It’s Halloween night. A small team of eccentric paranormal investigators has descended upon Warwick Manor in an attempt to put to rest a hundred year old murder case! The current curator of the estate claims the ghost of the murdered person still haunts the premises. Perhaps the investigators can commune with the spirit!?! If so, maybe the mystery of Warwick Mansion can finally be solved. The investigators are hoping the ghost can send them visions that will allow them to piece together clues and solve this ghastly crime once and for all.
“Hand me my crystal ball,” Conrad MacDowell barks at his assistant. “Ah, Yes. The spirit…it SPEAKS to me!”
He closes his eyes and begins to rhythmically rub his temples with his forefingers. The rest of the investigators wait with baited breath to see if Conrad will, in fact, receive a vision from beyond the veil.
“Yes!” shouts Conrad. “I see…I see something blurry and gray.” The temple rubbing has ceased and Conrad now sits at the table with both hands aimed at his forehead like twin six shooters.
“I see it!” he yelps with a haggard guffaw. “It’s a…a…tiny rodent. A mouse…NO a RAT! A cartoon rat! I believe this vermin is perched on a delicious wedge of cheese. Gruyere perhaps?”
The room fall silent as Conrad opens his eyes for the first time in what seems like hours.
“My vision was most definitely a rat, sitting on some cheese,” he calmly explains. “And I think it was wearing a fancy headdress,” he exhales.
The chamber is completely silent. The rest of the investigators are just eyeballing one another. Finally, the great Alma Salvador speaks up. “Are you fucking mad?” she exclaims. “What on EARTH are you on about?”
Alphonse Belcour deadpans Conrad right in his bespectacled brown eyes and asks, “My friend, Conrad, have you been hitting the absinthe again? Did a little green fairy tell you this?”
Look at all these potential dreams! What will they mean in your games?
How it Plays
Mysterium is itself a curiosity. It’s not quite a party game and it’s not quite a serious hobby game either. Like a lost soul it sort of floats in the area between. The game does lean more towards a silly party game, but labeling it as such is doing it a huge disservice. Let’s take a look at a typical round shall we?
As the investigators, you’re sitting on one end of the table. Splayed out before you are a menagerie of cards that make up suspects, locations, and murder weapons. Your job is to receive visions from the ghost player and try to deduce just where the hell they’re trying to guide you. Maybe the aforementioned “Rat and Cheese” dream card is the ghost trying to tell you to focus on the Chef. You’ll hem and haw and casually discuss with the other investigators on how to interpret the dream. Eventually, you’ll place your colored crystal ball on a single card. This goes on and on until all the investigators have received proper ghostly visions.
Playing as a paranormal investigator is a breezy, nonchalant affair. You casually sip at your drink and laugh at someone’s joke while taking their dream advice under consideration. It’s half trusting the ol’ gut and half trusting that someone else at the table might be better at interpreting the ghost’s messages. You’ll very much enjoy your time as a paranormal investigator.
One of these bastards MURDERED you!
Perched on the opposite end of the table is the player who is dead; the ghost. They just quietly sit there handing out cards all the while listening to the investigators prattle on about what the visions mean. The million dollar idea at play is that this person is DEAD. They can’t speak. They can’t react. They can’t laugh. Their tormented existence is singular and lonely. It’s also INFURIATING. Yes, of course the “Rat and Cheese” card means the Chef is the suspect, but dammit it all to hell, the yellow player has talked you into thinking it means the Magician. If you could reach over your ghostly DM screen and RING the fucking life out of that smug bastard’s neck with your incorporeal hands YOU WOULD! Curse this foul existence and curse these nincompoops investigating your death!
Mysterium is a riot from start to finish. The absolute best part is the minute it ends and the ghost player ERUPTS at all the players like a madman trying to rope you into his personal conspiracy theory. Suddenly, everything fits together and becomes crystal clear, but it’s too late because you’ve already failed. You see, Mysterium is a 100% cooperative experience. Either the investigators figure out the true culprit of the crime or the murder goes unsolved and NOBODY wins.
Now, there are tons of cooperative games out there, but few of them offer an experience quite like Mysterium. It’s a game that hinges its entire experience on communication. The investigators are speaking freely, trying to untangle the ghost’s incoherent and frankly, shitty dreams. Meanwhile, the ghost is trying to use these absurdly and abstractly drawn dream cards to skillfully guide you towards real life objects. If you think this is an easy task, next time you order a sandwich try handing the cashier abstracted pictures of art instead of talking. You might really be hankering for a mozzarella, tomato, basil, and pesto wrap. When they hand you a plate of spaghetti you can’t really be surprised at their ineptitude.
It’s the dream cards which are so damn sinister and evil that they make this game absolutely perfect. Every single one is jam PACKED with never-ending details like a giant Dagwood sandwich. You might focus on the suit of armor prominently featured on the card, but some other bastard might point out a tiny little book in the background that sends you hilariously off course. Trust me, this always happens as an investigator has already properly and correctly interpreted the vision. Yet the ghost just sits there, literally SCREAMING on the inside. It’s a good thing they’re already dead.
Such a lavish looking game when it’s all set up!
Mysterium is an absolute MUST play with your friends around Halloween. It plays best with a crowd and people who really get into it. Put some cobwebs on the Ghost’s screen, uncork some red wine, light some candles, and have a silly, faux seance. Unlike many games with serious rulesets that cause furrowed brows and lead to skillful play, Mysterium has something more meaningful hidden under its box-lid. It’s made of magic…the stuff that stokes a fire of joyous, imaginative glee out of everyone at the table. Ever since the game cast its spell on me a few years ago I’ve become enamored with it. This is truly a one of kind, special game. Let it work its magic on you and your friends this Halloween season.