Mysterium

RRP: £38.99

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RRP £38.99

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Mysterium, by Libellud, is a game of deduction where a group of players work as a team to decipher the true meanings of cryptic ‘visions’ sent from a ghost. It is highly thematic with gorgeous over produced in-game components allowing players to be inventive and interact with lots of table discussion. In Mysterium, players take on the roles of gifted mediums with the ability to …
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Awards

Golden Geek
Exceptional Components
Stunning Artwork
Dice Tower
Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Amazing artwork.
  • Doesn't feel repetitive.
  • Engaging.
  • Ability to turn into a tabletop role play.

Might Not Like

  • Long set-up time.
  • A few decision-making pauses.
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Description

Mysterium, by Libellud, is a game of deduction. A group of players work as a team to decipher the true meanings of cryptic ‘visions’ sent from a ghost. Mysterium is highly thematic with gorgeous components, allowing players to be inventive and interact with lots of table discussion.

In Mysterium, players take on the roles of gifted mediums with the ability to communicate with the undead. One player becomes the ghost whose spirit is doomed to haunt the mansion forever after becoming the victim of a hideous crime. This player attempts to reveal to the others the truth of what actually happened; who murdered them, how they did it and where it took place. Each medium is secretly given a selection of three potential combinations, noted behind the ghost player's cardboard screen. The mediums are working towards their own goals independent of each other. However, they still work as one team. All players win or lose as a group.

The twist is that the ghost is unable to communicate in any way, other than to give the other players a selection of highly stylistic dreamlike images on tarot cards. These are dealt to each individual player, once per round, to help them correctly identify their targets. Each card is a beautiful piece of surreal artwork, which can be read in many ways. It is up to the mediums to try to interpret the ghost's subtle nudges. The ghost can only present selected images from their hand of cards, which can limit what they want to say immeasurably, often to comic effect.

Cards that show the potential suspects, weapons and locations are placed on the table across three levels. Each round, a medium will place one of their markers on a card confirming their choice. Once a player correctly guesses part of their combination they can progress to the next one. Other players can also gain bonus points for agreeing or disagreeing with their fellow mediums' choices.

Mysterium continues over 7 rounds. If the mediums each manage to gather their personal combination and progress through the 3 separate levels, then the final round takes place. All players’ options are revealed on the table. At this point, the mediums receive one more round of visions. They have to work out whose combination was actually the true story of what happened to the ghost. If they guess correctly, then the ghost can rest peacefully and everyone wins.

Player count: 3-7
Time: 42+ minutes
Age rating: 10+

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, 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 all to make sure each other 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.

Gameplay

In Mysterium, one person takes on the role of 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 murder.

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.

Mysterium Review - Game Components (Credit: Libellud)

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, the abstract image cards that requires 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 your game, try adding in Dixit cards for an easy expansion.

When playing this game, we found it easy to incorporate elements of role-play 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.

Set-up Issues

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 double 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 if you like a detailed board game that changes every time you play it.

According to Libellud, Mysterium is a co-operative mystery solving game in which everyone wins or loses together. I would say that Mysterium is Cluedo done well, plus Dixit cards.

Let me explain; throughout this game you'll have to guess who was the killer, where he did it and what weapon was used. Sound familiar? To do so you'll be interpreting the visions of the victim's restless ghost, and the way you do it is through gorgeous looking abstract cards. Sounds interesting? Let's see how to play it.

Mysterium Components

You'll get a few small progress boards that you'll use to move stages and to separate different types of cards on table. To advance through boards you'll be using coloured intuition tokens that are more like pawns and represent the psychic investigators. Ghost will be in one of the ends of the table protected by a beautiful game screen where he will store his cards.

You'll have two decks each for characters, locations and objects. Blue coloured back decks are used by the ghost and brown coloured decks are laid out in front of psychic investigators. There is also a bigger blue back coloured deck with different art. Those are the vision cards that the ghost will use to communicate with the psychics.

As an investigator you'll be given clairvoyance tokens to bet in favour or against other investigators guesses. To keep track of bets there is a clairvoyance track board. You'll also find a clock board to mark turns and each investigator will have a personalised pouch. Last but not least you have three crow markers, a blue sand timer and a few other tokens that we'll explain better as we go through game play.

Set-Up Phase One

You'll be setting up the game differently depending on chosen level of difficulty and amount of players. I'll be explaining how to set it up when you have four players at medium difficulty. When playing with two or three players, please make reference to the rules.

Start by drawing six character, location and object cards from both ghost and psychic decks. Whatever cards you've drawn from one deck, be sure to get its matches on the other. Should you need help, the cards do come numbered. The ghost will then choose four out of six character cards and attribute it to every single psychic behind his game screen. Ghost will repeat this process for location and object cards, stacking them up on corresponding shields. The four combinations of characters, places and objects are what the psychics well be trying to guess during first phase.

The table will be filled with six cards of each three types (brown deck). Progress boards should be placed in between the different types of cards and clairvoyance track at the top end. Close to the game screen place hour glass, clock board and culprit tokens. Every player gets a pouch and six clairvoyance tokens. The pawns are then placed on top of the first progress board.

The three crow markers should be pinned on the game screen. Finally, the ghost keeps ghost tokens, unused ghost cards and vision cards all behind the screen. He will now draw seven cards and you are ready to start the game.

Phase One - Reconstruction of Events

The ghost will now send vision cards to psychic investigators. He may give out anything from one to seven cards to each psychic. How to choose the cards? Similar objects, colours, themes. You're trying to establish a pattern that may be recognised by the psychics. Psychics should discuss in conjunction what they think the vision card means and what's the best match to it.

Once the player has made his decision he will place his intuition token on top of the card matching his guess. As soon as the ghost sends all of his visions, the hour glass comes into play and all psychics have just under two minutes to wrap up their guesses.

Psychics will also be betting on other players guesses. To do so they will be using clairvoyance tokens. If one bet's right, one advances one space on the clairvoyance track. Tokens can only be used once and to the limit of one per psychic guess. You will however receive back all spent tokens when clock reaches four o'clock.

Once that is all done the ghost tells who got it right. The ghost can't talk so he will let you know through knocking on the table. One knock for yes and two for no. If the psychic got it right he advances to next progress board and will be guessing location next round. That psychic gets to the corresponding character card, stores it on its pouch and discards vision card. If he got it wrong however he will keep the vision card as an aid to his second guess and will remain on first progress board.

You'll be doing this till every player reaches the final progress board. Provided everyone managed to do so before seven hours (turns), players will advance for the second and final phase. If that does not happen you all lose.

Ghost: Remember, ghosts will draw a new vision card every time they hand one to psychics and they may make use of a crow token to go for a mulligan when their hand seems unhelpful to his ends.

Clairvoyance Track: Mysterium has elements of a race game. The faster you manage to guess right all three stages you'll move furthest on the clairvoyance track. When you reach the last progress board, for every unspent hour on the clock board you'll advance one extra space on the track. Your position on the clairvoyance track is of great importance to the second phase of the game as we will see bellow.

Set-Up Phase Two - Revealing the Culprit

To set-up for phase two you'll get the three cards in every player's pouch and lay them in the middle of table with the corresponding ghost token that represents your psychic. You will however use the rear side that shows a number.

Now the ghost will take a good look at his hand and choose a culprit. Make sure you choose the one that best suits the cards you've get. Having chosen, the ghost will place matching culprit token on the last progression board.

Now the ghost picks three vision cards - One card for the character, location and object. He will shuffle all three of them and place them face down on table at psychics' sight. All psychics will turn their clairvoyance tokens to the numbered sides and grab a hold of their pouches. The ghost reveals the first card and those on the clairvoyance track up to step number four will vote by placing their corresponding token number on the pouch and handing it over to the ghost.

A second card will be revealed and those up to step number seven will now vote. When the third card is finally revealed whoever is beyond that step shall place their vote. During this phase players can't talk amongst themselves differently from first round. Now the ghost will count votes and if most psychics got their guesses right everybody wins!

Top Tips for a Great Game of Mysterium

  • Choosing the ghost - A good ghost can be the difference between a good and bad game. Usually more experienced players will do better but it is not all about that. A ghost is someone that not only is familiar with gameplay, but is also good in interpreting abstract cards as fast as possible. A slow ghost will enhance down time and might just kill the game altogether.
  • Picking the same card - Players can place guesses on same cards during same round. Don't do that unless you really can't reach an agreement. Remember, this is a co-op game and by doing so one of you will necessarily lag behind.
  • Use all your clairvoyance tokens - Do it by round four and then use them all again before game end. Remember, you can still bet from last progress board. The amount of vision cards you'll see on phase two is connected to how far you've gone on the clairvoyance track and to get far you'll need to get some bets right. The best way to do so? Making as many bets as you can!
  • Setting the mood - This game is heavy on theme and setting the mood certainly helps. Libellud even made a free 50-minute soundtrack to play alongside the game. Some people will dim the lights, use candles or be creative in anyway to make you feel in a haunted house actually speaking to ghosts. The spookier the better!
  • Role-play - If spooky music and candle lights won't do why not a bit of role-playing? Every character has a bio telling a bit about him. You could try play your psychic doing a politically incorrect accent (characters have different nationalities) or working on their personality traits. When I receive a vision I'll do a bit of describing the card to my peers, incorporating some of that won't work with everybody and it might even kill it for some groups, so know your crowd and see what works with them.
  • Cherry picking on rules - I am a bit subversive with games when rules don't match my experience playing. I like the idea of a completely mute ghost only communicating through knocks on the table but it can be quite fun as well having the ghost explaining his line of thought whenever someone guesses it write. I just don't like playing with the hourglass! Try it, but if you think that this is cutting short the best part of this game (player interaction), just don't use it and be happy. And although the game will tell you to give one to seven cards each round to each player I've decided to limit this to one card. Why? Otherwise ghosts will use this to dump a bad hand instead of making use of crows. The cool thing about Mysterium is trying to make a guess on top of a single crazy drawing. That's the challenge!
  • Dixit - 86 vision cards will start being a bit repetitive after some five times playing the game. Experience will be somewhat less entertaining to some like me who think uncovering new beautiful cards is a big part of the game. You can solve that "problem" by grabbing a hold of an expansion but why not just get another awesome game in Dixit and use their cards? Win-win hun? Two totally different games for you to play with shared cards.
  • Talk, talk, talk (unless you're the ghost) - A somewhat loose structure that will see you interpreting abstract paintings for most the time? This game is all about the interaction with your mates. The most fun you'll have with Mysterium is coming up with the most crazy theories on what the ghost is actually trying to tell you. All of the while seeing him containing himself from laughing about all nonsense you're saying. It doesn't get better than this!
  • Level of difficulty - I would label it as level of balance instead. Most times a ghost will be stuck with rubbish cards and will be tempted to just use a crow per turn and do a mulligan. But that's just too easy! On the other hand, if you're playing hard there is only one crow for the whole game. If you keep sending bad cards to your psychics one after another they won't find it hard but rather boring, believe me. Also, when playing medium difficulty level you'll always have two extra cards to choose from when guessing the character, location or object. That really seems to be the perfect number. Why? With just one extra card you will have players wanting to choose the same cards which is just not beneficial in a co-op game and might make it harder rather than easier. So, for a better experience I strongly recommend playing the game at medium difficulty level.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Amazing artwork.
  • Doesn't feel repetitive.
  • Engaging.
  • Ability to turn into a tabletop role play.

Might not like

  • Long set-up time.
  • A few decision-making pauses.