Game Buzz: Mice and Mystics

There’s so much buzz around Kickstarter these days, it’s almost a surprise when a small publisher comes out with a game on their own.  But that’s what’s happening with:

image by BGG user screamingtruth

Mice and Mystics is a new game from Plaid Hat Games (publishers of Summoner Wars and Dungeon Runs) and designer Jerry Hawthorne.  It’s a cooperative storytelling game for 1-4 players aged 7 and up that takes around an hour to play.  You and your fellow players are subjects loyal to the king, but you have been turned into mice and must find a way to defeat the sorceress Vanestra.  As the game progresses, you’ll be working your way through chapters in a storybook, attempting to get past obstacles like cockroaches and cats, and using cheese to make your mice stronger.

The game comes with a 55-page storybook that lays out the different scenarios in your adventure.  You also get a story control board, 8 double-sided room tiles, 6 mice figures, and 16 minion figures.  There are cards – 30 mouse ability cards, 71 search cards, 18 encounter cards, and 6 mouse hero cards.  Finally, along with 5 action dice, there are two sheets of counters – 24 cheese markers, 15 wound tokens, 2 chapter markers, 2 mouse trap markers, 5 achievement tokens, 4 party item tokens, 1 Captain Vurst marker, 4 elite rat markers, 1 Brodie’s Paw marker, 1 pipe entrance marker, 3 story achievement marker, 6 level up tokens, and 4 stun/webbed markers.

At the start of the game, you’ll set up whatever chapter you’re on in the storybook.  Only the first chapter is posted online, so I can’t speak to the different configurations.  For that one, you’ll choose four mice to be in the party.  If playing with less players, some players may be controlling multiple mice.  Each mouse chooses an ability card, which shows a class requirement that the mouse must meet, special rules for the ability, and the amount of cheese you need to discard to use the ability.  You’ll also gather equipment for each mouse, and set up the room tiles as described in the scenario.  You’ll shuffle the initiative cards for each mouse and minion on the board, and you’ll set up the story control board.  This will help you track the length of the chapter, cheese earned by minions, and initiative; it is also used to store the search deck, the encounter deck, and the tokens found by the mice.

Mice and Mystics is played over a series of rounds.  Initiative is determined at the beginning of the game and each time an encounter is revealed.  You’ll shuffle up the mice and minion cards and lay them out to determine turn order.  On a mouse’s turn, you can first move.  Roll an action die and add your move value to determine how many spaces you can move.  You can then do one of the following actions:

  • Scurry – This allows you to move again.
  • Battle – You can perform a melee attack on an adjacent enemy (or enemy in the same space as you, since up to four figures can generally fit in a space) or a ranged attack on any minion in the same room with you that you can see.  You do this by rolling action dice – swords are good for melee, bows are good for range.  Another player will roll for defense, and shields block hits.  If a cheese symbol is rolled, the mouse (or the minion wheel, if it’s the minion’s roll) gets a piece of cheese.
  • Search – Roll an action die.  If you get a star, draw a card from the search deck.  You can then keep it for later, discard it immediately for one cheese, or (if it’s an event), follow the directions immediately.
  • Recover – If you are stunned, remove the stunned token.  If you are webbed, roll an action die.  If you get a star, discard the web.
  • Explore – Move from your room to a new one.  You can explore by adding a tile aligned with an exit, or you can explore a flip space and flip the tile you’re on.  Every time you explore a previously unexplored area, you’ll have an encounter.

There are also some free actions you can use at any time:

  • Share – Exchange search cards and/or cheese with anyone else in the same or an adjacent space.
  • Equip – Take cards from equipment slots and put them in your pack, or vice versa.
  • Level Up – Exchange six cheese tokens for one new ability card.

When a minion comes up in turn order, the mouse lowest in turn order acts out the minion’s turn.  Two things happen:

  • Move – Roll an action die and move a melee minion that number of spaces towards the nearest mouse (or, if there’s a tie, to the mouse highest on the initiative track); a ranged minion will only move if it can’t see a mouse, and stops when it does.
  • Battle – The minion will attack just as the mice did.

After the last mouse in turn order has gone, check for the presence of minions.  If there are no minions left on the board, add a piece of cheese to the minion wheel.  When it fills up, you’ll advance the chapter track.  Each chapter has its own win and loss conditions.  To win the first chapter, you’ll need to clear the courtyard of minions and make it to the tree entrance to escape the castle.  You lose if you run out of time before this happens.

As with a lot of adventure games, there are a lot of little rules that it’s hard to cover all at once.  I think you really need to play it to get a sense of how it will work.  However, it seems to be a very rich world that has been created here.  The art is pretty stunning to look at, and there’s a lot of detail in the rulebook.  Looking at the age range, it seems that this will be a really good family game.  I can imagine pulling this out with the kids and having a good time creating the story of these mice together.  I like that it’s a cooperative adventure, as I think that works well for the setting.  I also think the time element and changing initiative will add some interesting dynamics to the game.  The game’s going to retail for $75 (preorder for $50), which makes sense considering the amount of stuff they’re putting into the box.  I think that may turn off some potential customers, but I think the guys at Plaid Hat have a proven track record, so I’m excited to see how the game does.  Thanks for reading!

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