Game: Mystic Vale
Designer: John D. Clair
Mystic Vale is a 2-4 player deck building game in which you... well.. honestly the theme is so forgettable I have no idea what you are trying to do. You try to make a good deck and win victory points, but as to why you are doing this? Something to do with nature magic maybe? Mystic Vale is something entirely new however, in your average deckbuilding game you have a starting deck and you use in game currency to buy new cards which you add to your deck. In Mystic Vale you have the card crafting system.
You start with your full deck of sleeved cards, which are either empty or have 1 of 3 slots pre-printed on them, then during the course of the game you use your mana earned by playing cards to buy new upgrades. These are see-through plastic cards which have an ability on either the top, middle or bottom, you then slide this into the sleeve of one of your cards and you now have a card with it’s old ability *and* the new one! I think it’s fair to say that the card crafting system is a game changer. Mystic Vale is still a deckbuilder, sure, but it’s done in such a novel way that it feels brand new, everyone’s decks differentiate extremely quickly which makes for a good game. There are a couple of drawbacks to the card crafting system, it’s very hard to shuffle the card inserts (though that does ease of with time), and as the cards become very thick when they have 2-3 extra bonuses on them, it becomes obvious where certain cards are in your deck.
|An example of a played hand, The player has got 8 mana, but could flip the large mana token to get an extra one if needed. They also have 3 decay, so normally would have spoiled, but the green tree symbol on the leftmost card counters 1 decay|
In terms of the game itself it’s not too dissimilar to Flip City, you play a card, hoping to get more mana to buy cards with and hoping not to draw decay, if you draw 3 decay then your whole hand burns and you get nothing. In addition the top card of your deck is actually flipped face-side up, any decay on it counts towards the amount in play, so as soon as you have 2 decay visible drawing another card becomes very risky. You also have a mana token that you can flip over to get 1 bonus mana when you really need it, the great thing about this is when you do inevitably push too far and spoil, this token recharges, so maybe next time you won’t have to push yourself so hard. With the amount of Decay in your starting deck this feels very punishing, there are a few cards that can counteract this, but it's certainly painful enough that you never want a card with 2 decay symbols on it.
|A selection of upgrades ready to be bought, you can't overlap upgrades, so each card can only have a maximum of three. It's a great system that lets you truly customise your deck.|
In addition to all this you can also gain a variety of symbols, these symbols can be combined to buy some of the vale cards, these vary from being end-game points, to one-shot abilities, to being bonuses that you can use every turn and are almost always worth picking up.There are some cards that gain you victory points whenever you play them, as long as you don't spoil. There are others that give end game points and others which combo off having certain symbols on the same/other cards you've played.
Honestly the gameplay isn’t quite up to scratch, it’s a perfectly fine game, but if it weren’t for the card crafting system I don’t think I’d give Mystic Vale a second glance. It feels like John D. Clair had a brilliant idea for a game with the card crafting, but then didn’t give it enough time to polish it off to a mirror sheen. Mystic Vale is a disappointment to me, but only because the game has so much potential! I’m sure that one day we will have a card crafting system game that knocks our socks off, unfortunately I don't think Mystic Vale is that game.