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Tabletop Game / Mysterium

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“Dearest Alphonse...I would be honored if Alma, Ardhashir, Madam Wang, Jessalyn, and your good self could join me without delay to solve this mystery."
Conrad Mcdowell, letter dated Sept. 19, 1920

Mysterium (Polish: Tajemnicze Domostwo) is a 2014 cooperative board game designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy & Oleg Sidorenko. It was published in English by Libellud in 2015.

The game is set on Halloween night, 1920, when a group of psychics gather at the isolated Warwick Manor in Scotland to contact the ghost of a manservant who died thirty-five years ago. Over the course of a seven-hour seance, the ghost sends them visions of the people, items, and locations that may have been present at the time of his death. Only after all the psychics have deciphered their visions can the truth finally be revealed.

Before the game begins, players choose one person to act as the ghost, while the rest will control the psychics. Over the course of up to seven rounds, the ghost will send the psychics dreams in the form of abstract, surreal scenes depicted on 'vision cards'. The psychics will have to interpret these visions as corresponding to the potential people, locations, and objects laid out on the board. Once each psychic has correctly identified their unique person, location, and object, the ghost will send out three cards in the form of a final vision; players must then figure out which of the psychics has had visions of the actual murder scene.

Mysterium's first expansion Hidden Signs was released in June 2016, adding new cards to every category. The game's second expansion Secrets & Lies hit shelves in August of 2017, adding much of the same as the last one, as well as History Cards, giving context to the Ghost's terrible demise.

A standalone game titled Mysterium Park was released in 2020, where you must figure out how the Ringmaster of the circus died. This game changes the fundamental gameplay and is easier to setup.

This tabletop-game provides examples of...

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: One of the suspects, complete with pith helmet and mysterious idols.
  • Asymmetric Multiplayer: One player has the correct answers, but is limited by communication. The other players need to identify the correct answer, can freely communicate with each other (before the final straw poll), and place clairvoyence tokens towards other players have correctly deducted their clue.
  • Card Cycling: The ravens allow the ghost to discard any vision cards, then draw replacements. The number of available ravens depends on difficulty level. The tickets in Mysterium Park function similarly.
  • Card Sharp: One of the history cards in the expansion shows the victim grabbing the sleeve of a player hiding two aces in a poker match.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: All players win or lose together, by identifying the suspects, and then which suspect is the correct one. One player has access to the correct answers, but is limited by what may be communicated - only giving out cards with pictures.
  • Crystal Ball: Conrad Mac Dowell inherited one from his ancestors and uses it to communicate with the ghost.
  • Digital Tabletop Game Adaptation: Available on Steam and mobile, with the expansions sold as Downloadable Content. A single-player campaign/tutorial is added.
  • Difficulty Levels: Harder difficulty get extra cards that players need to deduce from, and also reduce the number of ravens that the ghost may use to discard and redraw replacement images.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: If everyone plays the first stage of the game perfectly, the clairvoyance point system only gives enough points to reveal two out of the three cards. To reveal all three, a player needs to get one of their deductions wrong, which both replenishes the clairvoyance points in hour 4 and allows others to use the "X" clairvoyance tokens, or to skip using clairvoyence and just show all three cards.
  • Expy: The barber shares a haircut and profession with Sweeney Todd.
  • Forced Tutorial: In the video game adaptation's story mode, the game requires the player to take a specific action to proceed.
  • Fortune Teller: Subverted, as the psychic who specializes in crystal gazing is a Scottish man.
  • Halloween Episode: The ghost is only able to send his visions on Samhain (Halloween) because the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.
  • Haunted Castle: Played straight. Warwick Manor, where the game takes place, is a Scottish castle with a ghost.
  • I Am Not My Father: Although Ardhashir's family traditionally served the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, he decided instead to travel the world and hone his craft.
  • Junior Variant: Mysterium Kids: Captain Echo's Treasure has players try to figure out picture cards using a tambourine to make sounds that the players need to use to guess where the titular ghost's treasures are in a mansion.
  • Mad Mathematician: Alphonse de Belcour, after the death of his brother in WWI.
  • Madame Fortune: The Chinese clairvoyant represented by the red token is named Madam Wang.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Newspaper clippings show that the ghost's demise was ultimately ruled an accident. His haunting of the house strongly implies this was not the case.
  • Rich Boredom: Jessalyn Smith had this before discovering her gift.
  • Schrödinger's Question: After the suspect, location and objects are identified, the ghost then picks one of them as the culprit, which may be in response to how easily the group can be expressed by the vision cards. Additionally, the video game adaptation has a two-choice ending where the main character may choose to pick a different culprit to stay alive.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: Madam Wang was inducted into one of these as a child when her gift for the I-Ching was discovered.
  • Spooky Séance: The premise of the game is that the psychics are holding a seance to contact the ghost.
  • Stage Magician: One of the suspects is this, as shown by his cape, gloves, and wand, as well as pictures of theaters on his card.
  • Stock Costume Traits: The game relies heavily on the suspects having recognizable professions, in order for the ghost to give relevant clues (though some are more obvious than others).
  • Tarot Motifs: Jessalyn Smith uses tarot cards to communicate with the ghost haunting Warwick Manor.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Subverted for the psychics, as Conrad genuinely wants their help channeling the ghost. Even if they fail, the worst that can happen is they must wait another year before holding another seance.
  • Tutorial Failure: The video game introduces the raven in one of the senances. When it's introduced, the player is required to use the raven to discard one or more cards, but the player is not as easily able to review which cards may still be relevant, nor able to cancel using the raven.
  • The Roaring '20s: The game is set near the end of 1920.
  • Undeath Always Ends: If the psychics correctly identify the murderer, the ghost finally moves on to the afterlife.
  • Unfinished Business: The ghost has remained at the castle for the thirty-five years since his murder, hoping to relay his message to someone.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The Board Game. The ghost cannot simply say “it was the barber who killed me in the garden with a hammer.” Instead, the ghost only provides abstract images, like... a bunch of rabbits falling into a tunnel. A man in a plague mask on a train. A falling top hat. It’s up to the players to determine what the image or set of images is intended to communicate.

Alternative Title(s): Tajemnicze Domostwo