Game: Mice and Mystics
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Designer: Jerry Hawthorne
The hallway echoed with the scratching of claws on hewn stone, a volley of needles flew overhead, Nez glanced back long enough to see one collide with Colin’s button-shield. Nez raised his hammer as he ran, the combination of a twig and a small rock, but dangerous enough to the rat archers that he was charging. He brought it down and was met with a sickening, though oddly satisfying, crack of a Rat’s head collapsing in on itself. The other rats started to run, but Lily’s needles were faster. Colin looked up through the drainage grate to the castle corridor. “We’re nearly outside” he squeaked “For the king!”. Colin rushed ahead, his mousy compatriots racing behind him. The hallway echoed with the scratching of claws on hewn stone...
Mice and Mystics is a 2-4 player dungeon-crawler in which you take the role of one of a group of 6 mice who must fight their way through armies of cockroaches, rats, spiders and centipedes in an ongoing campaign. The game is very much a lighter dungeon crawler, there are only handful of map tiles that are all the same size and shape (though the terrain on them isn’t), there are only a dozen or so enemy types and the rules are simple enough to explain relatively quickly (though like many dungeon crawlers learning the rules from the rulebook is a struggle).
This has both advantages and disadvantages, Mice and Mystics is, perhaps deliberately, less grand in scale than games like Warhammer Quest or Imperial Assault. Even the theme is a shrunk down version of the epic action in those games. In return Mice and Mystics is comparatively quick to set up, has simple stats that won’t confuse you and the gameplay flows faster. Conversely it lacks the depth, you characters don’t gain power or evolve in the same way. The enemies you see in game 1 are more or less the same as you’ll see in game 5 and the places you visit you’ll visit over and over again.
So does this shrunken size take away more than it gives? In my mind, yes. If you have a group of friends who are willing to play Descent, then go play Descent! Mice and Mystics is there for the people who have friends who might not be quite as into the RPG genre. It’s a gateway drug for roleplaying, it’s cute figures and story lures you in with exaggerated characters and a sense of unimportance, if this was an important quest then surely they wouldn’t send mice? Once you make roleplaying silly then a lot of the stigma ebbs off and it becomes more accessible.
|The game set up, the reversible map tiles are a great choice, giving you flexibility in map design while giving a quick setup time, there's little denying that the game looks great.|
The game itself is simple to play, you have an initiative order which is randomised each encounter; you then take a move action and a fight action, both determined by dice rolling. Enemies have rules about what they do (essentially move toward the nearest mouse and hit it 90% of the time) so you don’t need a “evil" player. You’ll move through rooms, being able to scurry from below-ground tunnels to castle rooms by flipping map tiles over, allowing you to take simple, more direct routes, or longer routes with side missions. The missions have a time limit and spending too long in a room without enemies eats into it, so you have a feeling of needing to rush around to succeed.
|An encounter with simple rodents turns sour as the castle cat (represented by a cardboard paw token) joins the fray. Some maps have changing levels and here mice can scrabble up the broomstick to reach their feline foe.|
I find Mice and Mystics a hard game to review, Is it a good game? Sure, but I have better games in the genre which I’d rather play. It’s fun, but it’s not for me, I’m not so attached to the RPG genre that I feel the need to drag my friends into it kicking and screaming, and for when I do have that craving I’ve managed to put together a group for regular Imperial assault play. Mice and mystics has it’s place, and it’s miniatures are very tempting to paint, but frankly while I approve of the game in general, I can tell it won’t spend too long on the shelf.