Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson
magellanic

Tower of Mystery

The game claims to have 100 dimensions of fun. I'm pretty sure I counted way fewer than that. Melinda and I played the game for the first (and second) time this evening. In this game you're moving your piece about a graph, nodes are squares and edges connect squares into rings and rings to other rings (see this photo for the board). Along the way you pick up the letters to "TOWER" and some "Mystery Cards" that do stuff (to you and to other players). You also pick up tokens from four "Turrets" which are specially-marked spaces on the board. Roll some dice, move that many spaces, do the thing on the square, then it's the next player's turn. Game ends when you have all the Turret tokens, can spell TOWER with your cards, and return to the home space (the "Garden").

The game has a strong feeling of Candyland: some spaces move you great distances about the board, and in fact without those effects you move very slowly (the dice roll 1s and 2s and only ever add). What in fact ends up happening is you play Mystery cards on yourself and the other players, and these cards can have large effects. Eg, one card was "name your roll rather than roll the dice" but another was "steal all Mystery cards from another player." A card draw or a roll of the dice may have an expected return (in the statistical sense) but with a very large variance. Which is really a pain if you're trying to be a strategic and such, but if you just want to move your piece, play some cards, and see what happens, then carry on. I find that Munchkin has many of these same traits, and those are reasons why I don't like playing Munchkin.

The other trait Tower of Mystery has is that, when it's clear one player may win soon, the other players are obligated to stop that first player. In general this sort of defense is tedious and sours the fun, because stopping another player often means making choices that don't help you, yourself, from winning (eg, you may have a choice of actions to take, one would draw you a card you need, the other would cause the leader to discard a card he needs; which do you do?). Further, this is a Game of chicken for the other players -- stopping the leader will set that player back, but not stopping the leader will let them win. I dislike most situations in games where this issue comes up, finding that Chicken itself isn't a fun game. Tonight, though, in a two player game there was no Chicken, and so "the other players" didn't have the conflict. So, unlike, say, in crayon rails games such as Iron Dragon or Empire Builder, where trying to stop the leader just lengthens the game and draws out the inevitable, Melinda stopping me not only was the right tactic, it eventually led her to win (mostly because she found the high-variance cards at the right time, although to be fair I was in the leading position early for the same reason). Surprisingly I found this dynamic sorta fun. But it's also unique to the two player game; I expect this aspect of the game wouldn't be enjoyable with three or more players.

Anyway, long story short, it was fun to play as a two player game, and worth trying to play with more players, and I expect best played with the sort of players who like Munchkin. And, thanks, Mom and Dad, for finding me the game for Christmas. 8)
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