Gen Con is the biggest annual board gaming convention, where publishers like Asmodee, Fantasy Flight Games, AEG, Plaid Hat Games and many more showcase both their new and upcoming releases.
Gen Con 2016 certainly did not disappoint. There are so many great titles this year, that I can easily name more than 10 titles that I am looking forward to play. There are sequels to past hit games, such as Dead of Winter: The Long Night. There are games that are totally refreshing with no other board game like it, such as Captain Sonar. Then there are games that are just gorgeous, such as the game that we are going to review today, Mystic Vale.
Excerpt of game: Mystic Vale is a card crafting game, where you take on the role of a clan of druids attempting to cleanse the curse that has been placed upon the valley of life. Each turn, you play cards into your field to gain powerful advancements and useful vale cards. Along the way, you will gain victory points and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
I am a sucker for wonderfully illustrated art, so when I first saw the art of Mystic Vale on the box itself, it had already left me a positive impression. Inside the box, you will find 4 different clans of druids, semi transparent cards known as advancements, Vale cards, tokens and card sleeves.
Though there are 4 different clans of cards, I was disappointed to find out that they serve no purpose as they all had the same basic action cards. Apparently, they just serve to distinguish Player 1, Player 2 and so on.
If you have played card drafting games such as Dominion or resource drafting game such as Splendor, you will find that Mystic Vale is vaguely similar to those games. There would be a pool of cards in the middle of the table, with advancements which gives you more mana or resources, and Vale cards which are powerful permanent effect cards that could only be bought with resources.
A player’s turn would go like this: he/she will keep flipping open cards till you see 3 Decay (red) symbols. Why not 4? Because when you see the 4th red symbol, it means that you have just decayed the land and your turn ends.
The blue symbols on your left though are good. They are your Mana and you generally want to get as much as possible, in order to buy the higher tiered advancement cards.
As simple as this all sounds, sometimes you would just be tempted to push your luck a little more. Sometimes, you just need that extra 1 Mana to purchase cards such as Gaia’s Chosen, which gives you a ton of points and is often the game-decider for us or even The Calming Wind, which lets you peek at the next card in your deck and you decide if you want to play it or discard it.
Push your luck too far though and you will find yourself at the merciless laughter of all other players as they praise you sarcastically on your glorious noob move.
Advancement cards are resources that all players will fight for in the middle of the table and they are truly unique. This is where Mystic Vale truly shines too as a Card-Crafting game. Each turn, with enough Mana, you can pay for the cost of these cards (denoted at the top right corner) and choose which card you would like to slot them into.
I cannot tell you how much I love this mechanic as not only are you fighting to calculate the most efficient purchase with your existing Mana, you are figuring out too if the cards on hand has slots for the advancements. If you are unable to provide an open slot for your advancement, you just wasted your Mana and again, you deserve to be praised sarcastically by the rest of the table.
The next beautiful thing (literally) about Mystic Vale are the Vale cards. The art on these cards are just so amazing that you can print them out on a poster and hang it on your room. The next thing you know is that your friends would be paying you thousands of dollars just to buy that poster off your wall.
As easy as it is to get tons of mana and purchase every available tier-3 advancement cards, if you do not purchase Vale cards, you will find yourself losing most of the time at the end of the game. Some of these cards give points at the end, some of these cards has abilities that are insane and some of these cards will just save your ass again and again.
The game ends when all Victory Points have been taken and the last player of that round has taken his/her turn. Then, it is just a matter of calculating the points on each player’s cards. Players who hate Math would hate this stage.
A common thing we missed out are cards that give you Victory Points based on how many armor symbols there are on the card itself. Also, do not miss out on the points on your Vale cards. They potentially turn the game in your favor.
1 word. Mystical. I know it is cheesy to say this but hear me out. As one of the most talked about games during Gen Con, it is truly an unique experience playing Mystic Vale.
The transparent Advancement cards are a beauty and trust me, you will never get tired of inserting these plastic cards into your basic cards. You will never get tired from playing combo after combo of cards that just cancel out the Decay effect (Yes, there is a way to do it). And you will never get tired of the beautiful Vale.. Ok. You should know where I am going with this by now.
Though.. the only minor complaint that I can think of for myself and future players like yourselves, is the end game. Yes, counting can be tricky at times but the pain is when you have to remove all Advancement cards from the sleeves in order to reset the game. It is minor though, as most of your friends will kindly help you to remove them as they all cry in unison, “Let’s go again!”
You will love this if you…
- Love to spend money to buy better things that will give you more money
- Appreciate art
- Laugh at your friends who are not thinkers
TBG Rating: 8/10
P.S. In case you do not know till now, John D. Clair, the creator, might be a newcomer to the board gaming scene, but it seems that he already has something beautiful going on here as AEG are planning to release more games in the future that contain this card-crafting mechanic.