I have a lingering boyhood fondness for the board game Clue, a classic murder mystery game that has gone through countless versions since it was introduced in the 1940s. In 1985, the game jumped from the tabletop onto movie screens with the hilarious cult classic movie Clue and what I recall as a wildly fun Clue VCR Mystery Game which presented an early attempt at interactive video play. The murder mystery concept among a captive group of suspects and investigators is just a fun story to play through, making the basic plot line of Clue in all its forms timeless. Like many classic games though, Clue leaves a bit to be desired in terms of long-term playability once players creep out of their childhood and teen years.
The original Polish game of Tajemnicze Domostwo
That said, I still love a good murder mystery game, so I was glad to be introduced to Mysterium last year by a fellow member of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Mysterium was originally released in a Polish edition by Portal Games in 2013 as Tajemnicze Domostwo, or the “Mysterious Homestead,” and the game has gone through a number of international language versions since. I first played the Italian Il Sesto Senso, or “The Sixth Sense,” in early 2015 and was anxious for a readily available and revamped English version to be released later in the year by Asmodee.
Unlike Clue, Mysterium is a collaborative game for 2-7 players. In the game, a new owner of a mansion has hired a group of mediums to work with a friendly ghost in the house to solve an old murder mystery in a seven-hour overnight séance. One player works as the ghost along with the other players as mediums to uncover the suspect, location and weapon used in the murder. The ghost knows how to solve the mystery but may only communicate with the mediums in each hour (turn) through abstract dream or ‘vision’ cards, attempting to point each clairvoyant toward the solution. After each hour, the ghost reveals to each clairvoyant if they have found their suspect, location and weapon. Those that have solved a piece of the mystery move onward and those who have not remain to try again in the next round. If all mediums uncover their individual three-part combination before the seventh hour arrives, a final round of dream clues are delivered to all the players to vote for the final solution. If the majority select the correct final suspect, location and weapon, everyone wins. If the group doesn’t choose the correct combination, everyone loses.
Mysterium is truly collaborative, with a ton of discussion and debate among the medium players as the ghost delivers vision dream cards to them in each round. Mediums can also vote to agree or disagree with other player choices, with each successful vote earning the medium additional chances to view vision cards in the final round of the mystery. Over many recent games my three-generation group of family members found the more players the better in winning Mysterium.
The recent English version of the game I picked up ahead of the holidays contains a lot of revised artwork and playing pieces (including a nice screen for the ghost and nifty clock turn counter) compared to the more spare European versions of the game. The design is beautiful and the abstract vision, suspect, location and weapon cards are a feast for the eyes. To mix things up a bit, we played a few games using cards from Dixit (also from Asmodee) as vision cards since the abstract illustrations fit nicely with the game. Playing the game on a table laid with a red cloth and some electrified candles also added to the séance setting for the game, and I could imagine it being a great theme game for a party or around Halloween.
Three generations of my family playing Mysterium
With a game of Mysterium lasting about an hour, it makes for a great game among a group of inquisitive friends and family. Like many collaborative games, the cards and pieces on the table are just tools, and the real game happens in the minds and conversations among the players. If you played Clue as a kid and unraveling a mystery is still your thing, Mysterium is really a dream game.