease of access without actually being a party game.
Art / Graphic Design –
The art on all the is hauntingly gorgeous to say the least. I’m not surprised as the art designer is the same as Dixit which is also a beautiful game. All the psychic cards are not only pretty but also very thoughtful. As you play you will notice the lightly sprinkled themes and icons that carry through the vision cards to the psychic cards. All of which help to enhance the play experience to make it a memorable one.
I may have to steal a quote from John Hammond from Jurassic Park and say that this box should have one thing printed on the front. “We spared no expense!”
This game has all it’s components dripping with it’s theme. The intuition tokens or player tokens are crystal balls which is fitting since all the players are psychics. The ghost’s privacy screen is solid and sturdy as is finished with a great thematic image of the mansion in which the game takes place. Its also has very appreciated plastic sleeves to store the ghosts psychic cards. All the the components carry great production quality with emphasis on its thematic element.
A complaint I do find is the clairvoyance track markers seem like a tacked on production that could have had used more inspiration. They simply feel a little underwhelming for such a well produced game.
I can’t begin to describe my frustrations with this rule book. It’s very difficult to follow as there is no logical flow to the information that it is trying to convey. I was commonly referring back to the rule book for rule clarifications that seemed a bit unnecessary for such a simple game at it’s core.
The saving grace of this experience of reading this is the flavor text that it contains which is a welcomed addition for such a thematic experience. It adds so much to the immersive nature that the game is trying to bring to its players.
“In the 1920s, Mr. MacDowell, a gifted astrologist, immediately detected a supernatural being upon entering his new house in Scotland. He gathered eminent mediums of his time for an extraordinary séance, and they have seven hours to contact the ghost and investigate any clues that it can provide to unlock an old mystery.
Unable to talk, the amnesic ghost communicates with the mediums through visions, which are represented in the game by illustrated cards. The mediums must decipher the images to help the ghost remember how he was murdered: Who did the crime? Where did it take place? Which weapon caused the death? The more the mediums cooperate and guess well, the easier it is to catch the right culprit.”
Every aspect of the gameplay embodies the theme in Mysterium. Never were you absent minded of the narrative that you were building along the way. All the components bring the mansion setting alive with lots of details that you may find in an old mansion. This is the shining quality of this game that will beg players for another visit to the haunted manor.
Player Interaction –
Does Mysterium have player interaction? The short answer is yes but this cooperative game doesn’t suffer from the same problems like others do. This game seems at time to be more of a group activity than a game at times. Everyone at the table working together to solve each other’s puzzle. It’s a sight to behold especially from the perspective of the ghost which can only watch. The smiles and light laughter from the ghost is hard to hold back when you are witness to such things.
Some other cooperative games suffer from an alpha player problem. What this is when one single player directs everyone else’s actions the way that they see fit. Mysterium doesn’t seem to carry the problem due to the fact that though everyone is working together but everyone has a different set of psychic cards and everyone receives them at the same time. It’s too difficult for one player to really take the lead and decide what everyone is going to do. Also the fact that the game is strictly interpretive doesn’t exclude the player that doesn’t have a very strategic mindset. I find for all of these reasons the mechanics help to not silence any voice and forces the issue of cooperation and not to simply follow the leader.
Another aspect of player interaction comes from the clairvoyance votes that will certainly give each player the option to critique others decisions. This encourages every player to not simply focus on their own puzzle but to engage with the other players.
Strategy vs. Luck –
I wouldn’t call the strategy in Mysterium to be it’s focus. It isn’t really what the game is trying to accomplish. At best the game is interpretive and subjective. It scratches more of a creative itch than one of a strategic variety. Though I wouldn’t call this game a luck fest either. The luck is well controlled and the little luck that is in the received psychic cards can be discarded and drawn anew by the use of the crow mechanic. This game finds a good balance between the two.
This game has some issues with this. Mysterium plays very fluidly through the first phase of the game but falters with a weakly constructed second phase. Players that accurately guess the cards assigned to them have to then guess which group of cards is the correct culprit. In incorrect guess on this step can result in defeat and can result in a loss for the team. Overall this phase can be frustrating for players and takes away from the experience that the first phase provided. This fault doesn’t break an otherwise well constructed game but it does throw off the balance of the game.
Player count here doesn’t affect its experience in a negative way but in a positive way. Mysterium plays with player counts ranging from 2 players and all the way to 7 players.
Play does vary in games that have 2 players and 3 players though. The clairvoyance track is not used in these games and players will have access to all the vision cards in the second phase. The light changes in gameplay doesn’t change the feel and streamlines play for light player counts.
Games that contain more than 3 play just as smooth as the lower player counts. Everyone seems to help each other out and with 7 players the communication seems to separate into smaller sub groups. It’s another interesting aspect of the game to behold especially from the opposite side of the ghost screen.
The ghost experience does require more attention with more players due to the multitude of vision cards that need to be handed out. Though it still scales up well, I would recommend that an experienced ghost take the lead in games that have more than three players.
Those gamers that are on the hunt for the next brain burning experience to expand their collection should probably pass on this game. The style of gameplay here is more about matching wits with another player than trying to devise a plan to win. This game is more for the overall experience and less about a deep form of gameplay.
Replay Value –
I think the simple fact that I have rarely played a single game in one sitting speaks to Mysterium’s replay value. It’s artwork and narrative speaks to almost everyone that has the pleasure to play it.
I can imagine that this would get a bit stale if played with the same group over time though. The vision cards are tailored specifically to some of the intuition cards which can lead to the same cards being used over the course of several plays. I found that you can add some added plays if you swap the vision cards with cards from the board game Dixit. Be warned though as this will add some difficulty to the game.
The prices on Mysterium online range from 32.99 to 39.99 with an MSRP cost of 49.99. The online prices is a good price and a more appropriate price point given the slightly degraded replayability of the game. The MSRP price is simply too high though I can understand the reasoning with the quality of the components.
Stock of this game seems to be diminishing quickly due to its popularity which could justify the higher price point.
Who is the game for? –
This game offers a deep creative experience with a strong thematic backbone. The atmosphere and tapping into the right hemisphere of your brain is crucial for your enjoyment of Mysterium. Players looking for a heavy strategy game should stay clear as this is not the game for you.
My Thoughts –
I love the experience that this game creates. It’s such a joy to be a part of no matter which side of the ghost screen you are on. The production is beautiful with an aesthetic that draws everyone into the theme. The game is not without it’s hiccups with a clunky game mechanism (clairvoyance track) and the paired end game. The necessity for expansions or to play with different people also degrades my score with limited replayability but overall Mysterium is a must buy in my opinion. Something that will not hit the table every game night but makes a big splash when it does.
Score – 7.5 / 10