Mice and Mystics Review

Designer: Jerry Hawthorne

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Number of Players: 1- 4
Playtime: 90 minutes
Price (approx.): 60 euro or more 

The king lies in his bed, sleeping, he is very ill. The dark queen Vanestra takes over the reign of the kingdom and captures the ones who are still loyal to him. Collin, the Prince, Tilda, the healer, Nez, the smith and Maginos, the mystic are thrown into a damp dungeon cell. Here, in the shadows, they meet Filch, an unsuccessful thief, a scumbag. He points the company on a grate in the floor that leads into the sewer. To escape from this plight, they have to be inventive. They are too big to escape through the grate, they must become smaller. As small as mice..

The old Maginos turns the company, with the help of an ancient, dangerous spell, into mice. They need to warn the king! His wife isn’t the loving queen he thinks she is. But queen Vanestra is cunning and changes her minions into rats, trying to recapture the rebels and make their lives as miserable as can be..

Overview:
What you get for your money:
You get 6 mouse hero figures, 16 minions, 8 double-side room tiles and a story control board. Also, you get a couple of dice, lots of cards and counters, one rulebook and a nice story book. 
 
How do you play the game:
The game is story based, which means a story is told through several scenarios. These scenarios are chapters in the story book, called Sorrow and Remembrance. Every chapter starts with a introduction that drags you into this micey universe. It then tells you how to set up the room tiles and what happens in the first room (enemies, items, etc.). It also gives you victory and defeat conditions. One of the defeat conditions is the amount of time you have to claim victory. The time is represented by the amount of pages a chapter has. The better you do, the slower the pages are turned and the more time you have to become heroes. Mice and Mystics is a cooperative game, so everyone wins or everyone loses. You have to work together.
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Everyone chooses a hero or heroes and the adventure begins. Every mouse has a set of starting abilities, equipment and stats. He or she has a battle, defence, lore, move and life value. 
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The first two values  indicate how many dice you must throw in an attack or defence. The move value says how many steps you may take during a turn. This value is increased by one roll of a die (there are numbers on every side). Lastly, the life value tells you how many wounds the mouse can take.
One side of a die can contain two attack icons and/or one defend icon: a sword for a melee attack or a bow, for those rats that are far away and a shield for your own or your enemy’s defence. 
There is one other icon, a piece of cheese. If you roll cheese, good things happen. It is basically mice money and you can do or learn stuff by spending it. However, if minions roll cheese, bad things might befall you. A cheese counter is put on the clock on the story control board and once the wheel is full, the clock strikes twelve, a chapter pages is turned (less time remains) and more minions will enter the arena. 
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Enemies also have certain stats and abilities. They always move, through a die roll, to the closest mouse in the room and if they can attack, they will. But the mice are never killed, they are captured (very kid friendly). 
In every room, the story unfolds, you can fight enemies, you can look for items and along the way your mice become better equipped and more skilful in their quest to warn the king.
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(If you want to know how to play the game in more detail, you can download the rulebook or watch the Watch it Played video on YouTube )
Review:
Theme
Is the theme well implemented? The theme is the games core, its beating heart that pumps warm blood into his veins on a cold winter evening.
The stories pull you into this dark world where everything goes wrong and the heroes need to save the day. Plus, on every character card you can read a bit of background information, so you can get to know your mouse even better.
You can get items that make sense in every way, for instance you can get a hook to pull you out of the water before you get pulled into the sewer pipes, a grape to lure roaches.  
I cannot tell you very much, because it will ruin the story for those who have not played the game yet.

 

Gameplay
The rules are simple, but the rulebook isn’t that great. It rambles on a bit. You  find a rule in a place you don’t expect or don’t find it at all. 
But as long as there is someone who knows the game, everyone can play it, children and gamers alike.
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Mice and Mystics is a dungeon crawler. Sort of. The game is totally dice based, and a die is a two-faced b…, well you know what I mean. You can say the game is totally luck based, you have no influence on your dice. They can ruin your plan. But it feels so exhilarating when you roll three swords and you beat a rat to pieces.
Some people like this and others hate it.
There are very little difficult choices to be made in the game, which is good for non-gamers but maybe not for gamers. You have to beat you enemies to go to the next tile, so that’s a must. If the scenario tells you that items can be found at certain spots, it is obvious that you need to get them to make the adventure more easy.
The only real choice in the game arises when you can go on a side mission. Do we push our luck and try to go on that mission and get a reward, at the cost of our time and health? Or do we go on without it?
The way the minion wheel, the one where the minions put their cheese, works is nice. It brings tension to the game. The little mice in your head cheer you on when it’s your turn to roll the dice for the minions and there is only one free cheese slot on the wheel. ‘No cheese, no cheese!’
Another thing that brings a bit of tension to the game is the fact that not all tiles are scripted. Sometimes, instead of the storybook telling you where to place what, minions arise by revealing an encounter card. Sometimes it turns out badly (desperation), other times only the easier minions need to be placed (total relief). This also increases the variability of the game a bit, if you need to do scenario again.
The characters are well designed. Everyone does something better than another, so you really need to cooperate to achieve the chapter objective.
The ability cards are an OK addition. They maybe have too much text on them. Especially the first couple of times I played the game, I only knew after the game  which ability was useful.
The grid the mice can move over is fully implemented in the illustrations on the room tiles. But it can cause a problem. Every tile should have a spot for four small minions or mice, but some tiles just aren’t that spacious. 
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In general, the game plays fairly smooth, but sometimes it can become a little fiddly, with all the different counters for types of wounds and disorders you can get and the different rules they bring.
You have to play the campaign mode in my opinion. If you jump from one random chapter to another, the story doesn’t make any sense and you miss items obtained in previous chapters. You can play without the items or put them in the mice’s bags, but it just doesn’t feel the same. The flavour of the game is lost.
So I only recommend to play the chapters separately, if you played through the whole storybook. But then the question arises: How is the replay value?
And I think, because the story is so important, the game has a low replay value, at least if you play with the same people. The sense of surprise and amazement isn’t there. Maybe if you show it to new people, you can live off their fun. Or wait a long while to play it again.

 

Looks
This game looks amazing (photo’s). The illustrations in the book are very beautiful and the tiles even more so. Very warm and cozy. The mice and minion miniatures are well crafted and pretty detailed. They are unpainted, but if you are willing to paint them, the game looks even better. 

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Quality of the components
The cardboard tiles are decent. The top layer of some of the smaller cardboard pieces came off when I punched them out of the sheets.
The quality of the cards isn’t great. They damage easily. Luckily most of the cards aren’t shuffled that much. Except the small initiative cards, you shuffle them every time you explore a new tile. They’re very small, so you can’t sleeve them. In my case they quickly looked like hell.
As already said, the miniatures are well crafted and pretty detailed and you get a lot of them.
Fun
Mice and Mystics is incredibly fun. While rolling your dice, running through the castle, defeating rats and other vermin, you enfold an amazing story. In my case, the world of Mice and Mystics brought me back to the days I read Redwall from Brian Jacques. Not that the story is the same, but it gives me a great feeling of nostalgia. Reading a book in a darkened room, only my bedside lamp giving me some light..
It is a great game to play with your family. The dice cause tension and excitement. You have to work together, but all information is in the open, so everyone can participate in the decisions that are made.
Kids will love this game, some because of the story and others because they like the idea of the sword fighting, bow shooting, hammer bashing mice. The characters, are very likeable, and you want to know all about them.
Although the game-play itself isn’t very innovative or special, the flavour it brings makes you forget that and makes you want more.
What I do think, though, is that you must like thematic games and in this case storytelling games. The game is literally put to a halt and someone reads the story aloud.  Not everyone likes these story interruptions. They like to keep the momentum going.
Nonetheless, Mice and Mystics is a great adventure. To battle!!
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