Mysterium is a game I spotlighted in my look at new and different board games. The concept of having an asymmetric, completely cooperative game is intriguing, as usually everyone fills the same role (aside from player specific powers) or the asymmetric player is a game master / adversary. The setting and look of the game is also quite unique, so I was really looking forward to trying it out.
The gist of Mysterium is that most players are psychics trying to solve the murder of a ghost who’s haunting an old mansion. The ghost is the asymmetric role played by one player chosen at the start. A certain number of people, locations, and objects are chosen (depending on the number of players and chosen difficulty level) and laid out to form the board. In secret the ghost randomly chooses a subset of copies of those cards to form the clue paths for each psychic.
Each psychic has a specific person, location and object that form their personal suspect path, and the ghost’s job is to give them clues to figure it out. This is done by sending the psychics “visions,” cards with abstract images very similar to something you’d see in a game of Dixit. The ghost gives each psychic at least one card per turn trying to match that player’s clue card for the round. The psychics can discuss what they think everything means, but the ghost must stay silent and not give any verbal or physical clues.
All of the psychics must complete their clue paths within seven turns or the game is lost. If they do, there is a final round where the ghost provides three cards pointing to one of the established clue paths (one each for suspect, location and object). This is the true murderer. The each psychics get to look at a number of these final three cards determined by how well they did in the earlier phase of the game, and there is no discussion here. The psychics vote and if they pick the right suspect the ghost’s soul is laid to rest and everyone wins.
This is a great game that really expands on the base of something like Dixit and turns it into a full blown deductive game rather than (an admittedly awesome) party game. I played as the ghost and found it quite challenging but a lot of fun. We did well for our first attempt, with everyone completing their clue paths, although we didn’t manage to have the majority finger the right suspect at the end.
It seems the game will scale extremely well simply by varying the number possible suspects based on player count and difficulty chosen. The difficulty impact on the ghost player is likewise well executed: the ghost is limited to the number of times he can discard cards based on the level. Choosing clues to give based on seven randomly picked abstract cards is tough and being able to discard once a round (on easy) was a big help. It will definitely be appropriately more challenging on higher levels by reducing that.
The production value is excellent here. The art is appropriately well done and has lots of little details to both make the cards flexible and open to interpretation and to challenge the player trying to decipher the clues. The theme fits perfectly and the various components enhance the atmosphere.
I had heard good things about Mysterium and wasn’t disappointed in our first play. I love mystery based games and this is an original one with great twists on mechanics used in other games. Wonderful addition to the game closet and I”m excited to play again sometime.