What would Christmas be without tiny anthropomorphic mice trying to save the kingdom from the clutches of an evil changeling queen?
Mice & Mystics is the original Jerry Hawthorne game, at this point I’ve played Stuffed Fables to completion, I’ve nearly finished Comanauts, I’m a fan of Jerry’s stories, but I’m not always a fan of his designs. Mice & Mystics is most easily described as “my first D&D”. It takes all those tropes from the world of roleplaying and ports them into a fantastical world, think Redwall, with talking mice and a troublesome cat. Taking on the roles of Collin, Tilda, Nez or Maginos you fight your way through a rat infested castle, dodging attacks from Old Crow or Brodie the Cat as you attempt to defeat the evil sorceress Vanestra and save the kingdom.
It’s a great story that unfortunately bogs down in mechanics a little more often than it should. Mice & Mystics uses a very simple system, on your turn you can move and take 1 action. So far so good. However things become more complicated when you take a look at the scenarios. Each tile introduces new rules, which adds to the thematics but also breaks up the flow of the game. In Jerry’s later titles you have the same thing, each new page of the story book brings new mechanics that drastically alter play, but because you are playing in the book the rules are right there on the page.
As well as scenario specific rules the game also has a series of exciting item cards, some of which instead of listing what they do on the card direct you to read rulebook entries. Items, like the fork, which can be used to launch mice across the map but can also be combined with the grape to make a catapult, end up having more rules text than is strictly necessary and could have been simplified and printed on the cards! At the end of the day it’s all rules minutiae but this is a great title that should get a second edition with streamlined rules and the Storybook system that it would eventually inspire.
Despite its rough edges Mice & Mystics is a great story, packed with cool ideas and fun things to do, but it does drag out a little too long and requires a little too much book keeping and rules lawyering. The granddaddy of the storybook games is beginning to show its age, but it is still a fun, family friendly romp and it's hella cute!
On the First Day of Christmas, Santa gave to me, a Prince who turned into a mouse!