- Ryan Havdala
Mysterium: A Great Choice for a Killer Game Night
What it is (briefly)
Whenever I introduce the Mysterium to a group of new players, I describe it as a twist on the game Clue. Mysterium is a co-operative, mystery-themed board game for 2-7 players. One player is the “Ghost,” a murder victim who is providing the remaining players, the “Psychics,” with clues as to by whom, where, and by what means they were killed. But there’s a twist: the Ghost has amnesia. For the ghost to remember who murdered them, all suspects must first be accurately identified. The ghost cannot talk (a good role for that friend who talks too much, usually me); instead, they can only communicate to the Psychics with “visions” using the game’s signature “Dream Cards,” which feature visually stimulating, abstract artwork. The Ghost’s goal is to guide each Psychic to a specific murder suspect (each player must find a different murderer, location, and weapon). Psychics should work together to interpret the ghost’s clues, which are shown face-up on the table. In each of the first phase’s seven rounds, players will make a guess towards their suspect, location, and weapon (in that order). Once everyone has achieved their initial goal, the Ghost will “remember” (choose) which murder suspect actually did it. They will then give one final vision to the players to guide them to the real killer, composed of a card relating to each aspect of the murder. The players will then vote on which suspect committed the crime, and if the players accurately guess who the murderer was, then the mystery is solved! For a full video of how to play, click the link to see Teach the Table’s How to Play video.
Why I love it
Mysterium is, first and foremost, a beautifully made game. The game’s “Dream Cards” all feature mind-bending artwork that challenges the Ghost and Psychics to make creative connections to the game’s Character, Location, and Object cards. The card art often creates a lot of discussion between players and funny moments.
The game has a lot of variability because of the amount of artwork and Characters/Locations/Items. Over time, certain clues can take on their own meanings with different friends, which can be fun and make the game easier to play on harder difficulties (one for my playgroups tends to be that any rats on a card means Ratatouille, which means something to do with a chef).
The rulebook includes three difficulty levels, but there are other (outside the rulebook) ways to play the game that can add fun twists, like sending dreams individually and requiring players to describe their visions with words rather than showing them to everyone else or with simultaneous dream viewing and a shorter time limit.
Because each player has their own problem to solve, all players have complete agency. This tends to keep all players engaged in a positive way regardless of their past experience levels with the game.
Playing as the Ghost is the only role with a more strategic element to it, and I tend to really enjoy that. It can be extremely entertaining (and sometimes frustrating) to watch your friends struggle to interpret your clues
The funniest (and most frustrating) moments are when the Psychics move their token off of your clue at the last moment, or say they plan to do something only to misinterpret or ignore one of your next clues!
Who would love it
Gamers or Non-Gamers? Both: I’ve played this game with hardcore board gamers and non-gamers alike, and everyone has loved it
People who would especially love it:
Your goth friends
Anyone who has ever said “spooky season”
People who want to work together
People who might not love it:
If you like heavier-weight, more competitive strategy games, this might not be for you, as the only role that allows for strategic decision making is the Ghost
Highly competitive gamers who do not like co-op games might prefer to play something else
When to play it
It’s a dark, stormy night in October and you’re looking for an engaging and unique way to spend your evening with your friends or family. You light candles and play some themed music (there’s a link to a Mysterium soundtrack in the rulebook if you’re interested).
When you have a big group for game night. While Mysterium works for as few as 2 players players, I personally tend to enjoy it most with a larger group, like the 7 players max. Mysterium is a great game for children and adults, alike, and is a comfortable game to play with family (given that you’re comfortable with the darker theme). If you really want, it can even be played with more than 7 people, though it may get complicated for the Ghost to keep track of so many different clues, so teaming up can be effective.
If I’m going to a game night with a diverse group of people, I’ll always bring Mysterium along as an option because it is easy to teach and goes over well with any audience. Since the game is co-operative and is also not turn-based, it keeps everyone engaged throughout the session so that no one gets bored or feels left out.
You might like it if you also like…
Dixit is also made by Libellud Games, and the artwork is in a similar style to Mysterium’s. If you want, you can even use Dixit’s cards as Mysterium Dream Cards if you’re feeling adventurous!
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Mysterium Park (a smaller version of this game!)
Forbidden Series (Desert, Island, and Sky)
As the Ghost…
Make sure you pay attention to detail in the clues you’re giving to ensure that you did not give a misleading hint. Since each Dream Card tends to have a lot of details on it, this can be difficult at times, but avoiding misleading clues tends to be the best way to get everyone where they need to be quickest.
If you give a Psychic multiple Dream Cards as part of a vision, try to make sure that these hints share a quality or characteristic that the Psychic can focus in on
If a Psychic only has one guessable option left for their suspect or place, give them a hint for the next step of the game.
Try to pick up on how the Psychics are interpreting your clues. For example, if one seems to connect colors then try to feed them cards with similar color schemes to their suspect, place, or weapon.
As a Psychic…
There is not a lot of strategy for the Psychic, but my main advice would be that if you’re struggling with an earlier hint, don’t be afraid to prioritize the new clues that you receive.
With Clairvoyancy tokens, do not use all your “yes” guesses during the first round, as this is the turn where the Ghost is most likely to have some growing pains getting on the same page as everyone else, and if a few suspects are eliminated, Psychics are more likely to get their guesses correct during the second turn.
Mysterium is a great game that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to add a co-op game on the lighter side to their board game collection. It’s especially great for slightly larger groups looking to enjoy a board game version of a séance and some unique artwork.
For more about the game, click here to see the game’s profile on BoardGameGeek.com