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Mysterium Park Board Game Review

WBG Score: 8

Player Count: 2-6

You’ll like this if you like: Mysterium, Psychobabble, Dixit

Published by: Libellud

Since playing the original Mysterium I’ve steered away from going to big mansion houses. Constantly solving murders was getting exhausting. Just as I was getting into my new pastime of going to fairgrounds, the visions started again. Ah well looks like I’m going to have to stick with hanging out with the Mystery Inc gang, I can’t see them getting into any shenanigans with ghosts and monsters!

The rules of the park.

To setup shuffle the suspect cards and place nine of them on the board. Give the ghost player the vision cards and then they draw three plot cards and place one at random in their card holder. Each player takes a player colour and an innocence token. That’s it!

In Mysterium players are trying to solve the mystery of who killed the director of Mysterium Park, a funfair which settled in Derry. I'm sure that at this point the very mention of that name will make Stephen Kings ears perk up.

The plot card in front of the ghost will show a layout of the board with the different player colours. These are the suspects that the ghost wants that particular player to eliminate as a suspect. The ghost does this by handing out vision cards to the players. Each player then has to interpret which suspect the ghost is leading them towards with the card. This could be a colour scheme, common objects between the two or anything else the ghost may see that links the cards. Once all players have guessed their cards the ghost determines if they are right or not. If you're correct then you remove that character card and place your Innocence token in that space. If you're not then simply take back your pawn and keep your vision cards. This will continue until (hopefully) all the suspects of the colours in play have been guessed. The three characters that didn’t occupy a coloured space on the plot card are set aside for later and the board is filled with location cards and the ghost puts a second plot card in their holder. Play continues in the same way until all players have guessed the locations as well.

If by the end of round six all the players have successfully guessed their suspect and location then they move onto the third and final round. If not, they and the ghost lose the game.

For the third round the ghost lays out the set aside characters and locations and uses the third plot card to determine which column houses the killer and the location. They must then give out two final vision cards to the players. One in relation to the killer and one to the location but the ghost cannot indicate which is which. Players then discuss which is the correct column and when they’ve come to a decision inform the ghost. The ghost must then indicate if the players are right, at which point they win the game, or if they’re wrong and they lose the game.

Welcome, to Mysterium Park.

There’s a lot to love about both Mysterium games. As the investigators it's a lot of fun to have those discussions about each vision card and trying to figure out exactly what it is you're being pointed to. What is the ghost pointing to?, are they focusing on colours, shapes or is it the blatantly obvious sharp pointy object that’s trying to lead us towards the sword swallower! Of course everyone has their own opinions, and own interpretations of cards so these conversations can veer wildly in all directions. It’s not uncommon for you to look at a card and have a pretty good idea of where you think you’ll be placing your token. However, by the time you spoke to your teammates you could have had a better chance of guessing BEFORE you got given the card. There’s also a tension as you make your final decision and you wait to see if you’ve successfully got inside the head of the ghost and your guesses are correct. If you get it right it’s cause for celebrations and if you get it wrong it’s usually met with looks of confusion and replies of “I’m sure they were leading me to the strong woman”

In the original game you were either right or wrong. In this one you have the addition of the witness space. If a player guesses here then the card is removed, the witness token is placed in that spot and the player gets to place their token on another card. I like the addition of the witness space in Mysterium Park. So often do you find yourself wrestling with two possibilities. So if you happen to be on the witness space at the end of a round you can easily go to your second guess. It kind of reminds me of the tv show catchphrase, it’s a “it’s good but it’s not right” space, but with a bit of a do-over.

Ghostly goings on

In the past I’ve compared the ghost in these games as being like the drummer in a band. You're there at the back orchestrating this entire show trying to keep everyone in time and as long as you’re doing your job as best you can then it’s not your fault if the guitarist goes off and does their own thing.

Ooh, idea for a Mysterium game. Mysterium Spinal Tap where you play the ghost of one of the drummers! Copyright, me, Libellud, let’s talk

I would imagine that there are some people who won’t like the pressure of being the ghost and I understand that. There’s a lot to juggle here, you have to work with your hand of cards to give the best clues you can while also playing to your audience but also hoping that they’re not trying to get into your way of thinking as you’re getting into theirs. For some they don’t want to be the one to derail the game by giving bad clues. This is a game about interpretation and as far as I’m concerned, no one is to blame if the group loses. Except that one person who couldn’t match the sword in the card with the sword swallower…..I’m not bitter about that at all!

The real downside of playing as the ghost of course is that it’s easy to get lost in that gorgeous art on the vision cards. I’d be lying if I said my turns didn’t take longer because I got distracted by a card and forgot I was supposed to be givin them out!

Part of the fun of this game is that discussion afterwards of, “what did you mean with this card” and “why did you think that was the ticket booth” and I love when games give you cause to have that post game analysis.

It’s safe to say that we love Mysterium in our house and aside from the odd occasions when I take it to a game night, it only gets played as a three player game. It works ok at that count and games are usually quick enough that both of the kids can have a go at being the ghost. Even though we mostly get two games in a session, setup can still be a pain and trying to do it two games in a row, doubly so. So much that it kinda puts me off wanting to play it at that low a count, even though me and the kids do have fun.

Well now we have Mysterium Park and it’s not a spoiler to say that this is pretty much going to be our go to version of Mysterium. Setup is lightning quick and if everyone knows what they’re doing you can be up and dealing out the first vision cards in under five minutes. It’s such a great feeling, not least because I now don’t have to find an excuse not to get out and set up the regular Mysterium.

I love how they’ve managed to streamline everything, the use of the codenames style grid is, for my money, a little slice of genius. It’s clear what/who each person is going to be guessing and just that deck of plot cards gives a lot of variety and that’s before you remember that you can flip them.

There have been a few things removed from the original game either for size, time length or just pure fiddliness and I approve of…… most of them, I’ll get to that and my reasons why later. The things they've removed are the things that I dreaded teaching in the original game. Gone is the clairvoyance system where, for those who don’t know, is where you basically rated peoples guesses to try and get to see more cards in the final round. Also gone is that system of who sees what cards in the final round. The final round in this is simply lay everything out and everyone sees two cards and then they have to guess. For me this whole box is so much easier to teach to new players and a great stepping stone if they ever want to play the original at any point.

Mysterious misgivings.

It’s not all juggling and trapezes in the Park. A lot of the locations are quite similar in look which is understandable given the setting, but that does mean that there's not always a lot that differentiates them and therefore it’s easy to be led down the wrong path. Granted that may make the game more of a challenge, but I personally think that the locations in the original had more unique space and still managed to keep the dark colour palate.

The next thing kinda ties in with the one thing that I miss from the original game and it may surprise you. It’s the player screen. I know, I know, I’ve just been praising this game for how small and streamlined it is but hear me out. One of the things I love about the original is being able to hide behind that screen and grimace as the others veer wildly off the path that I’ve so expertly led them down. Without that screen there you really have to keep your emotions in check. The slightest little smile or contortion of your face could give away a lot to the other players. The other advantage of the screen is being able to look at the cards closely, and the right way up. With Mysterium Park you now have to find a ways to look at the cards you need on the table, upside down, but without looking too hard at them so you give away which ones you're looking at. The absence of the screen doesn’t ruin this game, and for the sake of what they’re doing with this version it's an obvious sacrifice. It does mean you have to work that little bit harder as the ghost to not give too many visual clues……apart from the vision cards of course.

Mysterium Park is definitely going to be the go to Mysterium game in our family. It’s small, quick to set up and play and is just as much fun as the original. I’m still keeping both in the collection. The big one for when we have more players and we want the game to be more of a game night event and this one for a quick Mysterium fix and one we can throw in a bag and take away with us.

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