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Why is Mysterium So Popular?

Mysterium is an incredibly popular game. Over the past few years we have seen it gain more prominence in the gaming world, gaining more and more momentum until it can well and truly be called a classic of the modern gaming age. Thinking about it recently, Mysterium offers something for every kind of gamer, and so today I thought we would look at a few of those in more detail. It has become popular for good reason – and so, today we’re going to ask a fundamental question: What is it that makes Mysterium what it is?

Needless to say, we are fans of Mysterium in this household. It was one of the first big box games we bought, and to this day we break it out regularly. There was a time when it was one of two or three go to games. Our reasons for loving it though, I think, go beyond our own personal preference, and it is this we will be looking at today.

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Mysterium

Mysterium’s Theme

One of the popular sentences we have come to associate with Mysterium is: “it’s like Cluedo if Cluedo was good.”

Okay, so that may seem a bit harsh on Clue/Cluedo, and there is no doubt that Clue/do has an audience out there who enjoy it and love it for what it is – however, there is also no doubt that parallels can be drawn between the two games. Mysterium is like Clue in a few ways, one of which is a murder mystery as a theme.

Murder mysteries have been popular for over 100 years (a quick search suggests Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White as the pinnacle of the genre). Cluedo came out in 1948 and achieved international success before the mid-1980s. Murder mystery has since become a staple of the gaming world, with all kinds of games now being on the market. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, and Chronicles of Crime are but a few.

What is more, Mysterium takes that theme and puts a twist on it. All of the aforementioned games have you playing as detectives, but not Mysterium. Instead, Mysterium has you playing as a group of mediums. It is your job to solve the murder – not by looking for clues or interviewing people, but by communing with the ghost of the deceased. This is a really cool twist, and one that is both similar to a theme we know, but different enough to stand out, undoubtedly contributing to Mysterium’s success.

Mysterium set up - round two

Mysterium board round two.

Mysterium’s Accessibility

Next on the list of things that could be contributing to Mysterium’s popularity is how accessible the game is. By this – we are mainly talking about two things. Firstly, we are talking about how easy the game is to pick up. Secondly, we are talking about the player count.

For all intents and purposes, for the sake of learning the base game, Mysterium is a very simple game. There are a few nuances, but they are few and far enough between that they never become a problem. Instead, Mysterium can be picked up by any type of gamer – from relatively hardcore to those brand new to the gaming scene.

One of the reasons for this is that the challenge level can be modified accordingly, depending on the group playing. It should never be underestimated how much a game like Mysterium doesn’t rely on the actual mechanics of the game to create a connection between the players. Instead, it relies on the players using a meta that already exists, and creating a meta where it doesn’t. Players need to work together to create the best experience for all involved.

Mysterium is a versatile game, both in the rules sense (as we kind of explored above) but it is also versatile in regards to the actual player count. It can be hard finding games that go up past 6 players, and so having Mysterium (which goes up to 7) is incredibly valuable. It is only one additional player, but that one player can be the difference between being able to play it on a gaming evening and not being able to play it at all.

We often find it hard, as a group, finding a game for enough people. Mysterium is one of the games that can fit that bill, as well as offering a slightly different gaming experience to a lot of other games on the market.

Mysterium Orb and Vote

Mysterium Orb and Vote

Cooperative and Competitive Gameplay

There are very few games that support both cooperative and competitive gameplay. New Angeles and Takenoko are two; however, aside from that they become hard to name. Mysterium is a game that is split into two parts. The first of these is both cooperative and competitive, and can swing one way or the other depending on how players want to play. The second part is purely competitive.

So, what does this mean?

In Mysterium the goal of each player is to find the murderer, location, and weapon that have been assigned to them by the ghost, who is communicating with them via dream cards. Each player needs to use their dreams to locate the pieces of the puzzle they believe to be theirs, but in order to do that players can work together. There are often discussions around the table, looking at everyone’s clues in order to figure out whose is whose.

Then, once everyone has their three clues (or once the 7th round is reached), the second phase of the game starts. During that second phase, everyone lays their murderers, locations, and weapons out, and the ghost gives dreams out for the whole group. At this point, it is every medium for themselves. This dual nature to the game, this ability for both competitive and cooperative play, allowing Mysterium to appeal to a broad range of players.

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Round 2

The Insanely Amazing Art

Now we come onto one of the most subjective reasons Mysterium is popular and one that far simpler and far more tactile. Mysterium, as a game, has amazing, incredible, bazaar, and beautiful artwork.

Throughout the game, players will get handed a series of dream cards from the ghost. Those dream cards are completely open to interpretation and are just fantastic in nature. They are weird and they are wonderful, and definitely help with some of the appeal of the game.

Of course, it isn’t just the artwork of the dreams either. The rooms and murderer cards in particular have incredible amounts of detail hidden within them. Each piece has all kinds of angles that can be taken from it – whether it is a pantry or a baker. There is an impeccable eye for detail that is second to none.

What makes it really clever is that the detail is not without reason. What it allows for is for tiny minutia to be taken out of the picture and used as connecting clues with the dreams.

Talking about them does not do them much justice. Let’s just look at a few examples and you’ll see exactly what I mean. These are from a mixture of the base game and the Hidden Signs expansion.

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Examples

So, there we have it – four core reasons why Mysterium is incredibly popular. When looking at those reasons it is easy to see why it has become so famed. It is fantastic and enjoyable, as well as suited for every kind of gamer.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy Mysterium? What do you think makes it stand out? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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