Skip to main content

Mysterium (Acquire-To-Zendo)

👻 I Always Fees Like Somebody's Watchin' Me...



2015, 2-7 players
Complexity: light/moderate

The old MacDowell house is haunted. Tonight, and tonight alone, the supernatural presence can interact with people. And so a group of talented psychic detectives have been gathered to the spooky old haunted house in order to be brutally murdered one by one solve the mystery of who killed the ghost that haunts Chez MacDowell. At the intersection of Dixit and Clue lies Mysterium.

Let's See It In Action


In Mysterium, you and up to six friends will work together to solve the mystery of who killed the ghost that haunts the old MacDowell place. One player is the ghost and will hand out clues to the other players. Over the course of seven rounds, the players will use the clues to try to suss out the identity, location, and weapon of the murder.


The ghost player knows all and can say nothing. They have a killer/location/weapon combination for every player and a hand of abstract cards that they will distribute to the other players in order to share that information, starting with the identity of the killer.


The cards are pretty vague, so you have to be creative with how you interpret them. For instance, the card on the right shows a rat wearing something that looks like a cowl. So it could be a clue for the murderous nun. But the rat is standing on a block of cheese, so maybe it's a clue for murderous pastry chef! Sometimes you're trying to match objects, sometimes shapes, sometimes just overall color palette.


After they've gotten their cards, the players will move their token to the killer/location/weapon that they think they're being clued into (and it always goes in that order--you can't guess your location until you've already correctly guessed your killer).


Players also have intuition tokens they can use to agree or disagree with other people's guesses. In the above example, blue thinks purple has guessed right, but black thinks blue has guessed wrong. If you have second-guessed correctly, you advance along the intuition track.


At the end of the round, the clock advances one hour and the ghost gives out new cards. At the end of seven rounds, any players who have correctly identified their killer/location/weapon combination advance to the final round.


In the final round, the ghost selects one combination of killer/location/weapon to represent the "real" version of the murder. The ghost then chooses three cards, one representing the killer, one representing the location, and one representing the weapon. Those cards are then revealed (at random) and players use tokens to silently vote on which combination is correct. The number of cards you get to see depends on your place on the intuition track. If the majority of players vote for the correct killer, everyone wins.


As in real life...

What Makes It So Good?

Mysterium does a great job of turning theme into gameplay and taking gameplay that's otherwise obtuse and making it work anyway. The fact that it's cooperative means that players can help each other out. There's a built-in catch-up mechanic whereby a player who is falling behind sees their choices getting easier simply because cards are removed from the board when other players guess them correctly. The intuition tokens make for nice little high-five cooperation or told-you-so moments, but the fact that you have to use them in order to be properly set up for the endgame means that they don't feel mean-spirited (even when they are totally mean-spirited).

What's Not To Like?

It doesn't play all that well with smaller groups. There are rules for two and three player games, but it's a lot more fun with six or seven. On the other hand, getting a group that large together usually involves a party of some kind, and having a party where one of the players is simply not allowed to talk isn't a lot of fun for them.

Is It Expansible?

There are two expansions, aside from the requisite handful of promos. Hidden Signs adds more character, location, and weapon cards. Secrets & Lies includes more of those but it also adds Story cards. With those, the detectives are tasked with figuring out why the ghost was killed in addition to how. I haven't played either of them, but they're well-regarded.

Final Thoughts

Here's my obligatory mention that I don't believe in psychics or ghosts in real life, but as a game mechanic, it's fun. I like logic puzzles and detective games, and the theme allows for the mystery to be built entirely out of abstract parts. A lot of detective games suffer because it's hard to use random elements to build a cohesive narrative, but in Mysterium it doesn't have to be cohesive, and that's what makes it work.

Tune in next week when we something something harvest something something Druids in Mystic Vale...

In Acquire-To-Zendo, Kurt is going through his favorite board games in alphabetical order. Read the explainer or see more posts.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Alexandra Rowland And Bad Faith Accusations

This morning, writing twitter was blown up by a post from Alexandra Rowland accusing Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear of some nasty manipulative behavior. I have reason to believe that Rowland is acting in bad faith.

Seven or eight years ago, Rowland and I were in the same writing group. I didn't know them well, but we became Facebook friends because that's what you do. At some point after we fell out of contact with each other, they made a post about an affair with an influential older male who had lied about being in an open marriage and proceeded to manipulate and gaslight and emotionally abuse them.

I didn't know any of the people involved other than Rowland, but I was affected enough by Rowland’s post that I can still recall reading it all these years later. So when I saw Rowland's blog this morning, I assumed it was the same situation... except the dates weren't right. The Bear/Lynch events took place in 2016, but the post I remembered was older than that. So I w…

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Ramin Djawadi
Title:Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack
Released: 2013
Genre: DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh


He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above.

While all of the soundtracks for GoT are very listenable, this is my favorite. It has A Lannist…

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it.

I get it now.

I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat betwee…