Mystic Vale comes to us from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) On the surface it’s a Deck Building game, but like an onion (Side note I hate onions) it has many layers, This is a new what AEG calls “Card Crafting” game. So what’s this about? Let’s peel away those layers.
To win the game you have to score the most victory points: points are harvested during the game, But some points are awarded only at the end of the game based on advancement and vale cards you have acquired.
Set up is pretty straight forward, each player a set of 20 starting cards and a mana token. Create a pool of VP tokens based on the number of players. Set out the various decks of cards: Fertile Soil cards, advancement cards in 3 levels, and vale cards in 2 levels. You’ll use all of the cards except the Level 1 advancements: these are shuffled and a deck is created based on the number of players. Flip over the top 3 advancements of each level, and the top 4 vale cards of each level.
Each player will prepare their starting field (You also do this in the Prep Phase that usually happens at the end of your turn) You turn the top card over on top of your deck—this is the “on-deck” card. Then, you move the on-deck card to the right of your deck, into your “field,” then turn over a new on-deck card. You repeat this process until there are three Cursed Lands showing—two in your field and one on-deck. Your mana token starts out face-down (grey).
Your turn has four phases: Planting, Harvest, Discard, and Prep.
Planting: This brings the press-your-luck portion of the game that everybody loves (Just 1 more card!) If you ever have 4 decay symbols showing between your field and on-deck card, your field is spoiled and you don’t get to harvest. You get to decide whether to push or pass. To push, you play your on-deck card into your field, resolving any “when played” abilities on it, and then turn over the next on-deck card. If you haven’t spoiled, you continue, again choosing to push or pass.
Harvest: When you pass before you spoil, then you harvest. The left edge of the cards have various symbols: mana, points, and spirit symbols. During the harvest phase, you can activate any of these and buy cards in any order. Mana you collect may be spent to buy advancement cards. Keep in mind though that, whatever is not spent is lost at the end of your turn.
Discard: You will sleeve any advancements you purchase. They must be put into cards in your field, and they must go in a position that does not cover an existing advancement. Then, you place all of your field cards into your own discard pile to the left of your deck. Finally, you replenish the advancements and vales.
Prep: This is basically you doing the setup again: play your on-deck card, turn over a new on-deck card, and repeat until there are three or more decay symbols showing, and then stop.
The game ends when the pool of VP tokens runs out. Play will continue until everyone has had the same number of turns.
Everyone totals their points: add up all of the grey VP icons on your advancements and vales, and then add in the VP tokens you’ve acquired. Ties are broken by the number of Level 3 advancements and Level 2 vales added together.
The new mechanic that Mystic Vale brings to the table is card crafting. This will allow you to takes a card you already own and changes it permanently for that game. so you won’t be buying a new card and adding it to your deck, like in most other card drafting games. Instead you are enhancing the ones you already have. You will start off with blank cards and some with one of the 3 areas of card having content. You can also add enhancements into 3 areas (top,middle,bottom) and once placed you can not put another enhancement in that area of the card.
Mystic Vale is one of those rare games that feels different, yet feels the same. AEG does a great job in introducing the card crafting system. The artwork is TOP NOTCH. I really can’t tell you how amazing this game looks, colors pop, it draws you in. The cards themselves feel very well made. They also give you card protector’s to place your cards in, which is welcome, as I’m sure after repeated plays they will get worn.
I do have a complaint with the game though, the clear cards can be semi hard to read, this of course could be to me being almost blind in my right eye, I’ve noticed in other games I have some problems reading cards. I can’t say for it’s more or the cards, but it really was not that big of deal for me, I just held them up off the table to make it easier on myself, Your miles might vary on this nitpick.
This is a game I can see myself playing again, and introducing it to friends on game nights, as it’s fun and once you get the mechanics, down it’s a pretty fast play.
A BIG THANK YOU to AEG for sending over a review copy of the game!