It's no secret that I love cooperative games. I also enjoy deep adventure games that place the emphasis on player skill, and so I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of Mistfall, designed by Błażej Kubacki and published by Passport Games Studio and NSKN Games, as it seemed like the perfect marriage of the two.
Almost immediately, Mistfall threw up a stumbling block that I had to wrestle with. The game has a steep learning curve that is compounded by the rulebook. Mistfall's rulebook is one of the more difficult rulebooks that I have ever encountered, making the process of learning to play an absolute chore. The rulebook presents information, but doesn't really do so in an intuitive way, separating most of the "advanced" rules into a completely different section of the book that comes after the structure of play. The big problem with this is that you don't get any context as you read the rules as to how things actually work during play. The game isn't really overly complex, but the rules certainly make it seem far more cumbersome than it actually is. There are quite a few fiddly bits to Mistfall, but once you actually have them straight, and have worked through a bit of gameplay, they become less obtuse than the rules would lead you to believe.
Once you do have a handle on how the game is played, there is a lot of depth to Mistfall. The game includes seven different hero characters for players to choose from, with only four being used per game at most. Learning how each character plays takes time, and learning the synergies between different character classes can take even longer. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from gaining skill with each character, and it is fun to be able to successfully make use of that character's strengths while avoiding their weaknesses.
Each character is controlled via a control board and a deck of cards. The cards represent the skills and powers available to each hero as well as their total life pool. The meat of the game's tactical depth lies in how and when to play these cards and in the choices players make when purchasing additional cards to add to their deck. Skillful card play is vital to success in Mistfall.
The cards played also control how much Threat (read: aggro) each player accrues during play. Threat determines which enemies will engage each hero whenever new enemies come in to play. A character with a powerful offense can find themselves in trouble if they are too zealous with their attacks as they will draw the attention of future enemies. The Threat system forces the players to work together as a team to best deal with the task at hand while simultaneously ensuring that the group is situated to properly handle future threats as they arise.
The interplay between the characters and the mastery of those characters is the real depth in Mistfall, as the base game only contains four scenarios. Each scenario plays differently from the others, but once each scenario has been played once, there isn't really a lot that will take players by surprise. A scenario doesn't always play out in the exactly same way though, as the locations to be explored are randomized each game, and every game of Mistfall is on a timer.
The Time Track is my least favorite part of Mistfall. Time flows inconsistently in Mistfall, with movement on the track determined by cards drawn from a deck. The cards move the Time Track 1 or 2 spaces, and some have events that can be punishing for the players. If the cards are stacked against you, the game can end before you really had a chance to succeed and, because you can never be sure how much time is remaining, you always feel rushed. While this does add a layer of tension to the game, it feels more stressful than satisfying.
A note on solo play: Mistfall can easily be played solo although, even when played solo, it is best to control more than one character. A lot of the fun of Mistfall comes from the synergy between the various characters and that aspect is lost if the game is played with only a single character.
A note on “chrome”: The cards and components in Mistfall are all good quality, but the colors on the backs of the blue and green decks are so similar that they can be difficult to tell apart. The rulebook is a different story. The rules are laid out in a manner that make learning the game more difficult than it should be, even going so far as having a table on one page and the diagram it refers to on the next. Learning Mistfall via the rulebook is an absolute chore.
The bottom line:
Mistfall is a very good game that is firmly targeted at the hardcore gamer. Players who really like to sink their teeth into games, putting in time to increase their skill level, will find a lot of meat on Mistfall's bones. Each of the seven heroes feels and plays differently, increasing replayability that would otherwise be limited by the game's inclusion of only four scenarios. Players seeking out a difficult cooperative game with a huge amount of tactical depth will want to give Mistfall some serious consideration.
Get this game if:
You want a difficult cooperative game that rewards skillful, tactical play
You prefer relying on skill over luck of the dice
You have a group of players who all want to put the time and effort in to mastering a game
Avoid this game if:
You prefer cooperative games that are easy to learn, set up and play
You prefer campaign driven games
You prefer dice driven games
Rules for Mistfall can be found here.
Mistfall can be purchased via Amazon here.
The copy of Mistfall used for this review was provided by Passport Games Studios.
Misftall is a heavier cooperative game that relies on player skill over luck of the dice. Groups looking for a difficult cooperative game to really sink their teeth into will want to take a close look at this Mistfall.