June 12, 2017 - Oliver East -
Have you ever wondered how a murder victim may communicate to solve the crime? Travel back in time to the 1920s, where a gathering of clairvoyants is occurring for an extraordinary séance. The clairvoyants have only seven hours with the ghost to receive messages, understand clues and investigate the mystery of the Scottish manor. This is Mysterium a deduction styled, cooperative murder mystery board game. The game is designed for 2-7 players, but is it an out of this world experience to be excited about or a spooky encounter to be avoided? Let’s find out!
Setup and explaining the rules to new players takes all of 10 minutes which means the game is very easy to get to the table. The rules are easier to explain than the concept of Mysterium. My best effort to date is: think of Cluedo, without a game board, but with a ghost gifting players clues to determine a person, place and item. Throw in a murder and that is the game in a nutshell. If that isn’t intriguing enough, I’m not sure what is! Now determining the circumstances of the murder would be easy if the clairvoyants could just ask the ghost. Alas, the ghost is mute and can only communicate via visions.
Note: This will be how you play a 4+ game as, despite the game being playable with 2-3 players and being about communicating with a ghost, this is where Mysterium comes alive.
Players must each guess a different set of murder clues in a specific order. Firstly, a person, then a location and finally an item. Each turn the ghost will give visions to which ever part individual clairvoyants are attempting to guess. The clues must be acquired in that order and if any single clairvoyant fails to do so before the 7th round is over everyone fails. Each clairvoyant will get a unique set including one of the characters, locations and items on show. Only when each clairvoyant has a set is the final group vision revealed to help the clairvoyants determine which set is the correct one, enabling the ghost to put its soul to rest.
At the start of the game one player must nominate themselves to be the ghost. Separating themselves from the other players, the ghost sets up behind a screen. The cards in the box are split into piles of ghost visions, these are taken by the ghost and placed behind the screen, and the clue cards. These clue cards are broken down into clairvoyant and ghost copies, which look distinctly different on the card back but have the same artwork on them for the people, places and items. The clairvoyant piles are split down again into person, place and item and are separately shuffled. A number from each pile are selected and laid out on the table, the amount is determined by the difficulty and player count. The ghost finds the matching cards from their set of the cards and randomly assigns each player a person, place and item card on the game screen. The extras the ghost has left are secretly discarded back to the box, but the clairvoyant copies stay on the table as red herrings.
Once set up the ghost needs to start issuing visions to the, hopefully, observant clairvoyants. Drawing 7 vision cards from the deck the ghost chooses one or more cards to give to each player. Once the ghost has given at least one card to each clairvoyant the sand timer is turned. Now the clairvoyants must decipher what the cryptic dream like messages mean. Succeeding in the first section will, for example, enable correct clairvoyants to take the person card whom they correctly guessed and place it in their player pouch for later. On the next turn these correct clairvoyants would be getting visions to determine the location and the remaining clairvoyants will have less to choose from. Failure means in the next turn the clairvoyant will receive an additional vision card to guess the person once again.
Guessing is against the clock, or in Mysterium against the sand-timer. During this time when other players are making guesses, everyone apart from the ghost is free to discuss. However, whether they listen is another matter. To add additional entertainment, players receive 6 clairvoyancy tokens at the start of the game, consisting of 4 crosses and 2 ticks. Players can spend these tokens to predict if other clairvoyants are correct or not. If this prediction is correct they get to move up the clairvoyant tracker by 1 place. This will potentially enable them to see addition vision cards in the grand finale! Depending on how quickly players collect their set of cards also allows them to advance up the clairvoyance tracker.
If the clock tries to strike 8 without all clairvoyants on the epilogue board with complete sets all is lost. If and only if all clairvoyants correctly collect their set, the ghost prepares a final group vision of three cards. Clairvoyants place their sets on the table in distinct columns creating the options they must pick from. The ghost chooses which set to create a vision about and places the appropriate numbered token, corresponding to the clairvoyant who’s set it is, face down on the epilogue board. Depending on where individual players sit on the clairvoyance tracker (Low, Intermediate and High) determines how many cards they see before having to guess which set the vision cards refer to. The issue here is the three vision cards are not only each for one part of the set but are also shuffled.
Players just scrapping through in the Low section see only one card, but they have no idea if it relates to the person, place or item. Each Low player secretly makes a guess by sliding the matching clairvoyant token to the set into their player pouch. Players in the Intermediate section then get to see the first and second vision cards and get to vote. Finally, if any player reached the High section they get to see all three cards before casting a vote. The votes are counted and if the majority of the players voted correctly everyone wins! There are a few ways that draws are sorted out with a tie breaker style event. Alas, if the tie breaker is lost or the majority is incorrect the game is lost for all players and the ghost dissipates, without the mystery being solved.