Game: Mystic Vale
Designer: John D. Clair
Mystic Vale was one of the most talked about games at the UK Games Expo 2016 – our first ever gaming convention. Unfortunately with just one day to explore the convention we didn’t get to try Mystic Vale but since it’s a deck-building game it was high on our list of 2016 releases to purchase. So, does Mystic Vale bring anything new to deck-building and will it become one our favourites in the genre?
Mystic Vale bills itself as a ‘card-crafting’ game – a new mechanism coined by the publishers AEG. You each start the game with a deck of very basic cards, all of which are sleeved. Over the course of the game you can add up to three elements to the card which are purchased from the options in the centre of the table. The upgrade cards are transparencies so that they can all be slotted into the card sleeve – a really neat idea which gives you a lot of ability to customise the cards in your deck.
Unlike many deck building games where you work with a hand of cards every turn, Mystic Vale reminds me of Flip City. You can flip over as many cards as you like from the top of your deck, but if you have 3 decay symbols showing then you bust, so there is a certain element of pushing your luck, especially if you really want a specific upgrade with a certain mana cost. However, every so often, it’s worth busting so that you can refresh your one bonus mana token for use in future turns.
|The game set up for two players.|
Mana is the key currency in the game, enabling you to try and buy better and better upgrade cards, however in addition you can build a strategy to collect different spirit symbols. If you can draw either two or 3 symbols on a turn then you should be able to buy one of the face up Vale cards. Typically these either have an ability to use during your turn or some nice end of game victory points. We’ve always found that the winner is the player who builds a good engine with the Vale cards – in a two player game you can definitely feel like your left behind by your opponent getting powerful abilities early on.
|The Vale cards, with a varying cost in the top right.|
The aim of the game is ultimately to earn victory points. Some of the advancements give victory points each time the card is played successfully, although these typically come with a penalty attached. Other more expensive advancements have end of game victory points. The game ends when the victory point tokens run out.
For me, Mystic Vale is a unique twist on deck-building. Not only does it have the card-crafting mechanic which allows for much more personalisation of your deck, but also the two potential strategies of spirit symbols or mana allow you to play different strategies if you choose. There’s no denying that Mystic Vale is completely themeless, with some generic fantasy characters and forest creatures, but mechanically I find it to be really smooth and as a two-player game we play the game in 30-40 minutes.
I’ve heard that the expansion adds more variety, which is probably needed. I’d also be interested to see some player interaction added to the game. I’m also excited to see if AEG use the card-crafting mechanic again in the future as part of other games, perhaps with more theme or as part of a more complex game. Nevertheless, Mystic Vale was one of my favourite releases of 2016 and I can see myself enjoying it for a long time to come. The Yellow Meeple gives Mystic Vale a 7.5/10.