05th Nov2020

‘Mysterium Park’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

In the original Mysterium (which I’ve never played) one player acts as a ghost, whilst the others take on the roles of paranormal investigators who must solve the mystery of how the ghost died. To do this, they’ll decipher various clues and messages left by the ghost, and this mechanic is expanded upon through at least a couple of expansions. In the subject of today’s review for Mysterium Park, the intention is to strip back this formula to its most basic form by converting an already simple game into an ultra-streamlined one.

In Mysterium Park the core concept is the same. One player is the ghost and everyone else will investigate their murder. The players will all act cooperatively, and the investigators must identify the murderer before the end of the sixth round of play, or else everyone loses. This may go without saying, but the ghost can’t actually communicate with the other players openly, and the way this is handled (through the use of vision cards) is effectively the core mechanic that makes the game fun (or not, depending on your perspective.)

Thanks to its streamlined nature, setup in Mysterium Park is a doddle, as is learning the rules. The player acting as the ghost (usually the owner of the game initially) will draw three random plot cards from a sizeable deck. They will add one of these into a plastic stand in front of them and place the other two face down. They will then draw nine character cards and place them into the spaces on the board, and then draw seven vision cards to form their starting hand. Each player will take their own “crystal ball” miniature, as well as an innocence token.

With the round tracker placed against the first round and three ticket tokens placed near to the ghost (allowing them to discard and redraw their vision cards if they wish) the game is ready to begin. At this point, the ghost player will review their plot card, which will show on it a map of the nine spaces on the board (occupied by the character cards) and will always feature three blank spots, a spot for each of up to five investigators (marked by the same colours as their crystal balls) and one witness space.

The objective of this first round is for the ghost to hand out any number of vision cards to each player in order for them to correctly identify which character on the board matches the space highlighted for their specific colour on the ghost’s plot card. To do this, the ghost will choose vision cards that bear some resemblance or clue to the card in question, when handing cards out to each player. For example, if the blue player needs to identify the character in the top left space, and that character happens to be a clown, then the vision cards that the ghost might give that player would be those that look like, or remind them of the clown, or clowns in general.

Once all the investigating players have placed their crystal balls onto characters that they think are correct based on the visions they were given, the ghost will reveal who has guessed correctly. Those characters are “cleared” and receive innocent tokens, and those players must now sit out any further rounds until all players have identified their characters. If any player chooses the witness space, then that character is cleared and ALL players may choose new placements for their guesses. In most cases, at least one player will guess incorrectly, and at this point the round marker moves on and the process is repeated, with the ghost handing out more vision cards that are added to the ones the player(s) already have.

This process continues until either all players have identified their characters correctly (bearing in mind that in games with less than the maximum five investigators, any non-player locations are ignored) or the maximum number of rounds (six) is reached. It will usually take two or three rounds for all the players to guess their characters, and anyone who does so faster than that may find that they are sitting around for a round or two. Assuming there are still rounds left when all characters are identified, then the process (basically) will be repeated for location cards.

Thematically, having been through the characters and the locations around the titular park, the ghost will have collected three characters and three locations (the ones that have no symbol on the plot card) to use in the final round. During this round, a combination of location and character will be placed into the three numbered columns on the board. The players now have one final round to make a deduction (again using vision cards) about where exactly the murder took place, and who committed the crime. If they manage this, then everyone, including the ghost, wins.

First and foremost, Mysterium Park meets the intended brief of providing a simple, easy to learn and quick to play game for up to six players, and it lasts no more than about half an hour per game. I can’t compare this directly to Mysterium (because as I mentioned, I’ve not played it) but based on what I’ve read, it’s clear that the systems in Mysterium Park are fewer, and those that are here are very straightforward and dare I say it – basic. This, for me, is quite entry-level deduction, and the fact that everyone is working cooperatively (and investigators can speak to each other) makes it ideal for players of all ages and abilities.

The cost of Mysterium Park is also something to bear in mind, given that it’s roughly half the price of the original. This low price, combined with the small box and the simpler gameplay makes me feel like this game is being setup as an ideal Christmas stocking filler, and it certainly seems to fit that bill. On the downside, I think more experience or core gamers will feel that Mysterium Park is a little too simple, even as filler and I doubt anyone will enjoy the fact that sometimes, they are simply going to have to sit out for 5-10 minutes if they guess correctly early, and others repeatedly fail.

All of that said and despite me considering myself a core gamer, Mysterium Park is in my keep pile, simply because with kids reaching the kind of age where social deduction is possible, this is an ideal choice to help them get into bigger and more complex games. This is helped massively by the small box footprint and I don’t think anyone could argue about the production here. There are lots of cards of each kind, and the artwork across all of them is appealing, unique and extremely well done. Even better is the fact that most of the “important” cards are tarot-sized, making them even nicer to look at.

Overall, Mysterium Park is a decent addition to any collection, but an excellent addition to a family game library. It is cheap, attractive, simple to learn and fast to play, and for the most part it feels fairly rewarding. It never comes off the rails completely, but it can leave one or two players slightly less involved in a very mixed audience, although those players will still be able to help their teammates.

***½  3.5/5

Mysterium Park is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.


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