Gen Con Indy 2012 Game Review: Mice and Mystics

I thought about working my way up to my two favorite games from Gen Con Indy 2012, but I’m too excited to be coy.  So, instead, I’m starting with my favorites.  Two games stuck out to me most this year: Mice and Mystics and the new Marvel deckbuilding game.  The first is pre-ordered already and the second will be picked up as soon as it comes out.  My only regret is that both are set to release the end of next month.  However will we find time for both?!

Today I’m starting with the surprising favorite, Mice and Mystics by Plaid Hat Games.  I say it’s surprising because I didn’t know about this game going into Gen Con Indy 2012.  The Marvel deckbuilding game (look for that review next Tuesday) is one I had heard about ahead of time and one I was pretty sure I’d like because I’m a Marvel Comics fan.  Spider-man makes me swoon.

Mice and Mystics was a game we stumbled upon in the exhibit hall.  On our first pass by the Plaid Hat Games booth, we looked over the game and the cute little mice figurines that were battling.  We decided to stop back by for a demo.  Maybe an hour later, we stopped back by and were able to get into a demo.  I’m glad we did.  I’m guessing Plaid Hat Games is glad we did, too, since we’ve already pre-ordered the game.

Last Gen Con, I told you how much we love Descent.  And we do still love it, but Descent has its drawbacks.  It can take hours upon hours to play, it can get complicated (especially for novice gamers), it has a relatively elaborate setup and it requires someone to be the overlord in charge of the game, so it pretty much requires at least three players.  Mice and Mystics has the same sort of elements of Descent when it comes to game play, but it doesn’t have any of those drawbacks.  One game takes 60 to 90 minutes, the setup is quick and easy and nobody has to be the overlord.  You can even play it by yourself or add up to three friends.  While we do get together with friends to play games, many times my husband and I are playing just the two of us; I love that we can do that with Mice and Mystics.  And I love that since it’s co-op, we’re battling bad guys together and not battling each other.

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The story behind the game is that an evil wizard has turned the king’s loyal subjects into mice.  Basically, the mice heroes battle the wizard’s minions (who have been turned into rats and other “fun” creatures) to save the kingdom.

At the outset of the game, each person picks a character.  Like with most games, each character has things he or she is good at and different bonuses.  My character, Prince Colin, for example, got extra cheese each time he didn’t get to go first.  Cheese affords players the chance to take advantage of extras throughout the game.

Each character and each villain has a turn card as well.  At the beginning of each round, these cards are shuffled and laid out in turn order.  In our demo, I went first by random draw the first round, but I didn’t the second round.  It sort of shakes things up and keeps the same player from going first each time.  I liked that aspect.

Characters have an attack they can do and a certain amount of squares they can move.  During each round, players get to move (if they choose) and then perform an action such as attacking or searching (where you look around the room to find items in form of cards you draw).  Success of attacks, searching and pretty much everything else is based on simple dice rolls, which definitely add an element of chance to the game.  Mice and Mystics offers fewer types of dice than Descent, which makes for less confusion among novice players and overall easier game play.

Along with having to survive attacks from the villains (players can be revived, as we found out when one of our party was killed in action), players are also running against the clock.  Just like how players can earn cheese, so can villains.  A cheesewheel keeps track of how many pieces of cheese the villains earn.  For every six pieces of cheese the villains earn, a villain surge occurs, making the game more difficult.  Players are also fighting against time.  Just like in a book, the game progresses through chapters.  The game ends when either all the villains are defeated or the set final chapter is reached (in which case, the villains win).

The nicest thing of Mice and Mystics is that the cards you draw and play with tell you everything you need to know.  On the villains’ turn to attack, players will play as the villains to keep the game moving.  There are set rules for how villains act.  In fact, during the demo, I even played a villain who attacked my own character.  That’s not super fun, but it made since for the game, so I was fine with it.  And I’m far less likely to take an attack I make on myself personally as I can occasionally do when my husband is in charge of a game and has a villain attack me.

Overall, the demo was awesome — and not just because I kicked some rat butt!  It was enjoyable game that I’m anxious to play again and try the full version of.  We liked Mice and Mystics so much, in fact, that we even checked to see if any full versions of the game were running in the board game room.  There weren’t since the game isn’t officially out, yet.

Mice and Mystics is due out the end of September. It will be priced at $75 when it’s released, but if you pre-order through Plaid Hat’s Web site before it’s released, you get $25 off.  Not too shabby.  You do have to pay shipping.  For me that was around $10 to ship to the Midwest where I live.

Mice and Mystics is a game that I can see us playing with friends and just the two of us.  I love that an average game runs 60 to 90 minutes, which means we can even get in a game on a weeknight after putting the kiddo to bed.  I also love that it’s easy enough, I think we could easily teach a non-gamer how to play it and they’d have fun, too.

If I had to rate it, I’d definitely give Mice and Mystics a five out of five stars.

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