A new twist on an modern classic.
So you've been murdered... again
Mysterium Park is an asymmetrical cooperative board game. Following in the footsteps of it's predecessor Mysterium, you've been horrifically murdered, again. And while you wail around in the afterlife trying to exact revenge on your killer, the rest of the table makes a light-hearted game out of it.
This should sound familiar, however, a lot has changed.
For example, set up is no longer a labour intensive card matching exercise. Instead, you now dump down a selection of 9 suspect cards, pick up the secret codex card and you're ready to start haunting. The codex card tells you which player needs to guess which card.
If you've ever played Codenames, you'll be familiar.
From there, you give each player a number of vision cards. They then need to put their psychic powers to work, and have a guess at what you're trying to tell them. To move to the second round, where the psychics will narrow down where you were murdered, all of them need to correctly guess their suspect. Otherwise, they're stuck hunting down the culprit as the round tracker moves closer and closer to the end.
After another successful séance on the locations it's on to the final guess. Get that right, and the table wins!
You're still dead though.
Mysterium vs Mysterium Park
Smaller, better and more streamlined should be the headline here.
Mysterium Park removes a lot of the issues stopping Mysterium from getting to the table. Namely the setup. But also the awful second guessing mechanic. Moving the psychic's focus from being a tad antagonistic, to full on cooperation.
It's also more difficult.
Not only because there are now more suspects and locations to guess each round. But also because of the pictures used. In Mysterium it feels like they gave the artist carte blanche to draw whatever they wanted. This time around, they've put thought into how pictures affect gameplay. A good example of this, is one character who's most prominent feature is a white painted face. However, there's another character with a white Santa Claus beard, and another who's skin is the colour of porcelain. As the ghost, you can no longer get away with simple clues such as white card, white face. Instead you need to connect with the meaning and theme behind the cards.
This difficulty in differentiation was a point of frustration for some in our group, but I thought it was fantastic. It pushes you to get creative as the ghost. Which is where the magic happens in these picture association games. It's all well and good to look at a red card and agree it's red, it's something else entirely to connect with someone on that abstract level.
With all this streamlining, you lose Mysterium's thematic edge. The longer play time, the ghost player behind the screen, and the overall slower pace of the original, all feed into the theme and spookiness of Mysterium. Making it prime for the Halloween season and candlelit board gaming. Whereas Mysterium Park trades this post-death experience for a smaller playtime and family fun.
With it being a shorter experience, you're able to play it a few times in the same amount of time you'd play one game of the original. Allowing you to swap ghosts quicker so everyone can experience the highs and lows of living life as a ghost.
The game I didn't know I wanted
There hasn't been a lot of press around Mysterium Park, in fact if I wasn't such a fan and didn't dig into the comments on Board Game Geek I probably wouldn't have picked it up.
And what a shame that would have been.
Mysterium Park has reinvigorated my love for this series. Taking all the things I loved about the original game and distilling it into a portable, 20-30minute, fun family game. What I didn't realise sooner, and what I hope I impressed upon you in this review, is this is no longer the same game. It is more of a filler game than one to plan a night around. Which is exactly the change Mysterium needed. As while I'll miss Halloween night feel, there is nothing stopping me from pulling this one off the shelf again and again.
Well, maybe one thing.
If there's one downside to Mysterium Park I've yet to mention, it's the lack of content. The original had two expansions to flesh everything out, and give you more options than you'll ever need. Mysterium Park doesn't need to go to the same level, but it does need a bit extra, as I found after my 10th play or so, we were using the same or similar clues.
However, it's still my favourite way to play this awesome game, and I'm hoping at some point they release an official conversion kit for the original, and its' expansions.
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