Robinson Crusoe is a great cooperative board game that sees players trapped on a deserted island trying to survive. If you haven’t played it before, you can read our full review of the base game to get up to speed. But today, we are going to be talking about the new Mystery Tales expansion for Robinson Crusoe. Adding two new scenarios and also a 5 mission campaign mode, the Mystery Tales expansion will test players sanity as they hunt for the fabled Lost City of Z.
Mystery Tales comes with 9 new characters for the players to choose from during their adventure. But what’s different is that any of the 9 characters that don’t get chosen become NPCs (Non-Player Characters) to aid you during the game. Players also now have a sanity score to manage, which means that in addition to dying, you can go insane. Dying used to mean game over, but now, when a character dies, you can channel your inner “Being John Malkovich” and choose one of the NPCs to become your new character.
However, if you do go insane, things get a little cooler. Every character has 3 adventure cards that, once they lose their grip on reality, are shuffled into the matching adventure decks. So as you progress in the game, you may encounter your crazy, former character who’s clearly up to no good!
Other than NPCs and sanity, Mystery Tales only has a few other major rules changes. There are now cultists that get shuffled into the beasts deck who must be defeated with mystical weapons. Finally, stone is a new type of resource that players can harvest from mountain tiles.
The main star of the expansion is the new Lost City of Z campaign. I’ll avoid spoilers, but the quick overview is that it takes you through a series of missions with lots of secrets to uncover. Interestingly, you start off the campaign without any inventions, instead, you have a deck of equipment cards that you can offload from your ship. These cards are pretty powerful items that will have to last you through the whole campaign as you only have access to your ship in the first mission.
For Horror Mode, there are two new scenarios, a Prison Break and one with Mystical Beasts. The rules do say that you can play any of the original scenarios in Horror Mode (although we didn’t try it).
Game Experience with the Expansion:
Portal Games did a great job with taking their newest expansion off in a wild new direction. The campaign was a ton of fun to play and I found it to be very thematic. There was a separate journal that you referenced during missions that will tell a bit of a story. This definitely helped to draw us in and set the theme of this mystical land.
For the missions themselves, overall I found them on par or better with what Robinson Crusoe players would expect. They are challenging, with lots to do and many ways to hurt yourself. Interestingly, the hated weather die rarely made an appearance in the campaign (no complaints here), yet there were plenty of dangers for the players to tackle from mystical beasts to trying not to go insane.
I also thought that the NPCs were a great touch. I liked having helpers along the way who you could commandeer should your character perish or go insane. And having players shuffle their madness cards into the adventure decks a was a stroke of brilliance. Just knowing my looney toons character was still wandering out there waiting to screw with us added a nice bit of enjoyment to the game.
Despite the rulebook being some 20 pages, the actual rules overhead was only around 5 pages or so. So while Portal Games did a good job being thorough with the rulebook, I’m glad I don’t have to feel like I’m learning a new game with the Mystery Tales Expansion. I’d say its complexity is about on par with that of the base game.
Finally, I do want to say that while I enjoyed the campaign, I found I liked some missions better than others. Without getting too much into spoilers, some missions got a bit too luck based for my tastes, with one forcing you to hunt through a deck of cards looking for specific ones (one of our more hated game mechanics). But despite our preferences, the missions did offer a diverse variety in gameplay.
The other thing I liked from the campaign was the introduction of the equipment cards. Some were pretty powerful and definitely made our quality of life much better (like the tent). It was a clever mechanic in the first mission to force the players to balance their actions for the scenario goals and getting items to help them throughout the campaign.
Fan of Robinson Crusoe? Then pick up Mystery Tales. It takes the game off in a wild and exciting new direction and gives it a nice thematic spin. I loved the use of NPCs and the sanity mechanic was inspired. While not all the missions in the campaign were to my tastes, the story and diversity still created a great gaming experience. Whether you want to just play through the campaign or just try things out with Horror mode, Mystery Tales is a must add for any fans of Robinson Crusoe.
• Highly Thematic
• No major rules overhead
• Less weather dice!
• Sanity mechanic is excellent.
• Some campaign missions were better than others.