A to Z Gaming: Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale

We used our druidic powers to cleanse our lands of curses in Mystic Vale, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Mystic Vale
Players: 2-4
Time: 45 Minutes
Designers: John D. Clair
Artists: Ralf Berszuck, Storn Cook, Andrew Gaia, Katherine Guevara, Heather Kreiter, Kiri Østergaard Leonard, Matt Paquette, Kiki Moch Rizky, Martin de Diego Sádaba
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Mystic Vale is a card crafting game where players start with a deck of middling cards and throughout the game they add abilities to the cards to acquire vale cards, purchase even better card advancements, and (ultimately) gain points. Whoever has built up the best engine of advancements and vale cards wins the game.

The game is set up by shuffling each deck of advancements — level I, II, and III. A number of level I advancements are taken from that deck, depending on player-count, and those are placed in a stack face-down on the table along with the level II and III decks. Three of each deck is turned face-up into a market. The two levels of Vale cards are also shuffled, and a market of four of each are laid out. Finally, a number of victory point tokens are taken out of the box based on the player count and placed in a pool on the table.

Each player gets a deck of 20 cards in sleeves and a mana token, which is placed face-down (on it’s uncharged side). The cards are either blank, have a cursed land, or fertile soil. The cursed lands each have a spoil and a mana symbol, and the fertile soils each have a mana symbol. Players set up their fields by shuffling their deck, revealing an on-deck card face up on their deck, then moving that card into their field until there are three spoil symbols showing between the field and on-deck card.

A player’s turn is played in four phases: Planting, Harvest, Discard, and Prep. During the Planting phase the player must decide if they want to push their luck to play and reveal additional cards for their field. If they do this, they move their on-deck card into their field and reveal the next card to be on-deck. If, in this process, they ever get a net of four spoil symbols showing between their field and on-deck cards, the player will spoil and lose their turn. As a consolation, though, a player who spoils turns their mana token to the active side, which will give them an additional mana to spend on a future turn.

During the Planting phase, the player uses the various symbols and Harvest abilities on their cards to purchase advancements (max of 2; using mana), Vale cards (max of 2; using spirit symbols), and take victory point tokens.

During the Discard phase, the player must first sleeve their newly-purchased advancements on cards that were in their field. The advancement cards are clear, and each forms a third of the card. new advancements can’t cover up existing advancements on a card, so a player can’t purchase one that won’t fit on a card in their field. The market of advancements and vale markets is replenished.

Finally, the player does their Prep phase, which is done while the next player starts their turn. The Prep phase is simply setting up the field for their next turn, playing their on-deck card into their field until there are three spoil symbols showing between their field and on-deck cards.

The game-end is triggered as soon as someone takes the last victory point token from the pool. The current round is finished so that all players have an equal number of turns, and if anyone earns more victory point tokens, those are taken from the extras in the box.

Then players count up their points from advancements, vale cards and tokens. The player with the most points wins.

We tried Mystic Vale out at our local game cafe a few years ago, and it quickly went on my “want to buy” list. We picked it up a few months later, and it has quickly become one of my most played games. (Spoiler!)

I love building my deck and vale cards to work together to get me as much mana and as many spirit symbols as possible. I like how the turns in the game ramp up over time until there are a couple big, chaining-all-the-things-together turns each time you go through your deck. Of course, the game is almost done by then, so you’re lucky if you get one or two of those, but they are so satisfying when you pull it off.

How is it as a 2-player game? Mystic Vale works well as a two player game. I’ve played with 2, 3, and 4 players and it’s a little snappier at 2 players, but the market doesn’t necessarily move as much. I love it at all player counts.

How about the art and component quality? The art in this game is gorgeous, but small, so it takes a keen eye to really enjoy it. That’s not really a complaint — the advancements are dense, so the art has to be small, but I enjoy it nonetheless. All the components are cards are good quality. The only things I’ve had problems with were that the insert that came with it broke within the first week I had it, and the sleeves (which are necessary for getting the new card enhancements in place) will split, so I’ve bought a supply of extras to have on hand.

Will this stay in my collection? 100% yes. I will play this any time someone asks. I’ve downloaded the app and gotten a lot of play out of it (especially during lock-down, when I could play remotely with a friend). I’ve gotten most of the expansions, including the Nemesis, which has a solo mode that I’ve pulled out a few times. I love this game.

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