Update – September 2018

Hi everyone!

I have to say I’m quite pleased that I actually managed to get up the Mysterium post last month (even if I was cutting it a little fine in terms of date!). Summer is always a difficult time when one is busy playing in the sun and having holidays, so I feel like maybe I’m off to a good start.

So in keeping with that I’ll now announce the game for this month – Dragonology: The Game.

This is a bit more of a kids game than our last posts, but is nonetheless a really fun one. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the upcoming review!

 

Mim~

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Mysterium

 

 

Number of Players: 2-7

Year of Publication: 2015

Creators: Oleksandr Nevskiy, Oleg Sidorenko (designers and artists), Igor Burlakov and Xavier Collette (artists)

I hope you’ve been exercising your psychic abilities!

Having been absent from the blog for so long I think I’ve found a great game to mark our comeback!

Mysterium is a relatively new game and bears a few similarities (and many differences) to Clue or Cluedo (depending on where you’re from or which edition of the game you have). The similarities are that you have to determine a murderer, a location and a weapon from a group of options and guess correctly to win the game. Differences are pretty much everything else.

You play as a group of psychics called to the house by its new owner, Mr MacDowell, who has sensed the presence of a ghost and wishes to set it free. The game is cooperative, meaning that all players win, or lose, together.

“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.” –excerpt from the introduction in the rulebook

What’s In The Box:

Special apologies made for the complete randomness and, in fact, quite terrible arrangement of this photo. It will be replaced by a better one as soon as time allows.

  1. 6 Intuition Tokens and 6 Clairvoyancy Markers (1 of each colour), 36 Clairvoyancy Tokens (6 of each colour)
  2. 6 Sleeves (1 of each colour)
  3. 1 Clock and Base Board
  4. 1 Character, 1 Location and 1 Object Progress Board
  5. 1 Epilogue Progress Board
  6. 18 Character and 18 Location Psychic Cards
  7. 18 Object Psychic Cards
  8. 1 Game Screen
  9. 1 2-minute Sand Times
  10. 3 Crow Markers
  11. 6 Ghost Tokens
  12. 6 Culprit Tokens
  13. 18 Ghost Character, 18 Ghost Location and 18 Ghost Object Cards
  14. 84 Vision Cards
  15. 1 Rule Book

Setting Up The Game:

Before the game begins there is a certain amount of setting up that needs to be done. Firstly, players should decide who’s going to play as the ghost. That individual then sits behind the Game Screen at one end of the table and the other players, now playing as the psychics, should gather around the other end. It’s important that none of the psychics can see behind the Game Screen. Each psychic must choose an identity to play as for the game; the characters each have a brief bio on page 4 of the rule book which will help you choose (or, as I do it, you can just pick your favourite colour), this will also help you to get into character. They then take the Intuition Token, Clairvoyancy Level Marker, 6 Clairvoyancy Tokens and the Sleeve that correlate to the character they’ve chosen. The Ghost Tokens that correspond to the identities chosen by the psychics should also be passed to the ghost and placed behind the Game Screen.

The Clock should be assembled so that it stands upright on its base board; this should then be placed, with the hand on 1, in front of the side of the Game Screen that the psychics can see. The base board of the Clock also serves as the discard area for Clairvoyancy Tokens used throughout the game.

After the Clock the Character, Location and Object Progress Boards should be spaced (in that order) down the table away from the ghost, and the Epilogue Progress Board should be placed at the very bottom of the game space. Once this is done we’re ready to draw cards, and then begin the game!

Ghost Setup:

Whilst the psychics set up the Clock and Progress Boards it’s good if the ghost organizes him or herself a little behind the Game Screen. Depending on the difficulty level chosen the ghost can take one, two or all three of the Crow Markers. These stay behind the screen simply lying on the table until such time as the ghost chooses to use them. The ghost should also take the Ghost Tokens and place them at the bottom of the columns on the inside of the Game Screen that correspond to the colour of the characters that are in play. Lastly, the ghost should take all of the Vision Cards, shuffle them thoroughly, and place the pile face down on the table inside of the screen. The ghost should then draw a hand of seven from the top of the pile.

General Setup:

Next, Suspect, Location and Weapon cards must be chosen for the game. The number drawn of each of these depends on the difficulty level and number of players. In the game shown in the photos in this post, we had only three players, so one ghost and two psychics, and were playing EASY. This means that 5 of each card were drawn during the set-up stage.

To set up, separate the psychic and ghost cards into the three categories: Character, Location and Object. Shuffle each pile thoroughly face down. Then draw 5 (or the number indicated if playing with a different number of players, or on a different difficulty setting) Character cards from the psychic pile.

NOTE: all the cards are numbered on the back for convenience in this stage

Once you have these five, retrieve the correspondingly numbered five from the ghost cards. Place all unused cards from both decks back into the game box. Repeat this step with Location and Object cards. All cards should remain face down until you have finished drawing. The ghost cards should either be drawn by the ghost, or should be immediately passed to the ghost once drawn. The ghost should then shuffle each pile separately, and randomly draw the number of cards that corresponds to the number of psychics playing. The ghost will see that on the inside of the Game Screen there are six columns, which correspond in colour to the six possible psychic characters. Once the ghost has drawn the correct number of cards from each category, he or she should place them into the plastic wallets in each column, with Character at the top, Location in the middle and Object at the bottom. This layout helps the ghost to see clearly what they need each player to achieve. The inside of the Game Screen should look something like this:

Inside of the Game Screen when playing with two psychics.

Meanwhile, the cards chosen by the psychics can then be turned over and organised underneath the correct Progress Board so that every player (including the ghost) can clearly see them. Players should also place their Intuition Tokens (the little crystal balls) onto the Character Progress Board to begin the game. Once this is done, the game space should look something like this:

Complete starting set up

As you can see here, the psychics have also already placed their Clairvoyancy Markers onto the Clairvoyancy Track that sits above the Epilogue Progress Board. This is important to not forget, as the number of points gained by each psychic on this track throughout the game will make a big difference at the end.

Lastly! Place the Sand Timer somewhere it can be seen by all psychics, but also reached by the ghost. Once this is done, we’re ready to play!

Playing The Game:

Objective: conduct a successful séance; work together with the other psychics to successfully interpret the visions sent to you by the ghost in order to identify his/her murderer.

We are a group of powerful psychics, and as such, possess the ability to communicate with the ghost haunting the house of Mr MacDowell. However, although we can all clearly sense the presence of the ghost, the ghost is unable to communicate with us clearly, and seems to have difficulty remembering the events of his death. The best the ghost can do is send us visions that will help point us to the correct suspect, location and weapon of the murder. We have seven hours in which to discover what happened, or else the ghost is destined to wander the netherworld for another year before we may have another chance to help.

It’s important to realise that whilst this is a cooperative game, the ghost has a different suspect, location and weapon for each psychic to find. This means that the visions being sent to the psychics will differ, and the psychics will need to help each other, whilst trying to work out their own clues.

The psychics must identify their suspect before the ghost is able to give them visions corresponding to their location, and location must be determined before object. Also important to know is that the ghost is not allowed to communicate with the psychics in any way apart from through the Vision Cards that he or she will distribute throughout the game.

At the beginning of each “hour” of the game, the ghost will send visions to each of the psychics. Choosing from the seven Vision Cards he or she has in his or her hand the ghost will try to choose cards that in some way indicate to the player which Suspect, Location or Object they should choose. The Vision Cards can be very obscure, so some creative thinking is required from the psychics. The ghost must give at least one Vision Card to each psychic every round. Even if they think that none of the Vision Cards they have available to them will help. Once the ghost has given Vision Cards to one psychic, they are allowed to draw new ones (to fill their hand to seven) before passing some to the next psychic.

The Crow. At this point I should tell you what the Crow Markers are for. In our game, played on EASY, the ghost is allowed to use the Crow once per hour. The Crow allows the ghost to discard as many of their Vision Cards as they wish, and draw new ones, to fill their hand once again to seven. To make sure that the ghost does not use the Crow more often than the rules state the ghost is required to stand the Crow Marker onto the Game Screen, like this:

Once the ghost has given at least one Vision Card to each of the psychics they should flip over the Sand Timer, giving the psychics two minutes in which to decipher their clues and make a guess. The psychics do not receive Vision Cards in any particular order – the ghost is allowed to choose who to give to first, based on the Vision Cards that they have in front of them. This does mean that the psychic who receives first has a little extra time, as they are allowed to consider their clues as soon as they are received, and do not have to wait for their companions to get theirs. However, as the game is cooperative this can be an advantage to the other player. If the first psychic receives a very clear clue and is sure of the their guess, they are then free the help the others, who may have more challenging visions to work with.

Once the sand has run out, each psychic must have placed their Intuition Token onto one of the cards (Character, Location or Object, depending on where you are in the game) in front of them. In this photo you can see that only one psychic has chosen and the Sand Timer has clearly run out. The blue psychic must now immediately make his choice.

ghi

The ghost will then reveal whether or not each psychic has guessed correctly. However, before that happens, (and actually, this should happen before the Sand Timer runs out) the psychics have a chance to place a bet on their companions. To do this the psychic will take one of their 6 Clairvoyancy Tokens and place it next to an Intuition Token, with either the tick or the cross side facing up. This indicates whether or not their believe the guess is correct. If the ghost reveals the guess to be correct, or incorrect, as indicated by the Clairvoyancy Token, the psychic that placed the Token is allowed to move their Clairvoyancy Marker up the track at the bottom of the board. Clairvoyancy Tokens can only be used once, and must then be discarded to the base board area of the Clock.

Photo shows the progression along the Clairvancy Track of the two psychics playing

At this point, if a psychic has successfully deciphered their clues they are allowed to do two things: firstly, they take the Character, Location or Object card that they have discovered, and place it in their Character Sleeve. This is kept for later. Secondly, they move their Intuition Token to the next Progress Board in the game space.

NOTE: players move through the game at different speeds. It is completely possible for one psychic to have discerned all three pieces of information given to them by the ghost, whilst other psychics are stuck on the first or second.

Once the ghost has revealed whether or not the psychics are correct any psychic who has succeeded discards all Vision Cards given to them by the ghost so far. The other psychics keep their Vision Cards to see if they can find more of a pattern in the next cards that they receive.

The Clock is moved forward one hour, and play continues in the same way until one of two things happens:

  1. All psychics successfully discover their Character, Location and Weapon before the Clock runs out, OR
  2. The Clock strikes eight, meaning that the seven hours of the Séance are up, and the ghost is damned to wander the netherworld for another year. Meaning that the game ends and everyone loses.

If a psychic discovers all three of their clues before the Clock strikes eight, he or she should take their Intuition Token and place it on the Epilogue Progress Board. They are then also allowed to move their Clairvoyancy Marker forward on the Clairvoyancy Track the number of hours remaining on the Clock. This psychic is no longer given visions by the ghost, but instead can be more involved in helping the other psychics to catch up.

Once all psychics have reached the Epilogue Progress Board any remaining Characters, Locations and Objects not in a Sleeve are returned to the game box, and all Vision Cards are returned to the ghost. Likewise the Character, Location and Object Progress Boards are also removed at this point.

Winning The Game:

By the time the Clock strikes eight all psychics need to have successfully discerned their Character, Location and Objects assigned to them by the ghost. If everyone has achieved this then all players progress to the final stage.

Revealing The Culprit:

This final stage of the game is divided into three parts and we start with a suspect line-up. Simply, all the psychics remove their three cards: Character, Location and Object from their Sleeve and organize them into groups on the table. The ghost then gives each psychic his or her Ghost Token back, with the numbered side facing up. The psychics then place these next to their group of cards to make it easy to identify which is which. Like so:

Once this is done the psychics reclaim all of their Clairvoyancy Tokens from the Clock Base Board where they have been discarded over the course of the game. We are then ready to move onto our Shared Vision!!

At this point a lot hangs on the ghost getting good Vision Cards to pass to the psychics. The ghost is allowed to choose three Vision Cards from his or her hand of seven. If they have a Crow Marker available at this point they are, of course, allowed to use it if they think they have weak cards. The ghost must choose three Vision Cards to present to the psychics in a Shared Vision. One card should indicate the Character, one the Location and one the Object, all from the same group of those laid out on the table by the psychics.

The ghost shuffles the Vision Cards once they are chosen before placing them face down in front of the psychics. He or she should also secretly take the Culprit Token with the correct number for the group he/she has indicated on it, and place it, also face down, on the indicated space on the Epilogue Progress Board. As shown here:

We are now ready for the final step in the game. The Straw Poll!

It is now more important than ever that the ghost does not communicate in any way with the psychics as they try to interpret the final vision they have been given. Psychics should also not communicate with each other during this stage, as whether or not the game is won or lost is decided by a vote and each psychic must vote alone and secretly. Psychics will also vote at different times depending on the level of clairvoyancy that they have gained throughout the game, as shown on the Clairvoyancy Track. Any psychic with a Clairvoyancy Level of 1-4 will only see the first card of the Shared Vision before s/he has to vote. A psychic with 5-6 will see the first two cards, and a psychic with seven or higher will view all three cards before having to place their vote.

Once a psychic has viewed the amount of the Vision Cards that s/he is entitled to they must cast their vote. They do this by taking their Clairvoyancy Tokens, which are numbered on one side, and sliding the one with the number that corresponds to the group that they wish to vote for, into their Sleeve. This is done secretly. Once each psychic has voted it’s time for the truth to be revealed. The Sleeves containing the votes are passed to the psychic with the highest score on the Clairvoyancy Track and that psychic then reveals each vote in turn, placing it onto the group it corresponds with. If there is a clear majority, this group is immediately chosen as the suspect group. If for some reason there’s a tie, it’s broken in favour of the group the psychic with the furthest progress on the Clairvoyancy Track has chosen.

Now it’s time to flip the Culprit Token.

If the number on the Culprit Token matches the group selected to be the suspect group then the psychics have won and the ghost can rest in peace knowing that his/her murder has been solved. If, however, the psychics are wrong, everyone loses and the ghost is damned to haunt the house for at least another year before a fresh attempt can be made to help them.

Strategy:

This is an odd game, in that I don’t think there’s very much that can be said by way of strategy. It’s mostly guess work and trying to think like the ghost. I believe the best piece of advice that can be given regarding strategy is that if one psychic seems to get the ghost, i.e. interpret all the Vision Cards they’re given easily and correctly, then trust that psychic to help you with your own visions as you’ll most likely progress through the game quicker in this way. Other than that I don’t know how much strategy really comes into this game. It’s more about observation and communication than anything else.

NOTE: as we often say in these posts, we played the game wrong at least twice before really getting it. Initially we thought that the Clairvoyancy Tokens could be used as much as possible, and a few other things, and since then, more thorough re-readings of the rules have shown us how wrong we were.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game itself is a reworking of the game system present in Tajemnicze Domostwo
  2. It has won 3 awards
  3. Was a finalist for 1 award
  4. Was nominated for 7 awards

I realize I’m stretching this list a little thin, but there’s not much history to be found for this. Sorry!

To Conclude:

I think Mysterium is a really good, co-operative, family friendly game that all ages (from the recommended 8+) can enjoy together. Once played through once or twice you’ll find you have a good grasp of it. On top of that the game itself has been well manufactured. The cards have interesting and detailed graphics and the Vision Cards that the ghost has have many different ways that they can be interpreted due to the complexity of some of the images. I’ve only rated it 3.5 at the beginning of the post because I feel that although the game is highly enjoyable i believe it’s lacking in something not really identifiable that pulls you in.
I found that whilst playing other, different, co-op games I was much more engrossed in the actual game. Take Pandemic as an example, I realize that the games are very different, but when playing Pandemic I feel completely absorbed in the game. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get the same feeling with Mysterium which is what accounts for a slightly lower rating than I would otherwise have given it. Also, although the box itself is not badly designed, it does have a few spaces where there could be obvious improvement in the way the game components are stored.

In spite of that, I would still highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys co-operative games, or who really liked Clue.

I hope you enjoyed our comeback post and will look out for our next game!

The Seafarers of Catan

5 - 5

Year of Publication: 1997

In The Beginning…

Was the island of Catan, and on that island small groups of people settled and expanded, becoming farmers, miners, shepherds and lumberjacks. However, the island proved to be too small to sustain multiple civilizations, so some of the people took to the seas to find new places to settle, and they became known as the Seafarers of Catan!

Okay, these Catan posts are going to be a little different to the normal reviews; as I’ve already done a full review post on the original Settlers of Catan I’m not going to do the “What’s In The Box” photos for any of the expansions or extensions, but instead only for the spin-off editions, like Starfarers of Catan or Star Trek Catan as those games are very different to the original. Instead all I’m going to do in these posts is to say which pieces are added to the base game to play the expansion and then review the differences in game play and give my opinion. All clear? Excellent! Without further ado:

What’s New?

Seafarers is obviously set over multiple islands, so each colour player is provided with 15 ships of their colour, which can be built by spending one sheep and one wood resource cards on your turn, and can then be used to travel to new places.

In addition to those the expansion also includes a large number of sea hexes and extra sea edge pieces to make the board bigger. Because several islands are involved in playing this game there are extra Catan Chits, with numbers on them to produce resources. There is also the new resource of gold, which allows a player who has a settlement built on one to claim one resource of their choice every time its number is rolled.

In original Catan each settlement gains a player one victory point, and a city is worth two. In Seafarers you get a bonus victory point for the first settlement you build that’s not on your original island, which is quite exciting. There are a few additional tiles that you put underneath such settlements so you don’t forget those points.

Lastly, in addition to the robber who lives in the desert, there is now also a pirate ship, which, obviously, lives in the sea.

Playing The Game:

As you can see from the above pictures, the way players begin the game is exactly the same as in the original Catan game, each player starts with 2 settlements, each with a road attached, and takes resources from one of those settlements to begin the game.

A players turn is exactly the same as in the original game; you roll the dice to claim resources (being wary of 7, which I’ll explain the differences of in a minute), then you build roads/settlements/cities/ships or development cards or trade for resources with other players and play development cards, and then you pass the dice to the next player, ending your turn.

Rolling Seven!

Rolling seven is the same as in the original Catan in that the player who rolls seven gets to move the robber, and can take a resource from any player effected by where they move it to. Additionally any player with seven or more cards in their hand still has to discard half of them (the lesser half in the case of an odd number, i.e. if I have 9 cards with a seven is rolled I must discard 4).

BUT!

In the Seafarers version of Catan the player who rolls the seven has the choice of moving either the robber, or the pirate ship. The pirate ship works slightly differently to the robber – the robber prevents resources from being harvested in the hex it’s on, but doesn’t do anything else. The pirate ship however has to stay in the sea, and so, instead of preventing resource production, it prevents a player from building new ships that would sit on any of the sides of the hex it’s on.

dsc_0319

As you can see, in this picture the pirate ship has been moved onto a hex that the orange player (me) is currently trying to sail through. However, until the the pirate ship was moved I could not build any more ships there.

Game play proceeds in the normal way; each player tries to build settlements, roads, cities and development cards in order to collect the required number of Victory Points – in this edition 13 – to win the game.

dsc_0322
Blue wins the game!

The winning player is the first to reach 13 Victory Points and the game ends immediately when that happens.

Strategy:

I would say that getting to the coast is key in this game; with the addition of ships the possibility to extend your road is literally doubled and the extra Victory Points gained both from having the longest road, and from building settlements on new islands are valuable. The winning player when we played had a combination of luck (good dice rolls gaining him lots of resources), settlements upgraded to cities, the longest road, development card Victory Points and settlements on a new island – so literally every possibility in the game!

Also, if one player is in a much better position to win than the others, feel free to make an agreement with the other players to not trade any resources with them, there’s no shame in sabotaging someone else’s chances to further your own cause!

In Conclusion:

This expansion is, in my opinion, worth buying, as gives that little bit extra to the basic game, making it more interesting. This game also has many different scenarios, some of which I may write short reviews of over the coming year, which gives it more diversity than the original version, which can be altered, but not drastically.

I recommend this game as an excellent family game, and good for both board game nerds and board game likers who aren’t ready for anything more intense.

dsc_0325
The smug face of the winning player.

 

 

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Mastermind! And acted very suspiciously all day….

The Rules:

This game is very simple. One player makes a code using the coloured pegs provided and then hides it whilst the other player looks away/puts their face in a cushion. The second player then has to use the remaining coloured pegs to try and guess the code. The first player indicates when they are right or wrong using white and red pegs. The second player has to crack the code before they run out of lines. We already wrote a full review post of this game here if you want to read more about it.

For Christmas?

Definitely! This game is a fun quickie for two players, and fantastic for keeping the most rambunctious children occupied for a little while if you’re a family that been blessed with children with boundless energy! Although a two player game doesn’t sound the best for Christmas, when there’s usually vastly more than two people around it’s actually fantastic. Both for smaller families and big ones. It’s easy to make a Mastermind tournament if you have lots of interested people or, if there’s only a few of you it’s ideal for having a few quiet moments. It’ll also keep Aunt Jean happy – she’s not strong with tactical games, but if only two people are playing it at least there should be someone left to hear about her newest animal acquisition!

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas! This brings us to the end of the Christmas period, and the end of this series of posts – at least until next year!

On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Blokus – and after spending the day with my father told me I was a chip off the ol’ block!

The Rules:

Blokus is a great game that relies on simple rules. Each player chooses a colour and takes all the tiles of that colour. Then, starting with the oldest player they place one tile, starting from the corner nearest where they’re sitting. You can place whichever tile you like but your tiles must all be connected by the points of the corners.

For Christmas?

Yes! I first played this game at Christmas and it’s good fun. It’s not particularly competitive, which makes for a relaxed game. On top of that it’s also very easy to grasp how to play. It’s such a straightforward game that Aunt Jean might even win at it, if she can stop talking about her dogs long enough to focus.

Happy Eleventh Day of Christmas! We’re nearly at the end of the Twelve Games of Christmas now and hopefully you’re  all !

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Sphinx! And asked if I knew the answer to the riddle…

The Rules:

Sphinx is a great kids game which takes half an hour or less to play. Each player starts on the same square in the maze and moves around by rolling three dice. There are two symbols on the board, one is a little coloured card, called a Sphinx card, the other is a mummy hand. The Sphinx card allows you to collect a card of that colour from the stack next to the board, you need these to win the game. The mummy hand allows you to look at the colour of the base of one of the six Sphinxes on the board. There are three Sphinxes in the center of the board, guarding the treasure, there are also three Sphinxes down the right-hand side of the board. Each of these has a different colour on their base. To win the game a player must advance to the middle of the maze and present the correct coloured Sphinx cards in the correct order to reach the treasure. There is a double snake symbol on one of the dice. this means that the player who rolled that symbol must swap one of the Sphinxes in the center of the board with one on the side. In doing this the pattern of colours in the center also changes. The game is won when a player correctly guesses the colour pattern of the center of the board with the correct Sphinx cards.

For Christmas?

Yup! It’s a slightly more challenging game for kids who are a little older. It’s a great introduction to strategy and memory games and can be used as a learning point for the myth and history of the Sphinx (if you’re into that kind of stuff). It could also be an excellent opportunity for the kids to teach Aunt Jean something, as we all know that her interest into history doesn’t extend further than the pedigree of her favourite dog!

Happy Tenth Day of Christmas, if you’re being bored by these posts, just hang on for two more days, and then everything goes back to normal on the blog!

On The Ninth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Connect 4, and proceeded to bore me, explaining how if he started first he could always win…

The Rules:

Connect 4 is a simple tactical game; two players take it in turns to drop their coloured counters down columns on an empty grid in an attempt to make a line of four of their colour, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally, whilst preventing their opponent from making one first. The first player to make a line immediately wins. If both players run out of counters and no one has a line the game is a draw.

For Christmas?

I think it’s a good quick game for when you need five minutes to chill away from the masses, or for when you need your kids to stop running around for a few minutes so that you can get food out of the oven without falling over them. You could also get Aunt Jean to play it, which would keep her out of the way for a few minutes when you’re busy, because she’s really not as helpful in the kitchen as she thinks she is!

Happy Ninth Day of Christmas everyone! If you haven’t played any games yet, you’re not doing Christmas right!