Monday, January 13, 2014

Preview of the Downwood Tales Expansion for Mice and Mystics *Contains Spoilers*


 
At Nerd Night I was given the chance to help playtest Downwood Tales which will be the next expansion for Mice and Mystics. I know what you’re thinking, pics or it didn’t happen. Since I don’t have any pictures of what transpired, just imagine it. Next time I will remember not to be engrossed in the game and get proof. If you have not heard of Mice and Mystics yet, please let me know what rock you can be found under and I will bring my copy for a demo. Short version: Mice and Mystics is a dungeon crawl that is simple enough to be kid friendly, but it also has a story that is deep enough for adults. Don’t let the cute mice fool you, there’s substance here.

It was designed by Jerry Hawthorne, sculpted by Chad Hoverter, and produced by PlaidHat Games. I’ll review the base game later, but what you want is a look into what is coming. They are calling this a “big box expansion”, which I’m translating as basically getting a full sized game. The Heart of Glorm gave you a couple of miniatures, some equipment, and a really fun story about the semi to fully undead. Downwood Tales gives you multiple playable characters, new villians, new minions, tiles, a ton of new mechanics, equipment, and story arcs. I don’t want to spoil everything, but here are some takeaways.

 What I’m most excited about: The tree overlay on the tiles. It basically takes all of the outdoor tiles and turns them into double tiles. Triple if you count the caves below them. Let me explain: If you are standing on top of a tree, it is no different than if you are in the room of a dungeon. There are minons to fight and you're crossing above the forest floor. But the minions are becoming too much and you need to escape. If your party jumps on a leaf, then it will float to the forest floor. Not that the floor is any more friendly, but the minions are different and sometimes less dangerous. Then again, the wind may catch your leaf and blow it to a place that you don't really want to go.
What I was most surprised by: The story arcs. In hindsight it makes sense. Why have the story end because you failed a quest. I mean sure in our adventuring mind we’re all Level 20 Demon Knights with the Sword of Infinite Crushitude, but in a proper story sometimes your hero loses. Sometimes they have to play catch up. I think it’s a really cool concept and I was pleasantly surprised as it had never crossed my mind for this game.

Jakobe, the Gecko Ranger
Other Things to look forward to: One of the new characters is a gecko named Jakobe and he’s not your run-of-the-mill gecko who waxes long about the virtues of a certain car insurance company. No, he’s a smooth operator, a ranger of the forest, a lizard for hire who is leading our heroes through some of the greatest dangers they will ever face. Three words, Pine Needle Darts. Put them in the gecko’s sucker-padded feet and watch the carnage.

The story: What is Mice and Mystics without an engrossing story that sucks you in for an afternoon of dungeon exploring? My group went through the starter quest where our party was attempting to find the wilderness outpost. We were set upon by all manner of nasty things including weasels, centipedes, even a bullfrog. Our party almost failed our quest, but on the last page overcame the final battle that I will not detail and then were sent to the sheriff for starting a fight in town.

I do not want to overhype this expansion, but I do want to give it the hype that it deserves. If you like Mice and Mystics, why wouldn’t you want to check this out? If you have not played the game yet, find someone who is demoing or find my beard at Nerd Night. I’m always happy to play. I’ll post a review in the next couple of weeks of the base game and the Glorm expansion, both of which are worthy of some space on everyone’s shelves.

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Nathan Hough is a gaming junkie who lives to teach games. He may be partial to Plaid Hat Products but is just as happy in a game of Battlestar Galactica or 7 Wonders. You can find him on Twitter at @natesepicbeard or demoing Plaid Hat games at his Friendly Local Game Store.

Read Jerry's and Chad's take on DFW Nerd Night and community-building at the PHG website.