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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: Mice and Mystics

By Scott Simoneau

Mice and Mystics is a dungeon crawler board game by Plaid Hat Games that many people have referred to as an RPG in a box. The story behind the game is that the adventuring party had a spell cast on them that transforming them all into tiny mice in order to escape from a prison, and now you're undertaking missions such as crawling through the sewers, avoiding the cleaner's broom sweeps, and running away from the house cat, all while fighting other tiny rats wielding swords and shields. Crazy, huh?

The gameplay of Mice and Mystics is one heavy-set in theme, with several multi-page story breaks and dialogues to be read aloud during game play. But beyond that, it also provides a fairly challenging dungeon crawler board game at the same time that is a race against the clock. Everything is scenario bases, with the base game coming with an 11 chapter scenario book, entitled Sorrow and Remembrance. Sorrow and Remembrance is entirely standalone from the separate rulebook, also included, but like most of Plaid Hat Game's products, you can also go online to watch learn to play videos.

When setting up the game, you will create an area to track all of the game stats. This area loosely resembles a grandfather clock. On one side, you keep track of the timer, tracked like pages in a book. Once you reach "The End", the game is over and you have lost. One the other side, you have the initiative track. Here you shuffle one card for each hero, and one card for each type of enemy in play, and deal them out vertically. This is the order in which things activate. At the very top, you keep track of the enemies' cheese wheel. Each time the cheese wheel fills up to full, you mark off another page on the timer track and spawn some more enemies.

The rest of the playing area is made up of dungeon titles that your party will adventure through. Again, the theme persists heavily on these tiles. Notice the size of the water drain, sword hilt, and helmet compared to the size of your figures.

Most tiles are two sided with a flip effect that you can trigger. For example on this tile, you can sneak through the water drain, flip the tile, and now you've plummeted into the sewers beneath!

Each time you enter a new tile, you will use an encounter card to spawn enemies. The encounter becomes more difficult the more "pages" into the chapter you are.

Here we can see that on Page 1, we'd spawn six roaches. But on Page 3, we'd spawn one spider and two rats!

Each activation, a model will move, and then take one action. These actions can include attacking, exploring for a new tile, and searching for loot.

Each hero card displays the heroes stats: Attacks, Defense, Lore, and Movement. It also shows how many wounds before the mouse is captured, and what starting equipment the mouse has. Below, Colin has:
  • Three dice in attacks (2 base and 1 from his sword)
  • Two dice defending (1 base and one from the armor)
  • Two dice for Mystic abilities
  • and a movement of 2 squares (plus a random die roll you always add to your movement)
As heroes collect new gear, their stats can increase

The back of each hero card includes a little background information on the mouse.

Heroes also learn abilities, that provide special effects. Most have a cheese cost, so require the mouse to hunt down some cheese prior to use.

Combat and checks are resolved through die rolls. Each die has a symbol or two (Melee hit, Ranged Hit, Defend, or Cheese), a number value, and some have a critical symbol (the *). For each hit result rolled, you get one hit of that type (melee or ranged). Each shield rolled blocks one hit in defense. Each cheese rolled adds one cheese to your (or the enemies!) cheese wheel.

For skill checks for things like exploring, climbing, etc, you look for the critical icon (*)

As mentioned earlier, the gameplay is setup through scenarios. Sorrow and Remembrance comes with 11 chapters (scenarios) to play through, with extensive setup and progression instructions, and tons of narrative and background to read aloud for each, including some mid-scenario excepts to read. The base game doesn't really include much for free-form play outside of the could just wander throughout tiles...the mechanics allow it, but the game would certainly lose some of it's charm.

As with most board games, the figures come in bare (yellow) plastic, but they paint up quick nicely, and with the low model count in the box, it's not a huge burden to get them painted up.

Mice and Mystics has been a hit with several of the local gaming group. It's not exactly a new game - it's been out for several years and already has multiple expansions, but the recent release of Tail Feathers (review to come soon!) got us all to give Mice and Mystics a shot, and I certainly love it. 

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