My Wife Always Wins - An Uphill Battle in Boardgaming! - Mice and Mystics
This Week’s Game: Mice and Mystics
It’s week seven. Six games, six defeats. I knew it would be bad when I signed on for this, but I never thought it’d be this bad. With each passing week I become more crestfallen as my soul is beaten down. My wife has the opposite experience. Lyndsey grows more and more confident – not confident, cocky – with each victory she claims. I’ve had enough.
But I couldn’t bring myself to play against her this week. I needed an outlet for our weekly gaming where Lyndsey wouldn’t be able to smash me. So when it came time to sit and play, I brandished Mice and Mystics.
Lyndsey immediately declined. “That’s a cooperative game,” she said, “and the whole purpose of your article is that we are competing.” She had a point – I may be breaking the rules with this one, but I needed a break from the disheartening display which I willingly made public through this article series. I pled my case, and still Lyndsey refused to play.
I finally dropped some nonsense line about marriage being a partnership, and so it’s only fitting once in a while we play as a partnership. Win together, lose together, it was the same on the gaming table as in life. I don’t know how, but she bought into it and agreed. What a sucker.
Mice and Mystics is an adventure roleplaying game, set in the Kingdom of Men. Six men and women from the Kingdom are transformed into mice to escape the clutches of the evil Queen Vanestra who has put a spell on King Andon and taken the entire Kingdom for herself. But Vanestra transforms her own forces into rats and sends them in pursuit of the rodent heroes. Mice and Mystics plays across a campaign of 11 chapters as mouse and rat battle it out for the fate of the Kingdom of Men,
Players assume the roles of mice such as Maginos the Mystic or Tilda the Healer. At times a chapter will require certain mice to be in the group, at others players will be allowed to decide the makeup of their party.
The mice start on a designated tile and are immediately besieged by the minions of the first encounter – which can include rats, centipedes, roaches, and more. Initiative is decided randomly, and each mouse and minion proceeds with its turn with the ultimate goal of destroying its opposite.
A player turn consists of movement and action. How far a mouse can move is determined by the value of the movement die roll plus the value of the mouse’s movement stat. Some possible actions are scurrying (taking a second movement), attacking, and searching for equipment.
Each mouse has a base attack stat, and their equipment can raise their battle number. The final modified number is how many dice the mouse rolls for each attack. For instance, Nez has a base of two and his hammer can add up to another two, allowing for a four dice roll.
After players have cleared a tile of minions, they can move to the next to face another encounter. Both mice and minions collect cheese during encounters – for mice it can be used to level up or use abilities. But if the minions collect six cheese, they surge and more minions join the fight! The chapter continues until the victory objective is completed, all mice are captured, or a specific defeat condition is met.
Get the rules here. See an example chapter from the storybook here, and check out a gameplay video here.
Time to Play
We played chapter four, titled “The Forging of the Beast.” In this chapter we controlled six mice with the objective of discovering what dark, steampunky travesty Vanestra was building in the Forge. We would need to battle through the alchemist chamber, then split into two groups and take different paths to the Forge. Since there are two separate groups, only one group of three (instead of all mice) would need to be captured to lose the chapter.
The battle in the alchemist chamber was simple, and our six mice easily vanquished the five roaches that threatened us. But then it was time to split up. Lyndsey took Prince Collin the Leader and Warrior, Maginos the Mystic, and Lily the Archer into the King’s Chambers. I took Nez the Warrior and Tinkerer, Tilda the Healer, and Filch the Scamp down into the Crystal Tunnels.
My party made easy work of the rats in the tunnels. Filch has a high movement stat – this became useful in quickly crossing each tile and defeating the minions that would otherwise take a few turns to reach. Nez focused on more of the nearby rats, smashing them with his hammer. Tilda did some damage herself, but stayed nearby Nez to offer any healing as necessary.
Lyndsey had the tougher battles lined up, for sure. We all know she’s better than me, so she was the obvious choice to head through the more grueling encounters. In the King’s Chamber she encountered a spider. Her mice destroyed the spider, but not before Colin was poisoned. Poison wounds can’t be healed normally, and require special items or spells which – you guessed it – we didn’t have.
Upon the defeat of the spider, a second spider spawned. Colin retreated and instead allowed the ranged attacks of Maginos and Lily to take their toll. It took longer for those strikes to land significant damage, and the spider collected some cheese in both its attack and defense rolls. It didn’t help that the minions my party now faced in the Sewer Drain Pipe were also collecting cheese.
By the time Lyndsey made it to the King’s Tunnels (a cave divided into three sections by a river), we were one cheese away from our first surge. The encounter wasn’t difficult, only five roaches. With her ranged mice, Lyndsey would be able to stay away for the most part and destroy the roaches. Except that on the very first roach’s very first defense roll, it rolled a cheese, which then provided a surge of two rats. Collin made his way across the river in hopes of drawing the rats closer to him.
As the encounter continued, the minions collected cheese at a tremendous rate – since the minions fighting both parties on both tiles contributed to the minion cheese wheel. It wouldn’t have been so bad if my party dealt with the surges. But Lyndsey’s minions got the cheese that initiated the next surge. And the next one. And the next one.
Even with most of the roaches defeated, the surges were replacing rats as quickly as Lyndsey’s party could vanquish them. Lily tried to cross the river to get closer to Collin’s protection, but got stuck trying to get out of the water. She got swept away by the current and was captured. Maginos fell to three consecutive attacks by the rats. Now by himself, and surrounded by six rats, Collin was done for. He was able to block all three of the attacks from the rest of the rats in that turn – an impressive showing of the luck only Lyndsey seems to have. Collin even defeated a rat on his next turn. But when faced with five consecutive strikes from the rats, eventually Lyndsey’s luck gave away, and the last of her party had fallen.
Mice and Mystics is my favorite game right now. Not one of my favorites, my absolute favorite. The story is great, the miniatures are awesome (I’m still trying to get around to painting them), and it is a great RPG to introduce to someone like Lyndsey who would never sit down to play a game like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. Perhaps the coolest thing is a single player can sit down and play the campaign solo (which I might start doing instead of playing with my wife).
There are some negatives, but they aren’t glaring. Luck might be a bit too much of a factor, as every significant action relies on dice rolls. However, there are plenty of ways a thought out strategy could increase your odds of success. Normally I would say it’s a negative when a game takes two hours to play, but with Mice and Mystics it’s not. We have been known to play three or four consecutive chapters (or replay a failed chapter three of four times) and kill an entire Saturday.
But I picked this game to hopefully ride Lyndsey’s coattails to victory and be able to write about winning for once in this article. Obviously, this didn’t happen. Perhaps it’s not that my wife always wins, but instead that I always lose – because in this case Lyndsey lost too. I floated the idea to her that maybe I had misnamed the title for this article. Her only reply was, “Honey, anytime you lose, it’s a win for me.”
Brian Shabbott is a 31 year old aspiring writer. Brian spends much of his time playing games with friends and family. Brian loves to compete and play games he loves - but he never wins against his wife! Brian is looking forward to introducing himself as a writer and producer for you!
Follow Brian on Twitter @heyshabbott
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