How would you react to being magically transformed into a mouse? Now, perils are literally around every corner. Cats, birds, rats, and insects are after you and it is a struggle just to survive! Do you run and hide? Do you find a place to live out the rest of your life, however short that may be?
What if you are the kingdom’s only hope? Do you battle your way through the perils to defeat the evil Queen and rescue the King? With Mice and Mystics, you do.
How it plays
Mice and Mystics is a co-operative, story-telling adventure played solo, or with up to four people. Players work together to defeat the enemy’s minions and make it to the next chapter intact!
The game’s story book tells you how to set up each chapter and lists any victory or defeat conditions, what page the chapter will end, and any special rules, minions or equipment that are in each room you visit.
Each player controls a mouse character (or multiple mice depending on how many are playing) who starts off the game with specific items and a special ability. Each mouse’s turn consists of two phases, one movement and one action that can be taken in any order. The players also control the enemy’s minions and bosses. Minions make their movement and attacks in similar ways to the mice, and any special abilities or actions are listed on their initiative cards.
When you move, you roll a die and add the number rolled to your movement speed. You can then move that many adjacent spaces on the tile. Various obstacles, such as walls or water, might restrict your movement or prevent it all together.
Your action can be one of the following:
- Scurry: You can take an additional movement action.
- Search: Roll a star result and you can take a card from the top of the search deck. This may be good or bad, so ‘search’ with that in mind!
- Recover: If you become stunned or webbed you can use this action to recover. Stunning requires only the cost of the action and webbing requires a star result to remove the webs.
- Melee: You must be on the same space as a minion or adjacent to one. You roll the number of dice that is equal to your battle number as well as any bonus dice that come from your equipment cards. Any swords or swords and shields are considered a hit!
- Ranged: Your target must be within line of sight. You roll the same amount of dice as above, but this time you count the bows and arrows that are rolled.
- Explore: If no minions are on the tile, you can use your mouse that is on, or adjacent to, an exit area or flip space to explore the next room. Only one mouse needs to do this for all the mice to move to the next tile.
Along with your one action, you may also take one free action. These include sharing with your fellow mice, equipping from your backpack, leveling up, and placing or picking up party items.
The mice win when all the minions are defeated and the mice have achieved the victory condition listed in the chapter. The mice lose the game if all the mice are captured, the hourglass reaches the end of chapter without the victory condition being met, or if the defeat condition is met.
Get Your Paws on or Paws off?
One of the things that first attracted me to this game was its theme. Who wouldn’t want to play an adventure game as mice! The theme is present throughout, and I never felt that a chapter took too long or was boring. The co-operative element leads to very little downtime between turns as you are constantly working on strategies with other players on how to best defeat the minions, or where to place each mouse to best utilize its skills.
The rules are easy to learn and Plaid Hat Games offers a quick tutorial on their website. The game can be run through as a single chapter or as an ongoing campaign. This is a nice feature and gives you a sense your actions have meaning in the grand scheme of the story. Different decisions you make affect the outcome of the story, as sometimes there are two different ways of completing them. I have never played an RPG before (not for a lack of interest, but more for a lack of people willing to play with me) and this is a game that could scratch that role playing itch without requiring many hours or people to play with.
The ultimate goal of the game is to work your way through these chapters to the end and defeat the evil Queen Vanestra. She has tricked the King and is slowly taking over the kingdom! You play as those still loyal to the King, including the King’s son, who have transformed themselves into mice. Unfortunately for them this was a one way process, and they have to deal with that as well as all the new dangers that await them.
Each chapter in the story book has a specific set-up and a specific goal to be reached, such as escaping the castle, recruiting the local mice or castle staff, battling Brodie the cat, and rescuing the King. These levels each have a build-up and climax, so they don’t feel long or drawn out. There are even a couple of chapters that split your mice, which I actually found to be quite emotional. It is necessary, but you have worked so hard with these characters as a team, that you really don’t want to divide them.
One of the scenarios involved planting a grenade in a large steam-powered beast. When we entered into an area called “the pipes” to get to the beast, the archer became particularly important. This was unfortunate as the bow and arrow combos needed to attack long ranged show up rarely, due to being on less sides of the dice. I found the long ranged attacks don’t hit as often as you would like them to, and this lead to our strategy being thrown away half way through. It is tiresome as the long ranged attacks failure does happen rather consistently.
The person who does the storytelling definitely has a bit more to do. They are the ones who read the text of the story and who go through the room specific rules, items and minions the heroes encounter. Remembering to do this when you are fighting for your life against a giant centipede does feel as though you are ripped out of the overall experience of the story. The game suggests you learn these rules beforehand, but I am always afraid something critical will be missed doing that. It is a necessary part of the game but it was hard for me to be a mouse and a GM at the same time!
Players who are looking for a heavy RPG-like game might be disappointed with this one. The rules are simple and the combat and movement is all luck-based. But, for someone who wants to have a bit of role-playing fun, it is perfect, despite some frustration with the dice! Some more serious gamers may shy away from this game due to the “cute” theme, but they shouldn’t. These mice are tough and they aren’t afraid to show it!
The components of the game are overall well-done. I might be biased as I am used to the pewter and resin miniatures from Warhammer and Warmachine, but the miniatures feel a little flimsy. The smaller and thinner parts to them (like the swords and daggers) can bend if you are not careful. Still, they’re higher quality than many board games and they can be painted for a unique appearance.
The story book is a separate book from the rules, which I enjoyed. I have issues with story/rule book combinations, as I find it frustrating to flip back and forth between story and rules when a question arises. With Mice and Mystics, you can keep your spot in the story while consulting the rules. There were a couple of instances regarding exit areas of the tiles that weren’t exactly clear in the book, but that was the only time I felt that the instructions were vague. Overall, the rules are very simple to follow and straight forward.
The artwork by John Ariosa is beautiful. The cards, tiles, rule and story books all contain the same level of art and are wonderful. It really gives the game its feel, but also doesn’t detract from the game-play. The game box is sturdy and big enough to hold all the components comfortably. I hate trying to cram components in a box with *just* enough room to fit everything, or when there is too much room and it’s like you’ve opened a bag of potato chips and discovered you’ve paid $1.50 for air. Some inserts to hold the various cards in the box would be nice. While transporting the game, everything does shift and combine, which is annoying when you are trying to set up the game. Everything is of good quality though, and I didn’t feel ripped off by the price I paid.
Overall, I love this game. It is unique and the game-play is fun and exciting. I love playing a sword and sorcery adventure as mice and having equipment like sewing needle swords and walnut shell armour. You can even summon a cheddar golem, and if that isn’t enough to get you to play, I don’t know what will!