This review is based on a retail copy provided by Drawlab Entertainment for the Board Game Exposure group I am a reviewer for. You can see opinions of the same game from other members on this facebook group.
The library is a scary place to be in Mystic Scrolls from Drawlab Entertainment: scrolls flying about the place, fellow wizards blasting you with spells and a general feeling of chaos, but such is the life of a wizard. Frantic dice rolling awaits!
Quiet in the Library
Taking on the mantle of one of the 4 wizards you grab their specific spell book in the form of 3 tarot sized cards and a bunch of scrolls represented by some lovely engraved dice. The art is pretty excellent throughout the entire game and the dice are just the right size to roll a bunch of quickly, which is good because that is just what you are about to do.
Grabbing your dice you are going to roll them and reroll them as fast as you can, looking to match the same symbols on the cards in front of you. As you muster up the combinations needed and put the dice required on your spells, you are preparing them for being cast later on. Your starting cards can have two sides to them and you can use both as long as you can muster up the dice. See every time you put dice on a card you grab the same number of dice from the central pull and keep rolling. If you can’t put your hands on dem bones then you can shout stop and everyone casts the spells they have ready.
As well as the three cards you start with there is a central deck of extra spells, one of which is revealed at the start of each round. If someone manages to roll the dice required to grab this card then they can also bring a stop to the rolling, getting to cast said spell but also adding it to their tableau for future rounds.
Once the rolling, rolling, rolling has come to an end any spells that have dice on them fire off doing damage to the wizard to your right or healing yourself. Some spells will do damage or healing depending on the amount of power you have produce with all the other spells so there is a bit of nuance to maximising your output on a given turn. The occasional spell does something a little different: cancelling someone else’s spell or maybe relying on a dice roll to tell you how well it fires, but for the most part spells hurt or heal you. Once you run out of health you are eliminated and the game continues until there is only one wizard standing.
Not in Hogwarts anymore
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this game of frantic rolling, symbol matching and wizard battling. We didn’t have very much fun with it at all. Whilst rolling large numbers of dice is entertaining in and of itself, the game badly outstays it’s welcome and involves single elimination leading to one or more players sitting out for a fair amount of time.
We found whilst playing that you are concentrating so much on the 3 cards your start with that the spell in the middle was mostly ignored. The spell in the middle is usually pretty hard to get and you are trying so hard to optimise the small puzzle in front of you already that ignoring it is an easy thing to do, not to mention that adding a card to your tableau isn’t necessarily a good thing as it just gives you more to think about.
Everyone I played with felt that the healing mechanic was basically pointless, the only thing it really did was make the game last longer. As everything is happening in realtime there is no real way to react to what another player is doing, but maybe if you could keep an eye on what spells everyone else was building up, you might be able to go for the right set of spells. I’m not going to start speculating about what mechanics would make the game fundamentally better, but I’ve mentioned already that there is player elimination, and this problem would be greatly reduced by the game being significantly shorter.
The curious thing I am finding with realtime dice rollers like this and Boomtown Bandits is that the mechanic is an inherently chaotic one, and then the designers seem to try and reign in the chaos in some way. This seems like a fundamentally bad path to take and I would really like to see a realtime dice roller where the chaotic element was embraced rather than curtailed. If you are going to make a game, engage with the mechanics you choose, don’t shy away from them.
I can’t recommend Mystic Scrolls at all, and I don’t know where you would buy it even if I did, not even as a light filler. It’s too long, there is little in the way of significant decision making and although the components are of good quality the game itself feels badly thought through.