It feels like every day we are talking about a “hot new dungeon crawler” on the market. It’s a theme that has gotten a lot of love lately, and I’m OK with that. To be honest, I have been a fan of dungeon crawling board games since I played HeroQuest in my teenage years.
So when I heard about the innovative new dungeon crawler, Mice and Mystics, I was immediately intrigued. Mice and Mystics is a new story based, cooperative dungeon crawler with a bit of a twist. The world has been scaled down to the point of view of a mouse. If you are interested in a new take on an old theme with an intriguing story, then you might find a lot to love with Mice and Mystics.
Mice and Mystics is a cooperative, dungeon crawler board game for 1-4 players. It plays in about 2 hours and is best with any number of people.
Mice and Mystics is a cooperative adventure game where the players must work together to save the kingdom. Each game presents a new chapter in the story driven campaign that has the players battling rats, cockroaches and spiders. The game features some light RPG elements such as customizable powers and the ability to level up during the game. Each game will feature a new mission that the players must complete before time runs out. The majority of the game will be spent exploring the various room tiles and battling minions via dice rolling. Complete the mission and time and the players will win. If the time marker gets to the chapter end, then so does the game.
Mice and Mystics comes with a good amount of well designed components in its heavy box. That’s a good thing to, as this game clocks in around $80 MSRP. Included are over 30 custom miniatures (mice, rats, roaches, centipedes and spiders), 8 beautifully illustrated room tiles (double sided), a number of decks of cards and a set of custom dice. All-in-all the component quality should leave everyone satisfied. The artwork is fantastic and fits in with the theme perfectly. Everything is high quality and should last for many plays. The game also comes with a rule book and a thick story book that contains the missions to be played throughout the campaign.
My only complaint with the components is the lack of variation with the enemies. Right now there are 4 different types (5 if you count the cat token) of minions to battle. I feel like I spent most of my time fighting the same rats and roaches and it would have been nice to get a bit more variation. That’s only a minor gripe with some excellent game components though.
How to Play:
Game play in Mice and Mystics is a bit of a hybrid. It does some unique things and also borrows ideas from some other games. To setup, you start by choosing a story mission. I’d recommend playing them in order as this game is heavily story based. You setup the map with the appropriate room tiles and everyone chooses a mouse to play. Each player can customize their mouse with a unique power and also has specific starting equipment. Once the all of the draw decks are prepared, it’s time to play.
Turn order in Mice and Mystics is based off initiative cards. Every time the group moves to a new room tile, the players initiative cards are shuffled with the new minion cards. They are then dealt out in a line along the initiative track. Starting at the top, each player will get to act when their card comes up. The monsters have specific rules on what they do on their turn, but usually its move to the closest mouse and attack. On a players turn they can move and take an action (1 out of 6 choices).
Movement is performed by rolling the die and added that number to a mouse’s speed. That’s how many squares a mouse can move on their turn.
After moving, a mouse can take one action of the following choices:
Scurry: Move again
Battle: Fight a minion
Search: Possibly draw an item from the item deck (only once per tile)
Recover: Remove negative effects
Explore: Move the party to a new room tile
Of these, the battle action will probably be used the most. Battle is resolved by opposing dice rolls. An attacker rolls a number of dice equal to their battle value. A defender does the same with their defense value. They compare the number of successes and the defender takes any overage as wounds. If it’s more than its hit point value, it dies. Nothing too new or innovative here.
The unique part of Mice and Mystics is the cheese system. Cheese powers everything in the game. It acts as a timer to keep the players moving, it tracks their experience to let a player know when they can level up and it’s used to power special abilities. Cheese is acquired by the players via the dice. Whenever attacking or defending, if they roll a cheese symbol, they collect a cheese token. They can turn in 6 of them on their turn too level up and choose an additional special ability. The system itself is fairly unique and I have my likes and dislikes with it (more on that later).
A round ends when the last initiative card has gone. After that you start back at the top and everyone will get their turn to act again. They game ends when the players have achieved the objective was for their current quest. If the time tracker ever gets to the end of the story marker, the players lose.
For a while, I was unsure of what to think about Mice and Mystics. I’m still trying to think of who is the best type of player for this game. Mice and Mystics is by no means a bad game, in fact, I think it’s a pretty good one. But I also think it’s not for everyone.
One of the great things about Mice and Mystics is its fantastic story. I won’t post any spoilers here, but if you want a game you can play over a multi-game campaign with a fantastic story, then you’ve found your game. To be honest, other than the artwork, this was my favorite part of the game. While the writing isn’t “novel worthy”, it’s really well done and helps pull you deeper into the game. However, if you are looking for a game that you can just pickup and play, this probably isn’t the game for you. Mice and Mystics really is meant to be played as a full campaign. For example, you can’t even choose one of the mouse characters for the first mission, as the game says she hasn’t been discovered yet.
The game play itself is well done though (although the rulebook isn’t the best). I enjoyed the different mice (each of which fills a different role in the party) and like that you can customize them with ability cards. Combat was fairly intuitive, if not completely original. Even ranged attacks were kept simple (no worrying about distance) and it made sure the battles flowed smoothly.
My only real gripe with the actions was that they felt somewhat limited. You have 6 different actions you can take on your turn. Of those, battle is the one that you will be using the most. Searching can only be done once per tile and you are not allowed to explore until every minion on the board is dead. Why the game felt the need to force the players to kill everything before moving on is beyond me. It feels like an unnecessary limitation. And the search limit was frustrating to some of our players. As you can only search once per tile, you are stuck with whatever the random draw gives you. In the first scenario there are only 3 room tiles (6 if you flip them all). One player got understandably frustrated as halfway through the game she had only drawn items she couldn’t use.
Then there is the cheese system. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I think it its a great new and unique system, but I’m not sure it was implemented in the best way. I think it’s too much based on the luck of the dice. Halfway though one of our games, I had only rolled the cheese symbol twice. While almost every other party member had leveled up, I was still at first level. Plus, since most abilities require you to spend cheese to power them, I wasn’t able to use my special ability. That made my combat turns rather repetitive as I could only ever take the same action. That’s one trade off I really didn’t like or understand. Why do I have to spend XP (cheese) to use my abilities. It ended with players rarely using their specials. And since I was having such a hard time rolling cheese, I didn’t want to have to waste mine on powering a special when I really wanted to level. I like the idea of the system, I just think it could have been done better.
Even with all these issues, I still consider Mice and Mystics a good game. I think it just needs the right players. Mice and Mystics is going to fill a specific RPG/dungeon crawler itch and won’t be for everyone. The story is immersive, the game play is easy to learn and the theme is family friendly. I have heard a lot of people having a great time playing with their children. I don’t have kids, so I wasn’t able to comment on that, but I could very much believe that it’s true. I think that children would enjoy the story and could grasp the basics of the game play fairly easy. Even if you don’t have kids, I think its a great game for anyone who is looking for a board game with some light RPG elements or for someone who wants a deeper story that will unfold over a series of games.
Who it’s not for is people wanting a one shot dungeon crawler. If you don’t care about the story, then this isn’t the game for you. If you want a deeper combat and character customization experience than this also isn’t the game for you. For those people, there are plenty of other dungeon crawler options to choose from.
So at the end of the day, Mice and Mystics is a good game for the right group of people. While it’s probably not for everyone, it will definitely appeal to a certain type of player. The game is easy to learn, enjoyable and has a fantastic story. If you can get past the luck driven nature of the dice and the lighter combat rules, I think there is a lot of fun to be had here. The high quality art and game components also help to make for an enjoyable experience.
For someone like me who has a lot of different games to play and rarely has time to play any one of them consistently, it’s probably not the right game. I prefer a more self contained dungeon crawler/adventure game. However, if you are looking for something with a compelling story that will suck you in for many games, I think you’ve found a winner here. And if you have kids ages 7+, I think this would make a great family game experience and is absolutely worth checking out.
While not the perfect game, Mice and Mystics does a lot of things right. It’s absolutely worth looking into if you fall into that specific niche I talked about earlier. Just watch out for Brody the cat, he’s a nasty one.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $55.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A good game that would be rated even higher for the right group of people.
• Extremely story driven, not for pickup and play
• Actions feel a little limited
• Cheese system heavily based on luck