By: Kirk W Buckendorf
Hello, board gamers! Last week my friends and I picked up a copy of Mystic Vale. I’m a huge fan of Deck Building Games, and I wrote a few articles back in the day about my favorite DBG, and the first of its kind, Dominion. You can still find some of those strategy and expansion reviews on Gamehead.com. That said there have been a lot of DBGs since then, so you can imagine it’s going to take something new and exciting to really get my attention. AEG games has done just that with Mystic Vale, adding a twist that you actually buy card Advancements to add to mostly blank cards in your deck. Instead of adding cards to your deck, you enhance each of the 20 cards that you start with in your deck. The card Advancements are printed on clear plastic and slide into the card sleeves of your deck.
Above you can see a basic set of Card Advancements. These happen to be Fertile Soil that are available every game for the cost of 2 Mana. As you play, during each of your turns you will produce Mana to buy cards with. Fertile Soil each produce 1 Mana, which is the blue gem symbol on the left.
Notice how the Fertile Soil are available in 3 different positions on the card. This allows them to be added to cards that may already have an Advancement on them. For example, some of the cards in my deck are completely blank. Just a blank white card, with a normal card back in a clear plastic sleeve. Some of the cards in my deck have Advancements already on them. When I buy a Fertile Soil for 2 Mana, at the end of my turn, I choose a card that is in my Field to add it to at the end of my turn. I can choose a completely blank card, or a card that already has an Advnacement, but the new Fertile Soil can not cover an advancement slot that is already filled.
Now that you have an idea of the Card Advancement mechanic, I’ll tell you a little bit about your deck. Each player starts and ends the game with a 20 card deck. This is different than your typical DBG, where you usually start with about 10 cards and add cards as you play. As described above you are adding abilities to your card through Advancements. You’ll start with 9 Cursed Land, 3 Fertile Soil and 8 blank cards. Here is a deck laid out (The card above is the Player’s Aid that has reminder text for symbols):
You can see that the cards that already have advancements on them have been distributed evenly to cover all three available slots on the card. You’ll get 1 of each Fertile Soil, and 3 of each Cursed Land. Cursed Lands also provide 1 Mana when revealed, but they also have the red Decay Symbol. These come into play when you set up your field for a turn, limiting how many cards get revealed and set up a press your luck mechanic. Each player shuffles their 20 cards and places the deck face down in front of them. Each player will now build their Field. To reveal your first Field, you start by revealing one card at a time on the top of your deck. The revealed card is your “On-Deck” card.
Take that On-Deck card and put it into your play area to create the start of your Field. Repeat revealing cards and adding them to your Field until you have 2 Decay Symbols in your Field and a third Decay Symbol On-Deck. Your Field will look something like this:
Here you have 5 cards in your field and 1 On-Deck. Only the cards in your Field are in play. When it’s your turn, you will start with the Planting Phase. Here you decide to Pass, keeping your Field as it is, or Push by adding the On-Deck card to your Field. Here is where the Press Your Luck mechanic kicks in, if you Push the On-Deck card into your field, you will reveal the top card On-Deck. If it has a 4th Decay Symbol you will Spoil and end your turn. Spoiling will discard all your cards in the field without being able to buy anything. As a consolation, you will get to turn over the Gray Mana Token pictured above, top left, to its active Blue Side. This now Active Mana can be spent on any later turn adding 1 Mana to purchase Advancements with by flipping it back to its gray inactive side. You don’t have to use it right away on the next turn, you can save it for as many turns as you like, but if you Spoil while it’s Active, you will not get another Mana from the Spoil.
If you Push and do not Spoil, you can choose again to either Pass or Push. This allows you to press your luck as many times as you want, or stop anytime you like. You can also just play it safe and never Push, but sometimes it more correct to do so. If you’ve Passed, you will count up all your Mana and you can purchase and Add Advancements to any of the cards in your Field. You can not add Advancements to your On-Deck card. You can buy up to 2 Advancements during your turn, but they are not added to the cards until your Discard Phase, so you do not get any Mana or effects from them until they are later revealed to your Field.
So what can you buy? Here’s a look at the board of available Advancements:
The 3 piles at the very top are the Basic Fertile Soil advancements that are available every game and the cost 2 Mana each. The next 3 rows are the randomized Advancements that are different every game. They come in 3 levels, the bottom row are the cheapest Advancements that you will add to your deck in the early game. The middle and top rows each contain cards that are more expensive that you work towards being able to purchase as the game goes on. They also have more powerful effects to justify their costs. Above these rows, there is a second set of cards available to purchase called the Vale cards:
The Vale cards can not be purchased with Mana; some of the Advancements you add to your deck will produce different symbols as a resource allowing you to purchase Vale Cards. Vale cards are not added to your deck, instead they sit in front of you and give you points towards the end of the game, or give you effects to use during the game.
Those are the very basics of the game play. Once you crack open the box and start playing, you’ll find cards that will lend themselves to different strategies. Tim Rivera will be covering some of those strategies in an article coming later this week.
The goal of the game is to end with the most Victory Points, these come on some of the Advancements you will buy and count at the end of the game. Some Vale Cards also have Victory Points counted at the end of the game. Some Advancements also give you Victory Point tokens each time they are played in the Field.
There are a set number of Victory tokens dependant on the number of players and when this pile runs out the game is over.
For game play, it took a couple run throughs to get used to the new style of play and card building, but once those games were done, I was hungry to really delve into learning and trying different strategies. As I said, Tim will cover some different strategies later this week. Hopefully my description of the game gave you enough of a taste to pick up a copy. If you’re at GenCon this week, I’d definitely stop by the AEG booth to check it out!
If not, I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up at your local game store!