Mice & Mystics is a cooperative family-friendly dungeon crawl, in which you play a team of warriors (including wizard, archer, healer, etc.), who have been turned into mice. You face other mouse guards, spiders, cockroaches, a cat, and the like.
When I first saw this game I was like, “My family and I would have a lot of fun playing this”, so it was on my radar and a family member got it for me for Christmas.
It’s now April, and after two solo plays of the first scenario, lots of reading the rulebook and watching how to play videos (about 6 hours total invested), I finally feel confident enough to teach it to my family.
This game really took me aback with its complexity and amount of rules. Before I talk about that, let’s start with what I like about it.
This game is just cuteness overload. You get a helmet that’s a thimble, and the wizard has a familiar that’s a ladybug, and can even fly around and help you.
The storytelling element adds a lot to the game, and really draws you in to this shrunken down world.
The artwork throughout the game has a really high production value.
There are plenty of minis, but not so many that it’s hard to find what you’re looking for. They’re all very well sculpted, and made of durable plastic that won’t break if you store them in a bag together.
The battle system
The game features a small number of dice that are multi-purpose and very functional. You use the same dice to attack, defend, move, and search, and they’re quite easy to understand, each face has several icons on it, and you just look for the one you want depending on the action you’re taking.
There are also these pieces of cheese, that your characters get from dice rolls, which they can use for abilities, or to level up. When enemies roll cheese it goes on the cheese wheel, which works as a countdown toward “surges” taking place, resulting in more enemies appearing and the clock moving forward.
With high points like this, Mice & Mystics would rank really high for me. But the game suffers from several major flaws.
Way too many. This game took much longer for me to learn than it should have. While playing it solo I often had to look up rules for clarification, and sometimes they were hard to find, or not very clear.
Each tile of the map also involves lots of special rules, which have to frequently be referenced too.
While the components are great quality, there are way too many of them. I have them divided into two bags, ones I need and ones I don’t need yet.
One component that particularly stands out is the ability cards. At the beginning of the game, each character takes an ability. There are lots of these cards, and they’re quite text heavy.
So I have to read through all these cards, and my first time trying it out I had no idea which ones were good. So I picked random ones that matched my character classes. And lost horribly. Which brings me to my next point.
This game is surprisingly hard! Not just to learn, but to win as well. Not knowing what I was doing the first time around, I mostly just tinkered with the game system to learn the ropes. I got really close to winning, then ended up losing.
The second time around I knew what classes and abilities to take, and used the Tinkerer to find the hidden item on the first tile (you choose any piece of equipment to keep, right at the beginning of the game, but kind of have to know the game before you know what to choose).
Having a better idea of what to do, this second play I easily won, and it only took me about an hour and a half, including referencing the rules numerous times.
Even in the first scenario you’re flooded with special items like the fish hook and thread, which is hard to understand, let alone when you’re still working out the basic game mechanics.
There’s also an optional side quest where you go rescue someone from the kitchen, but I’ll need to learn the game more thoroughly before I attempt that.
What I would change
This game does not need to be this complicated, especially for the theme. They could have easily made the first scenario a straighforward “learn the ropes” mission that you can use to learn and teach the game in a lot less time, then gradually introduce new mechanics in future scenarios.
I would also have made starting abilities for each class, or at least recommended ones, then once you level up and understand the game you can choose others.
I still plan on trying this with my family, and if they like it we might play through the whole campaign, but even more likely I will play more of it solo and give my gamer friends a chance to try it.