One of the pleasures of going to a convention like Dragonflight is the ability to playtest/demo upcoming games, most of the time with the designers themselves.
On Sunday morning, after I had checked out of my room and was looking for a game (or two) before leaving for my 3 hour drive, I was wandering through the Ballroom at the Hilton and stumbled upon a guy sitting at a table with the “Players Wanted” balloon floating above. I had just seen somebody else get up from the table, so I thought this one might be interesting.
The game looked to be a card game and the art work was fairly striking, even from the distance. I walked up and took a closer look.
“The guy” was designer and artist Dylan Mangini and the card game in question is his first design (or at least first that he’s working on publishing) called Mephisto.
This was a really fun 1-4 player (there are slightly different rules for 3-4 players) dueling card game where you have made a deal with Mephistopheles to provide him monster souls, but you are competing with your opponent to get him the most. Only one person can get all of the cool stuff he offers!
I talked with Dylan after playing it, and it’s actually a really cool story.
Dylan designed the game and did all of the art work for it. He is self-publishing the game and currently plans to put it on Kickstarter in October. I hope to get a review copy and do a full review before the campaign starts, but we’ll see.
Please note that this is a “first impressions” post (not a full review) and that this is a prototype so not everything is finalized. Dylan did say that the graphic design is pretty much final but the card text could be tweaked some.
First, a brief overview of how it plays.
Each player is given a Favor Tracker to track their favour with Mephisto. This favour is “unholy power” that can be used to boost your strength for attacking monsters.
Each player is dealt three cards and then a 2×3 tableau of cards is dealt into the “dungeon”. These are spell/item/weapon cards that you can loot or monsters you can kill.
On a player’s turn, they draw one card and then play as many cards as they want to/are able to in front of them.
For a weapon or item, there is a cost to playing them, which is the number on the top left flag (the Mallet above has zero cost). This is how many cards you must discard from your hand in order to play that card.
In this phase, you can also activate any items you have already played. For example, you could invoke the Talisman to copy the activated ability of any other item or weapon that you have in play.
Each item and weapon have a certain number of uses, called its “durability.” This is the small number in the top right corner.
When you use something, you turn it clockwise to show the new durability number. If there isn’t one (because your current durability was “1”), you discard it as it has been used up.
After all cards have been played and all items used, you can do one of three actions mentioned on the card player aid:
Loot: Draw one non-monster from the Dungeon or the top card of the deck
Fight: fight one or both of the monsters in one lane of the dungeon (make sure you read the rules as the player aid card actually implies only one monster).
Summon: summon a monster that’s in your hand into the Dungeon. This lets you take any card in the Dungeon and replace it with a monster in your hand. You then gain three favour.
Fighting monsters is how you get soul points, as any defeated monsters are placed in front of you and are worth the points in the blue diamond on the right side of the card.
How do you fight?
You will be playing weapons in front of one of the Dungeon columns and these weapons have a certain strength and range (the little bullseye on the card). Only one weapon of each range can be in a column, so you can have up to three weapons in that column.
You add up the strength of the weapon(s) and any favour that you want to spend and you must beat the monster’s (or monsters’) strength (the big red number!). If you do, take it and place it in front of you.
Some monsters have ongoing effects/abilities that you can use as well.
At the end of your turn, replace any holes in the Dungeon.
Once the deck has run out, total up your soul points and whoever has the most is a winner!
Is Mephisto a surly yet entertaining demon hungry for your soul or is he really just a puppy dog?
This was actually a very fun game! The art is very well done, in that cartoonishly bloody fashion. The monsters aren’t too scary, for example.
The text on a couple of the cards is a little confusing, and Dylan said he’d be cleaning that up before it gets published. I didn’t notice at the time of playing (it helps to have the designer teaching the game to you!), but that “fight a monster” item on the player aid should be cleared up. It definitely says “fight a monster” when the rules say you can fight both if you are able to.
That’s easily changed, though.
The game play is a back and forth struggle of playing cards and fighting monsters, or even preventing your opponent from fighting monsters (force them to discard their prime weapon and that fight ain’t so easy anymore!).
I do like the durability mechanic for the items/weapons, and how you turn the card counterclockwise to note it. It’s the one thing I like about Dead Panic too (and probably the only thing). The numbers on the card clearly show how many uses it has.
Some of the items can be quite powerful, so it’s good that they have limited use. I like how the more powerful ones can just be used once but others that give some benefit but aren’t quite so awesome can be used two or three times.
It is a very tactical card game, in that you don’t know what’s coming and what will be in the dungeon at a certain time. But that’s what all card games like this are like, so just be aware of that before you start.
I definitely love how it’s a quick 20-30 minute game with two players.
There are also rules for 3-4 players, and Dylan mentioned that he’s doing something a little unique in regards to that so he can keep the game in a small box.
There is a 2-player game rule sheet included in the game. However, the rules for 3-4 players are on the web site. The rules page on the site is very mobile-friendly (and not in PDF format), so you can just go to the site on your phone. Very easy to use.
Even for two players, this allows you both to have the rules handy without having to ask for the other player to give it to you (not that the rules are that difficult anyway).
We didn’t try the 3-4 player rules, but it looks like an interesting mechanic.
I would definitely recommend this game based on my first play.
And Dylan is definitely a nice guy to talk to! I enjoyed meeting him and talking about the design.
Note: at the time of this writing, Dylan has mentioned that the rules on the web site are not current. Namely, how the range of weapons works is totally different in the rules that are on the site right now from how they will be.
Please keep that in mind if you go look at them now, but also keep in mind if you are finding this post a month or two from now, they will most likely have been updated