Mysterium is Clue in a Haunted House

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The eerie box art for Mysterium. Image source:
For the past week, I've been splitting my game time between my PC and a particular board game we picked up on a whim from our local game store. Mysterium, developed by IGames and published by Libellud, is a beautifully illustrated, cooperative game for up to 7 players. One player is the ghost of a person murdered long ago on the grounds of the manor and the other players are psychics attempting to unravel the mystery of the spirit's untimely demise. With time limited and multiple suspects, everyone must work together to reveal the true sequence of events before the clock strikes 8.

To achieve this goal, the ghost communicates with each psychic through vision cards. Each psychic uses the visions to attempt to identify a different suspect at the beginning of the game. As play progresses, the psychics will be given different cards that will indicate a location and finally a weapon. Once all psychics have correctly collected their evidence into sets, they experience a shared vision that points them to one of those sets. If a majority of the psychics vote for the correct set, the game is won. If they fail to identify the killer and the details of the murder, the game is lost.

The incredible art for Mysterium immediately drew us to it. Every one of the cards, the box art and even the tokens are gorgeously designed. Set in 1922, every inch of the game oozes with creepy atmosphere. We've played it almost every day since we picked it up and have developed a hunger for period horror films. Sadly, the cards are just as delicate as they are beautiful. The edges fray easily and should be handled carefully to ensure the game has a long life.

A basic look at the game's setup: Image source:
Each of our games lasted about an hour, including setup. There is a fair amount of shuffling and dealing to do when setting up the game but with a fairly intuitive layout, the first setup is the only one we found took long at all. Mysterium is largely a card game and doesn't use a board at all. As such, we're able to tailor the game to our playspace a little more and rearrange however it best suits the group.

When playing as a psychic, working out the meanings of the visions together is a lot of fun. The vision cards are these weird, abstract watercolors full of all kinds of imagery. Tying a picture of a chimney sweep flying over a city on a bicycle to a particular suspect isn't easy and sometimes we end up fixating on the tiniest details that pull us in entirely the wrong direction. Luckily, if the group happens to be wrong, the ghost communicates another vision to further clarify the mystery. When that next card is a crowned frog surrounded by thorny archways though...

Three of the stunning vision cards. Image source:
I have the most fun playing as the ghost. There is a huge deck of vision cards, but you only have a hand of seven cards at any given time. Trying to predict what someone might see in a given card is a real exercise in how well you know them. There are moments when I've had to give someone a card but didn't have a single card in my hand that seems to fit what I was trying to tell them. In those moments I've found the most tangential reasons for giving out a card with nary a hope that they'll follow my twisted logic. Hearing the psychics completely misinterpret visions is hilarious. In one game, our ghost handed out a vision card to indicate a pool, but the whole group immediately saw a fried egg instead.

Mysterium has earned a place alongside Clue in our cabinet of board games. It is a darkly entertaining game that sharpens players' intuition and bring people together to solve a supernatural mystery. With so many little touches to enhance the atmosphere of the game, it is easy to get lost in the illusion. There is even has a soundtrack available on their website to use while playing the game. Intuitive and immensely replayable, Mysterium is flexible enough to accommodate 2-7 players in any variety of spaces and is accessible enough for our seven year old to understand. It is a rare thing to find a game so polished.

[UPDATE]: Corrected information regarding the developers of Mysterium. IGAMES developed the game, Libellud published the version we played.