Mice and Mystics – On the Top of the Table Review

Mice and Mystics is a wonderful cooperative board game designed by Jerry Hawthorne for 1-4 players. He designed this game so his family could have a fantastic adventure on game night. Players assume the roles of humans transformed into mice to thwart an evil sorcerous named Vanestra and her minions scattered across the castle grounds. The minions consist of rats, roaches, spiders, and centipedes. The mice are the epitome of the quintessential classes used in the fantasy RPGs. The classes to choose from are fighter, healer, magic user, thief and ranger.

Living in the walls
Lurk things that aren’t nice,
That nobody knows of
Except for the mice.

The game comes with a storybook with 11 chapters that chronicles the mice’s tale. Each game session you play is a chapter in the story book. As the mice explore the castle, they fight enemies, search for powerful items, learn new abilities, and acquire helpful allies. These will carry over from chapter to chapter in their epic quest to save their kingdom. Even though it was designed to play from chapter to chapter, you can pick any chapter and play it stand alone. If you do this though, beware adventurers, it comes with the cost of spoiling the story.

The game comes with everything you need to begin your epic quest. It comes with a storybook, beautiful double sided tiles that form the game board, detailed plastic minis of the mice and minions, various game pieces and tokens, a set of dice designed for this game various card decks, and storyboard track.

When you begin a chapter from the story book, it dictates what tiles you start with to form the game board, where the mice begin the chapter, what minions begin on the board, and the conditions in which you win or lose. It also dictates where the hourglass token and chapter end tokens go on the story board track.

Each player picks a mouse character card which has the mouse’s stats, starting equipment, and a brief backstory on the mouse. The player then picks a special ability that his or her mouse starts the game with. The game’s currency is cheese which is typically generated by dice roles in the game play. Players can use this cheese to fuel their special abilities and purchase new ones if they have enough to do so. Those newly acquired abilities carry over from chapter to chapter. Enemy’s which are controlled by the game itself can also can generate cheese. This fuels a cheese wheel at the top of the story board track. Fill this up and it creates a surge which brings out more minions to fight, moves the hourglass token up one page on the chapter track, and ups the difficulty of the game. If the hourglass token ever reaches “The End” token on the chapter track, the evil Vanestra has won and the game is over.

The double sided tiles that make up the board are beautiful done and are made of a heavy cardboard material. The artwork on the tiles is fantastic. It truly feels like you are venturing through the castle, it’s grounds, and various tunnels underneath. The tiles have a unique game mechanic. The tiles have a spot where the players can explore which flips the double sided tile, and play resumes on the new side. This is either a side quest the players can venture through, which is outlined in the chapter of the storybook, or It could also be a new part of the castle to explore.

THE REVIEW

This game is what is called an RPG in a box. It is a dungeons and dragons like fantasy adventure campaign designed with kids in mind, but is fun for everyone. The game’s mechanics are easy to pick up, and after a few turns of gameplay even the most inexperienced player will be adventuring in time with the rest of them. It also has ways to getting everyone involved so no one is left out. These consist of rolling for the monsters, reading aloud the story points, keeping track of the story board, and a “banker” that hands out the various game pieces in the game.

The game’s rules run the monsters, and the time frame you have to complete the game session or chapter in. This creates a lot of rules to remember and the rule book it comes with is not laid out well. Searching for a rule might slow down gameplay in the long run. Most of these types of games have a reference card that each player has in front of them that reminds them as to what they can do in a turn and how to proceed through the terrain of the game. It would have been nice if they had included that with the design. It really helps when teaching the game. It also lets you focus on the game and not have someone’s nose in a rule book.

The game’s difficulty and time track is it’s major downfall. It is especially apparent when playing with young children. The chapter has a time frame in which everything needs to be accomplished to win. This does promote a sense of suspense and urgency at the cost of making the game too difficult to win. It often penalizes the players whose dice roles have been unforgiving that game session. This makes it very difficult to win, especially if you try a side quest.

The game box says the game takes an hour to play. I have clocked most game sessions to be about an hour an a half to three hours. This does not include set up and clean up times. It also depends on who you are playing with. It takes a little longer with newer players to the game. I have played this game with my daughter and we have had to split up game sessions because of the length. It also weighs on the attention span of young players. I have also set the chapter end goal higher on the chapter track so it is a bit more forgiving.

The price of the game is about 75 dollars which is another thing to consider, for a family on a budget. It is well worth it though for the quality of the product and the replay ability.

THE VERDICT

Despite its small flaws, this is a great cooperative game. It has great replay ability, and it has two other expansions out with more adventures to be had. It is one of my favorites and is one that is always requested, when choosing a game we play on game night.

This game gets 4 1/2 out of 5 pawns

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