Mysterium is a 2-7 player game Designed by Oleksander Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko and published by Libellud.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of my board gaming childhood was comprised largely of games of Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life and Hotel, I’ve even still got a version of each one in my cupboard today, even if Cluedo and Game of Life are the Simpsons versions. The kids still enjoy all of those games, with the notable exception being Cluedo. The last time we tried it, the game was met with some confusion and quite a bit of boredom, even Homer and the gang couldn’t make the mystery of who shot mister Burns interesting (it was Maggie in the car park with the gun by the way….spoilers for a 23 year old episode) So considering Cluedo went down like a lead pipe we need something to fill that Cluedo sized hole in our collection. Well like the Tarzan of board gaming, in swung Tabletop to the rescue to showcase Mysterium.
How to Play
In Mysterium all bar one of the players will play the role of Psychics in the 1920’s who have come to hold a Séance to try and solve a thirty year old murder, the problem is that the ghost is only able to communicate in visions. One player will play as the ghost distributing these visions (oh and the ghost player doesn’t get to speak for the entire game)
In a game a number of suspects, locations and weapons will be placed in front of the psychic players depending on player count and the difficulty you’ve chosen. The ghost player will then allocate one suspect, location and weapon for each player. The players will then have 7 turns to guess each of these.
On a turn the Ghost player will draw 7 vision cards to their hand and pick at least one for each player that point to that players suspect by matching an aspect of the art on the card to the art on the suspect. The players then have to guess which suspect the ghost is leading them to and place their token on their chosen card. If they are right then that player moves on to guessing the location, if they are wrong then they get more cards relating to the suspect on the next round.
Once all the players have guessed there is an opportunity to vote on if you think a fellow psychics vote is right or not, a correct vote will move you up a clairvoyancy track, which will give you an advantage in the final round (if you make it that far).
If by the end of the seven rounds all the players have successfully guessed all of their suspects, locations and weapons then they move onto the final round, if even one player fails to get all three then the players loose.
In the final round the ghost player chooses one scenario and chooses three vision cards, one for the suspect, one for the location and one for the weapon. The players must then vote on which scenario the ghost has chosen based on these cards. However the players will only see certain cards based on where they are on the clairvoyance track and they are not allowed to discuss with each other. If the majority guesses correctly then the psychics win, if not the players lose.
This all sounds very familiar
If you’ve ever seen a review about Mysterium then you’ll know that the popular comparison is with Cluedo and Dixit, in fact it’s published by the same company that published Dixit. The great thing about Mysterium is that it takes elements from both of those games (the people, place and thing mechanic from Cluedo and the abstract art cards from Dixit) and makes better use of both of them.
For those of you who play as the psychics you get to participate in a great social deduction game, with the social aspect of this being the key point. The fun of Mysterium is in the interaction with your fellow psychics as you go back and forth trying to figure out everyone’s visions and what element the ghost is pointing you to. Rather than being a straight up co-op game where you’re all trying to get to a single goal Mysterium differs slightly, yes you’re all striving for the same goal but here you’re all taking different paths, except everyone has got their own opinions on which path you should each take. The fact that everyone will interpret each card differently makes the game equal parts easy and difficult. You could be given a card and immediately decide with one hundred percent certainty where the ghost is pointing you to………that is until one of the other players leans over to you and points out something that puts that element of doubt in your mind. It’s best to point out that this player is inevitably the one who will convince you that your guess is wrong and theirs is right, they are also the player who will play a vote against you when you eventually go with their guess!
This is where Mysterium comes into its own, because unlike Dixit there is so much art packed into every one of the cards that even if you think you’ve given someone a card that’s a sure thing, someone else may see it differently. This also works in reverse, I’ve played games where, as the ghost I’ve given a player a card out of necessity that had nothing to do with where they needed to look and they’ve managed to find something that led them to the right suspect. The fact that imagination plays such a big part of the game is what makes Mysterium such a great game to play with the kids as well as adults.
It doesn’t sound like the ghost player gets much to do.
Although it sounds like all the ghost is doing is handing out cards, there’s actually much more to it than that. The ghost player is essentially playing the role of the drummer in the backline of the entire game, they are the Tico Torres to the games Bon Jovi, the Lars Ulrich to its Metallica, the Tre Cool to its Green Day…(sorry I got into a rut of just naming drummers), what I mean is that unless the ghost is there doing their job and handing out good visions for the psychics then the whole game falls apart and could be over before people even figure out their suspects.
The role of the ghost is not an easy one, you’re constantly wrestling with what things on the cards to pick out and what you think each player would spot and you are constantly trying to listen in to the conversations to try and get a feel for how the players are playing the game so that you can adapt, are they thinking more literal of are they looking at things in a more abstract way.
When you’ve handed out your cards, well then there are a couple of things you can do. You can try and plan ahead and see which cards would be good for future rounds, or (and this is probably the most fun whilst potentially being the most frustrating), you can listen to the discussion where you can silently revel in the fast that someone has guessed the card you gave them instantly, or you can bow your head behind the screen and silently scream as another player steers them in completely the wrong direction. Another role you get to play as the ghost is the role of every modern day quiz show host/judge because you get to tell people if they’re right or not and it’s up to you to drag out the tension in the game (and there will be tension), especially in the last round because you’re in that strange position of knowing if the game has been won or lost before everyone else.
Anything Else we should know before heading to our first séance?
Of the two roles available to players the role of the ghost is one that probably won’t appeal to everyone so it’s worth bearing the above points in mind before you take up the role of someone who is essentially in charge of everyone’s enjoyment of the game.
With all the discussion and interpreting it could be the case that some rounds could take longer than is humanly tolerable, luckily there is a handy dandy sand timer in the box that you can use to stop the rounds dragging.
Mysterium is billed as being from 2 players and whilst I’ve not played as two myself I’ve not heard positive things about this mode, which, considering that this is a social game I can imagine it may not be as enjoyable at that player count. I urge people to make their own minds up on that one but I would suggest trying it with more than two players on at least your first play of it.
My tip for anyone is to put your cards back in number order during tear down or at least before your next game, since you have to match the number on ghost cards with the number on the psychic card this will definitely make set up easier next time.
Mysterium even comes with its own soundtrack which you can scan the QR code on the rules to get hold of it to add some more atmosphere to your game.
My last tip is to go and buy Mysterium, if you like deduction games, beautiful art and having a great time with your friends and family then I highly recommended Mysterium.