100 Play Challenge - Mysterium

I fell in love with Mysterium the first time I played it, and I've decided that it would be an interesting game for the 100 game challenge.

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Game #17 - 6/15/16 - A cord of three strands

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
Number of Players: 3
Ghost: Pierre
Psychics: Me, Ron
Difficulty: Hard
Win: Yes

Would definitely not have won if Ron didn't have some idea of how Pierre thinks. We breezed through this one, but I definitely couldn't have done it on my own. Go teamwork. Being a psychic is hard. And it makes me appreciate my friends a lot more when they're able to figure out what I'm trying to tell them when I'm playing the ghost.
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Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:41 pm
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Game #16 - 6/15/16 - And then there were three

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
Number of Players: 3
Ghost: Ron
Psychics: Me, Pierre
Difficulty: Hard
Win: Nope

The tricky thing about three player games is each of the players controls two psychics instead of just one. I've only played this kind of game as the ghost - turns out keeping track of what you've guessed for two different psychics isn't easy! We might have won if I hadn't lost track of what I'd guessed for each of my cards. Poor ghost.
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Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:32 pm
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Game #15 - 5/29/16 - Gaming with Strangers

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Gamex 2016, Los Angeles
Number of Players: 7
Ghost: Me
Psychics: Kyle, five complete strangers
Difficulty: Medium
Win: No. But so close!

We were doing pretty darn good until the very end. It took all seven hours for everyone to get to the final stage, but for a group of two friends and five strangers, most of whom had never played before, that wasn't really surprising. Especially on medium mode and with my crappy hands.


(Lots of disagreement over this one. Everyone had a good laugh over this. Especially me, because they were 100% correct to be skeptical. Neither of these were correct.)

In hour seven, the purple player switched his vote at the VERY last second... to the correct choice! I took my time telling him whether he was correct or not. It was a delicious moment of suspense.

I saved one of my three ravens for the final voting round but even that wasn't enough to save us, though. All but one of the options were voted for, and the one with two votes wasn't the correct option. But I wasn't very confident about the cards I had to give them, so I would have been pleasantly surprised if we'd managed to win.

One of the players asked me if this gets easier you play it regularly with the same people. I told him it does, depending on the players. But what I'm learning is that it also gets easier as the ghost even if you're playing with strangers. We were *so close*, and I think part of that was due to my willingness to give people clues that I knew probably wouldn't help them much, knowing that I'd probably get better cards in future rounds. The one thing I do need to rely on is that some players will be more in tune with the sort of guesswork necessary than others will be, and that they'll be able to guide the rest of the group. "Quarterbacking" isn't desirable in any game, but in this game not offering input to other players or taking others' input into account is just as bad.

One last comment. When Kyle and I showed up with my copy of the game, the GM who had arranged the event was just finishing up his 101 playthrough, and he was telling his players how much he hates the final stage in the English-language release. In the original Ukrainian edition, there is no clairvoyance track, and the final decision is collaborative like the rest of the game. I think it's a pretty common opinion that this way of doing things makes more sense since the rest of the game is cooperative - why all of a sudden have a secret voting round where you can't discuss ideas?

I disagree - I actually really like the secret final voting round. For a few reasons:

1. It fits with the gloomy, dark theme of the game. A bit of existentialism, if you will: in the end, we're all alone with our thoughts. Even psychics.

2. It dissuades excessive quarterbacking. Each player has to be paying attention for the whole game, because at the end you won't be able to lean on your teammates. Each person's ability to contribute is equally important in the last round.

3. It adds suspense. I love the moment where the players one by one have their votes revealed, and then after all that waiting for the ghost to reveal whether or not the plurality vote was correct.
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Mon May 30, 2016 10:13 pm
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Game #14 - Return to Normal, 5/18/16

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
Number of Players: 6
Ghost: Pierre
Psychics: Ron, Jon, Me, Glenn, Matt
Difficulty: Medium
Win: Yep

After our defeat at the hands of Dixit Mysterium, the rest of the group wanted to play again with the standard Mysterium vision cards. I was hesitant, since it was already 9:20 and I knew it would mean I wouldn't be getting to sleep until after 11. But in the end, the joy that my friends still wanted to play another game won out. This is what coffee is for, after all.

This time, Pierre was much more into his role as the ghost, occasionally moaning spookily from behind the screen and keeping his talking to a minimum otherwise. I think next time I need to bring him some chains.



This picture is of my favorite set of clues, given to Glenn over a series of two turns. The first one was vague and pretty confusing to everyone, and then when he revealed that his second clue was basically the same card, we all laughed. "Oh, that makes it all clear now!" Or, not. In the end I think it was the explorer because of the ladders, but it took trial-and-error in the end for us to finally figure that out.

Trial and error was the theme of the whole session, in fact. Lots of trial and error. In the end, though, we emerged victorious. The murder was committed by the doctor, in the attic, with the iron. 4/5 of us chose correctly. Pretty darn good.



"Wow, being the ghost is hard!" Pierre said when he relinquished his role. I said that I find it's much, much easier, and one of the guys pointed out, "Of course it's going to be easier, because you get to be always right!" .... Yeah. Apparently I'm not the only one who has noticed my control issues. shake

14 games down, only 86 to go!
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Fri May 20, 2016 5:22 am
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Game #13 - Dixit Mysterium, 5/18/16

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
Number of Players: 6
Ghost: Pierre
Psychics: Ron, Jon, Me, Glenn, Matt
Difficulty: Medium
Win: Nope

My friends are still deriding my for taking on this crazy challenge, but they're also getting into it, which is great and warms my heart. I almost considered not even bringing Mysterium this Wednesday so we could all get a break from it, but then I realized that the minute I did that, someone would actually want to play it and scold me for leaving it at home. So I decided to mix things up a bit and bring my Dixit cards as well to play some Dixit Mysterium. To my surprise, five other people were interested and Pierre called dibs on playing the ghost.



At first, it seemed like it might actually be too easy. After the Mysterium vision cards, the Dixit cards seemed surprisingly straightforward. My first clue consisted of a kid in overalls on a ladder, chiseling a dove into the clouds.

"Oh, duh, that's easy. My suspect is the stonemason. They literally both have a hammer and chisel on them."



What we didn't take into account was whether or not the ghost would be looking that closely at the cards he gave us. He was not. And my second clue didn't help much at all. I think in the end it was the mailman because both cards had skies in them?



I think these ended up being clues for the toy chest. I called it from the beginning, but it took at least four more cards before the psychic in question decided that the rest of us were right all along. Me, gloat? Nah.

My next sets of clues weren't much better. "Oh, hey, it's a pair of knights with a clock for a shield, fighting with the hands of the clock, with gears in the background. Obviously the murder weapon was the clock!!" (Nope. It ended up being the iron. Because metal.)



In the end, we decided that Dixit Mysterium was not to be trifled with, and that we had been much too cocky going into this game. We didn't even make it to the final voting round - though it was close and we racked up a ton of clairvoyance! It didn't help that we had a brand new Ghost who regretted that he agreed to using Dixit cards as soon as he drew his first hand. But all agreed this was a worthy challenge and we will try it again after we get some more experience. Perhaps after we finally win once or twice on Hard Mode.
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Fri May 20, 2016 5:02 am
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Game #12 - 5/12/16 - Seances are Serious Business

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Farmhouse
Number of Players: 4
Ghost: Me
Difficulty: Medium
Win: Yes!

My friend D. was in town from Nashville for the night, so a few of us had dinner with him, and then I informed him we were playing this game. The rest of us had already agreed to it but I forgot to tell him the the plan ahead of time. Oops. Fortunately he's a good sport, and a glass of wine and some jetlag probably helped with that too.

None of the psychics had played before, and all of them are amateur gamers who still think that Monopoly is a good game. (I have recently earned the title "Board Game Hipster" in that circle for having strong opinions about board games that I'm not afraid to voice and for saying things like "I'm not surprised you haven't heard of x game". Perhaps I should try to be a little less heavy-handed with my negative opinions, especially in certain groups....) To be fair, they also introduced me to Sentinels of the Multiverse. So there's hope for them yet.

ANYWAY. My friends are not obsessive gamers, and also had some wine, and one of them was jetlagged. So explaining the rules was more difficult than I'm used to, and getting them to focus was more difficult than I'm used to. These are also friends who haven't seen one another in almost a year, so there was plenty of catching up happening as well.



But we had a murder mystery to solve, and the night wasn't getting any younger. I may have been a teensy bit bossy again. When I had handed out clues to two out of three psychics and they hadn't even started discussing what they might mean, I may have gotten a little impatient. I may have let their protests fall on deaf ears when I handed out the third clue, started the timer, and refused to give them any grace for their first round. Am I a bad friend? Maybe. But this was serious business!





After a few rounds, though, they started to catch on and get into the spirit of things. It took them all seven hours to get to the final stage, but they did it, and accumulated lots of clairvoyance in the process, to the point where they all were able to see the three final clues before voting for the final murder scenario. Did they win?



.......

YES THEY DID! All three of them voted correctly! And I'm not sure that they clues I gave were particularly obvious, either. All three of them did very well for this being their first game, and I was very pleased.

Also notable in this game was a repeat of what is becoming a very common situation:

Psychic: "Oh, maybe it's x! For y reason!"
Ghost (in my head, obviously): "Yes, you got it! That's exactly the right answer AND my reasoning for giving those clues!"
Psychics: "No, that seems like a stretch. How about this?"
Ghost: ...............

Which just goes to show that you should always go with your instincts. Except that every time I went with my instincts in game #11, I was wrong. So maybe everyone just has better instincts than I do.
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Sat May 14, 2016 1:12 am
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Game #11 - 5/11/16 - Ghosts are Difficult Creatures

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
# of Players: 5
Ghost: Ron
Psychics: Me, Glenn, Jon, Pierre
Difficulty: Hard
Win: No

This time I asked if someone else would play the ghost, as I want to get more experience in being a psychic, and Ron agreed to do it. He's also been wanting to play Hard mode for a while now, so that's what we did.

Our ghost took his role a little too seriously, refusing to speak at all once he'd set up the screen, even to answer questions before the game had begun. Perhaps I should have given up on the unsolicited advice I tried to give him once it was clear he wasn't going to answer in anything except coded knocks (one for yes, two for no, and apparently three for "time's up!") and furrowed eyebrows. But I'm stubborn, and had to share my Very Important Tips. No. Matter. What. "Are you even listening?" may be words that were spoken by me. There may have been some raised eyebrows.

So this is the game where I (re)learned that I may have some issues with control. I felt like my teammates stared at their cards silently for far too long, so I spent a lot of time telling them what their clues meant. Confidently. And incorrectly. Lesson learned: I am not a natural at being a psychic. But I am a natural at being a bossy teammate. It's a good thing my friends are gracious.



Eventually, we limped to the finish line, where even using his discard the ghost was unable to get enough of us to solve the final vision. Two of the four of us agreed on an incorrect answer, and only one person chose the correct answer.

Turns out that being a great ghost does not translate to being a great psychic, and vice versa. Having a great psychic connection with particular players does not necessarily mean that connection will translate once your roles are reversed. It makes sense when I spell it out like that, but I keep being surprised by how stupid I feel whenever I sit down to play the psychic role. It's easy as the ghost to think that the other players are just being dense when they fail to understand my clues over and over again. But the feeling of "What the crap does this mean!?!" is a very real one.

Everyone keeps asking me why I've decided to take on this challenge. (And by "asking" me I mean "looking at me like I've lost my mind".) These insights about communication are why. Maybe I'm just extraordinarily ignorant about human beings, or maybe I'm easily impressed, but I feel like each time I play I come one step closer to understanding something about human psychology. It is infuriating to have someone put random pictures in front of you, refuse to look at or speak to you, and somehow expect you to know what said pictures are supposed to mean when they could just open their stupid mouth and tell you. And it is super rewarding when after three tries you finally, finally get it and you get to see the look of relief in their eyes.

Random thought: it might be a fun experiment to have a conversation with someone entirely with cards from Mysterium and Dixit. You could secretly write down what you mean to convey with each card, what you think the other person meant with theirs, and what your response means. I wonder if there's a way to make a game out of this. What would be the way to win? The end condition? Also this would give me a great excuse to buy more Dixit expansions...
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Sat May 14, 2016 12:33 am
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Game #8 - 4/20/16

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
# of Players: ??
Ghost: April-Lyn
Psychics: Matt, Byron, ??
Difficulty: Medium
Win: ??

I remember absolutely nothing about this game. But Matt recorded it in his play logs, so it must have happened.
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Fri May 6, 2016 5:15 pm
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Game #10 - 5/4/16 - Star Wars Day

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Carrow's
# of Players: 7
Ghost: galatea
Psychics: Matt, Tim P (new), Josh B (new), Danya (new), Ron B, [user="runtsta"]Byron[/user]
Difficulty: Medium
Win: No

Psychics were doing really well until the final stage. But that's mostly my fault, as I spent my three discards earlier in the game and was then left with a terrible hand at the end. Ron and Tim chose the correct answer successfully at the end from my barely useful clues (I'm still impressed they picked up on a hammock as a clue for the bedroom!), but three people chose the same incorrect answer (and a fourth would have done so as well if he hadn't used the wrong chit).

I experimented in this game by using the same clue for the iron that I'd used in my previous game. Josh picked up on the clue instantly; Byron, not so much, and even after I explained it to him at the end of the game he was unconvinced. It's not surprising that different people would make different connections, of course, but it was fun to see that in action.

As in most games, there were several moments where one of the psychics picked up on my clue immediately, but then was convinced by his teammates that the answer was something else. Those are the hardest moments to keep a neutral face. I wish it were possible to record the reactions happening on the inside of my head during a game of Mysterium - I think it would be pretty entertaining for the psychics. I always try to brief them at the end of the game so they get a taste of that, but it would be more fun to get a minute-by-minute replay.

I've mentioned before, I think, how the most rewarding part of this game for me is when my friends pick up instantly on what I'm trying to tell them with vision cards. Because we're awkward nerds, not all of us are good at communicating indirectly via body language or subtext. It makes me wonder if we'd do better communicating with one another in pictures more often! Forget words. We all just need to carry Dixit cards with us at all times. And then spend the hours and hours it takes to learn each other's symbol language. I see no problems with this plan.

Except that not everyone understands what I'm trying to tell them, and I've noticed some people subconsciously tune into my thinking more easily than others. One of them likes storytelling games. One of them is wants to be a novelist. Tim P was the surprise star of this game, and he told me his secret was to just always go with his first impression. (It helps that his first impressions were right).

My friends were all bewildered when I told them I wanted to play 100 games of this, and they don't think I can do it. They think I'll get bored after 40 or 50. Sounds like a challenge to me!

There are a number of variations I need to play/play more of:
- 2 player (haven't done yet)
- 3 player (have only done once or twice)
- other people playing the ghost
- brand new player as the ghost
- all experienced players
- hard mode with me as the ghost
- hard mode with someone else as the ghost
- using Czech rules
- playing with strangers

There's also an expansion coming out in a few months, which will add more variety to the game (new cards, no new mechanics). I'm excited - I'm getting a little sick of the vision cards I'm stuck with. I want a lot more expansions, like Dixit has!
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Fri May 6, 2016 5:09 pm
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Game #6 - 4/2/16

April-Lyn C.
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Location: Rollins House
# of Players: 3
Ghost: galatea
Psychics: Casey (new), Chris (new)
Difficulty: Medium
Win: Yes

Forgot to record this one earlier. I like three player games because there are fewer people to mislead their teammates away from correct guesses. This was the first time I played with a husband/wife team. Pretty sure we won this one with little difficulty.
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Thu May 5, 2016 4:50 pm
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