There’s an island in the sky, and it’s yours if you want it. Just remember where you left it, because it might not be there next time you look. Certainly one of the more unique mechanics we’ve seen in a board game, Mysthea by Tabula Games allows players to alter the board itself, by moving the location of its five floating islands. It’s on Kickstarter at the time of writing, so let’s take a look at what the game as to offer:
The game plays over three eras, each with its own deck of beautifully illustrated cards. A card in your hand has multiple uses; first, it can be used for its command points, allowing you to recruit, deploy or move troops. Alternatively, you can spend energy to turn them into powerful one-off effects, or permanent buffs for your army. Finally, they can also be spent during combat for temporary boosts. In each era, the cards available to the player get better and better, so your potential options expand as you get further into the game.
It’s not just all combat though, you also need to set your troops up for optimally collecting resources (through meditation), as well as completing encounters. Finally there’s the aforementioned island moving, which can be used to collect bonus victory points, as well as realign the board to your advantage. Island adjacency is especially important, not just for ease of movement, but also because of the roving monsters that you’ll be fighting at the end of each era. Each region type on the map is also worth variable scoring at the end of an era, so you’ll want to secure the islands with the strongest region combinations.
It’s an interesting mix of mechanics, that leads to a game that’s not quite so easy to pigeonhole. What looks like a Dudes-on-a-map game is really a Euro/Thematic hybrid. Hybrid games are no stranger to Kickstarter, however, so we wanted to get to the heart of what inspired the game’s unique mechanics, and where it fits in a crowded market. We went straight to the source, and fielded some questions to Tabula Games. Enjoy!
What’s the one sentence pitch for Mysthea, for a customer that might be on the fence about backing?
If you want a game that allows for further exploration even after many plays, where a great amount of fun game mechanics intersect with a unique setting and wonderful art direction, then Mysthea is for you.
What was the beginning of the Mysthea design, did it start with mechanics or theme?
It started with the mechanics since we didn’t wanted thematic choices to get in the way of a balanced and enjoyable gaming experience. Nonetheless, while creating the game we found that some core aspects and ideas were recurring and we decided to include them in what we felt was the thematic explanation of some actions. For example, the concept of moving islands was the best way to explain what happens in the area control part of the game. All these ideas were then taken by the folks at Tabula and modeled into what Mysthea is today!
The game is a hybrid of Euro mechanics with a very thematic design, that seems especially specific to Kickstarter. Do you see this as a new trend that will hit the hobby at large?
We hope more games can mix and benefit from the connection between game mechanics and lore/theme. The board game industry is growing up and offering experiences that are far more memorable from every point of view. It’s just natural that more richness regarding theme is expected from a board game today. Who doesn’t love a good game (mechanically) that can also tell a good story?
Can you describe any especially memorable moments during a playtest of the game, or during the design. An “aha” moment when you knew you had made a big stride in the design?
There were several of them, and what keeps us really engaged with the game is that right now we still see these moments when we play. Mysthea is something like a rough crystal. You will always be amazed by how the light shines on a particular facet. It’s tricky yet full of possibilities. Definitely the best “Ah-ha” moment for a lot of gamers will be when they realize the full potential of shifting the islands to change the landscape where you play.
There are some natural comparisons to games that have done well on Kickstarter in the past, hybrid games with beautiful artwork and miniatures. Are there any that were particularly inspirational to Mysthea?
Scythe played definitely a huge part in defining a game that can deliver its setting while still being a good and fun experience. Blood Rage and Rising Sun are other notable influences as a whole. Kickstarter helped shape a new standard where aesthetics play an important part in the design and development of a board game.
How integral do you see the world and lore of Mysthea to the final product? Will it be an important part of the game’s bigger picture?
It’s definitely something that leaves a lot to be explored and players will have a lot of ways to learn about it! Icaion is definitely a fascinating world that could offer a great setting for a lot of different games.
The game will feature a card compendium app, which is an interesting idea. What was the reason for its inclusion, and do you see this as something that more games will do going forward?
Having more accessibility is always a good idea when it comes to learning games. One of the great walls of board games is learning the rules. Anything that can help the player get into the game more quickly is just a nice touch to have!
Mysthea is currently on Kickstarter, the campaign ends on 29 March 2018. All photos depict prototype components.