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The basic setup

A few weeks ago, I was exposed to the board game known as “Mysterium” for the first time. The friend that introduced it to me described it as: “the most fun you will have at being frustrated with your friends.”

He was not kidding.

He also unintentionally undersold just how much fun this game can be.

This past Saturday, me, him, and 5 others – along with thousands of others throughout the country – celebrated “International Tabletop Day”, a day where board games, card games, and nearly every form of game played on a table (or tables, counters, even floors) is encouraged and celebrated. This year, he (the friend) also was streaming a 24-hour, game-playing marathon from Geek and Sundry (their website). Geek and Sundry’s staff, along with many celebrity game players (including Wil Wheaton and former “Mythbuster” Grant Imahara), spent the 24-hours raising money for KaBoom!, a national non-profit dedicated to providing ways for kids to play, whether it’s by replacing playground equipment, building new playgrounds for neighborhoods that did not have one before, or anything in between. As of 12:30 AM Sunday morning, they have beaten their goal of $20,000 (they were somewhere about $21, 350) and were well on their way to their new benchmark of $30,000.

As for our small group, we spent about 6 1/2 hours playing, with various lineups of people, with “Mysterium” getting more than one play through.

“Mysterium” is set in a mansion where a murder has just taken place. All but 1 of the players are Psychics who have traveled there to find out killed the last player: the mansion’s Ghost.

The Psychics have 7 “hours” (rounds) to solve the murder, via clues given by the Ghost (who cannot speak).

The Ghost will start by laying out 3 sets of 6 cards, face-up, representing: 6 potential Suspects (such as The Soldier, The Policeman, or the Shopkeeper), 6 potential Places in (or near) the mansion where the murder occurred (such as The Kids’ Room, The Shed, or The Kitchen), and 6 potential Weapons (Typewriter, Hammer, or Straight Razor, for example). The Ghost (who has a border in front of them, so the other players can’t see its cards) matches up its own Suspect, Place, and Weapon cards to come up with 6 possible scenarios.

Once this is done, the Ghost draws, from a new deck, 7 very beautifully illustrated cards – “Visions”. Each Psychic will get one or 2 of the 7 Vision cards that represent the Suspect in each of their scenarios…. although it will likely not be a direct representation: a card with a knight and a sword could be the closest the Ghost could get to saying “Policeman”. An hourglass is flipped and the Psychics try to decipher their Visions. Cooperation is strongly encouraged. At the end of the time, the players ask the Ghost if the Suspect they decided on is the one in their scenario; the Ghost knocks once for “no”, twice for “yes”. The Psychics keep their Vision cards if they were wrong about the suspect, discard them and move on to Places if they were right. The Ghost draws new Vision cards until it ends up with 7 cards, and repeats the process for Round 2.

At the end of Round 7, if the Psychics have not figured out their Scenarios, the game is over – the murder goes unsolved. Otherwise:

The Ghost picks one of the scenarios of the Psychics, and draws 3 new Vision cards: 1 for the Suspect, Place, and Weapon. The Psychics then have 1 chance to decide which Scenario is the correct one.

I guarantee you that, at the end of the game, you will have questions for whoever played the Ghost:

  • How did you decide that a Teddy Bear meant “The Hunter”??
  • Why was a hammock tied in to the Conservatory??
  • HOW DID YOU MISS THE BATHTUB BEING IN “THE BATHROOM”?!?
    (I may or may not have done this as the Ghost)

“Mysterium” is fairly simple to learn, especially if you watch the first segment being played. The Ghost is not as easy as you might think, but it arguably is the more fun (and frustrating) aspect: you get to listen to the reasonings of the other players, without being able to say anything to them. It is fun with 3 or 4 people but even better if you can get 6-8. By the end of the game, you and others won’t know whether to high-five or strangle each other! I highly recommend checking it out!