RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples May 2016 06 June 2016

Having missed a couple of months thanks to busy-ness, we returned to the boardgame café (which appeared to have undergone a complete staff turnover, though some of them are now just working on different days). With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

We started with Mysterium, which attracted a lot of attention last year but which I hadn't got round to trying before. It was immediately clear that this had seen some hard play, with worn cards and some missing components, but not enough to spoil the game experience.

It's mostly a cooperative game: a ghost (me, in this case) is trying to send dream-visions of death to a group of psychics, who attempt to decode them to determine the killer, the place and the method (which last part might seem faintly familiar from somewhere). Those visions consist of cards with motif-heavy art, very much in the style of Dixit, and the non-ghost players try to work out what in the art is the significant message the ghost is trying to send. Unlike Dixit, they have a limited set of "correct" answers, and I found this structure quite satisfying (when I play Dixit I am always either too general or too specific).

The ghost player has his own copy of the clue cards, one set per player (which means the "vision of his own death" thing doesn't entirely make sense but it's a good game anyway).

Players progress step by step until all clues are solved. (In a game with more than three players, you can also make side bets on whether other players have interpreted the visions correctly, which can get you bonus cards in the endgame.)

I very much enjoyed this and would like to own it, though I really want the Polish version (Tajemnicze Domostwo), which has the original art by Mariusz Gandzel and Karolina Węcka for characters, locations and weapons. (There's no in-game text, and the rules for both versions are freely available in English.) Then again, the Mysterium cards are easier to work with, with their different backs and handy reference numbers, and the side-bet mechanic seems well worth using. If only they'd kept the original art! Maybe I'll end up buying both and making one "super" set that combines the best of everything…

Old and new greenhouse, above, and magician, below; taken from this boardgamegeek article describing the differences between the versions.

We moved on to Elder Sign, another one that's been out for a while but we haven't played before. Bold investigators fight a Cthulhoid invasion by rolling dice.

It's very clearly another of the FFG Cthulhu game line, with the same investigators and items implemented in yet another set of mechanics. On the other hand it cuts down much of the slow moving around the board that one gets in Arkham Horror and the later Eldritch Horror, as one can jump straight into whatever adventure seems appropriate at the time.

"Begorrah, Oi'm Foightin' Michael McGlen, and anyone who calls me an ethnic stereotype is after gettin' shot."

(I ended up using Cloud Memory on myself, to restore my fragile sanity late in the game.)

We pulled out a bare victory. It's oddly flavourless at times, with the "adventures" apparently all taking place either within a single museum or in completely alien worlds. There's a decent amount of tactics as one tries to work out which adventures which characters should attempt, balancing their chances of success with potential rewards. And at least Clue tokens don't need to be saved up to solve the Big Problem, so one can actually spend them on rerolls. I quite enjoyed this one and would gladly play it again, but I don't think it's going to find a home in my collection.

Our last game for the evening was Roll for the Galaxy, which reimplements some of the ideas of Race for the Galaxy in a dice-based form.

As in Race, there are five phases, and only those that have been chosen by at least one player will actually happen. One discovers new worlds and developments, builds them, then exploits them for goods, either to trade (to return used dice from the "citizenry" to one's cup for use on future turns) or to consume (which gains victory points).

Yes, the dice cups are supplied, and customised.

I came a close second, and I'd had an enjoyable experience, but this felt like an aggressively random game and I didn't end up with any sense of accomplishment.

[Buy Mysterium at Amazon] [Buy Elder Sign at Amazon] [Buy Roll for the Galaxy at Amazon] and help support the blog.

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