Ah, so you’ve decided to solve the murder at Mysterium Mansion. Hats off to you, nobody has succeeded so far. Here’s the situation...
A ghost plagues this mansion, and it’s your job to determine how they died so that they can finally rest in peace. The only problem is, even the ghost doesn’t know how it died. This helpful amnesia is the reason that you and your fellow psychics have been invited to this remote corner of Scotland.
Since you’re all trying to solve the murder together, this is a co-op game that will require you to make sure everyone reaches the end of every round. If one of you fails, you all fail together. For a good game, I recommend four to five players, and it takes about an hour to play through.
In Mysterium, one person takes on the role of a ghost, and they set themselves up behind a screen. On their side of the screen, there are a series of handy little plastic pouches corresponding to each character. The ghost selects a murderer, a location and a weapon for each character and places these cards in the pouches.
Since our ghost is an amnesiac, each character has a different set of suspects, locations and weapons. The ghost then places the corresponding cards out in front of the screen, along with a few random ones thrown in. We can’t make it too easy for them after all.
At the start of every round, the ghost draws several ‘vision’ cards at random, and they choose several of these cards to aid the psychics in their selection of suspect, location and weapon. This makes it rather tricky for our poor ghost, but never fear! They have a maximum of three discards to get rid of a bad hand. The ghost can hand as many of these cards as he wishes to each player, and it's then the player’s job to guess which card the ghost is pointing them towards, using the illustrated vision they’ve just been given.
If you guess wrong on any of the turns, you repeat and guess again. Players can consult with each other since they are being timed and only have seven turns to make it to the end. If one player fails to identify all their visions in this time, everyone fails. Players are even allowed to bet on whether they believe each other’s guesses to be right or wrong, by placing tick or cross tokens on the selected cards. This betting is important since correct bets get you ‘clairvoyance’ points, and these will come in handy later.
If you all manage to identify your separate scenarios in time, our amnesiac ghost has a sudden epiphany and remembers the whole murder. They then choose a scenario from one of the players and give a final clue as to which one is the real murderer.
They do this by placing three final vision cards on the board, from which the players silently vote on which scenario they think is being communicated. This is where our ‘clairvoyance’ points come in. If you have a high number of points from lots of correct bets earlier in the game, you can see all three of these cards. If you have a low number, you can only see one or two of them.
Each vision card corresponds to the weapon, murderer and location respectively, so you’ve got more chance of getting it right if you see all three of them. If most of you guess correctly, you win and the ghost is free! If the majority guess wrongly, well, the ghost is stuck in limbo and your professional reputations are ruined. Sorry.
Looking At Mysterium
You’d not be wrong in thinking that Mysterium bears a remarkable likeness to the much-loved Dixit. It employs much of the same interpretation techniques and abstract image cards that require painstaking dissection. This doesn’t always appeal to everyone, but there is the added bonus of being given multiple cards to help you along the way. Plus, if you want to add more to your game, try adding in Dixit cards for an easy expansion.
When playing this game, we found it easy to incorporate elements of role-playing into every turn for added spice. Since the beautifully depicted characters have their own backstories in the instruction manual, you’ve got a solid foundation to make the game even more immersive. Try putting on your best Scottish accent as you muddle through the ghost’s ‘visions’, and inject some rivalry in there. You’re all psychics, after all, it’s a niche business.
Perhaps your character doesn’t agree with the use of crystal balls, or maybe (as we experienced) they fall in love with each other, resulting in a sham marriage and a hasty divorce. If you enjoy tabletops, rich characterisation, and don’t mind using your imagination, this is a good way to make every game of Mysterium unique. Plus, it’s a good way to fill up the long pauses as the ghost selects vision cards at the start of every round.
The set-up takes a while, and the long pauses that I mentioned before can be a little tedious. The game is one that requires a bit of patience to get going, so don’t play unless you have a little bit of time on your hands.
It’s not a Risk level of time investment, but it does require some brainpower - especially when you’re interpreting visions. You’ve got to channel your psychic energy, and that takes effort. The game is complex, and definitely one that you learn as you play. I advise watching play-throughs on YouTube first, this definitely helped us muddle through the more fiddly aspects of the game.
Final Thoughts On Mysterium
The whole game feels very high-quality; the screen is beautifully designed and comes in handy if you’re a Dungeons and Dragons fan like me. What better way to shield your notes and rolls from your pesky party? But I digress. The game makers have thought of everything, even providing little character pouches for your anonymous votes at the end of the game, which doubles up as envelopes for your correct cards.
Even the ghost’s discards are marked with three little ravens, which perch on top of the screen. You can name them and they can be your friends. Being a ghost is lonely when your only mode of communication consists of ‘one knock for no, two knocks for yes’ every time someone takes a guess at a card.
There’s so much to love about Mysterium if you like a detailed board game that changes every time you play it.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on November 11th, 2018. Updated on April 20th, 2022 to improve the information available.