Disclaimer: This preview is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by Deep Water Games to Punchboard Media, which was then passed to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Game: Mystery of the Temples
Publisher: Emperor S4/Deep Water Games
Designer: Wei-Min Ling
Main Game Mechanisms: Rondel, Set Collection, Pattern Building
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Game Time: 20 to 40 minutes (dependent on player count)
Description: Mystery of the Temples is a double rondel game in which players are curse breakers, traveling through the wilderness (one rondel) or to each temple (the second rondel) in order to break the curses that have been cast upon each temple.
Gameplay involves each player choosing whether they are going to move 1 to 3 spaces on either wilderness spots (green) or temples (large tarot cards), and where they land, they are able to collect gems in 6 colors – blue, red, green, yellow, purple, and colorless. These gems need to be placed on your player board in a particular pattern so that you can, eventually, land on a particular temple and use the matching pattern to break one of the curses on the temple for points and a rune.
Throughout the game, you’re collecting runes, which grant you special abilities on spaces that match that rune, and points. When one player has broken 5 curses, then the end game is triggered. The round ends, and then the objective cards that were placed in the middle of the board at the beginning of the game are scored. Having the most victory points allows you to become the most successful curse breaker (and, of course, the winner of the game).
Here are a few reviews that can help you to get an even better idea of what the game has to offer:
- Eric from What’s Eric Playing
- BJ from Board Game Gumbo
- The State of Games Podcast: Episode 147.
- Draft Mechanic Podcast: Episode 71
Review: If there was one word that I could use to describe this game, it is this: elegant. And I’m not someone that just throws that word around. This game is beautiful, simple, but strategic in ways that tickle every part of my brain differently. The art is incredibly well done, and that just adds to the beauty that this game offers to players.
At this point in time, I have played with every player count – 2, 3, and 4 players. I really like how they made adjustments for both the 2 and 3 player games so that your choices were tight and so that you have to really think about your next few steps ahead of time. And while there is a sort of “dummy player” in the 2-player game, it’s only meant for blocking spaces off, so it’s not a problem at all. No matter what player count we played at, it didn’t add a lot of time and the game was just as thinky and strategic.
The double rondel adds a whole new level of thinking to what you’re doing. You can only move on one rondel on your turn (either wilderness or temples), and you can only move 1 to 3 spaces – you can’t stay on the same spot, and you can’t just go wherever you want unless you spend some colorless gems to make it happen.
Speaking of the colorless gems, I love how the colorless gems essentially act like your currency. You can trade them in for colored gems on certain wilderness spots or at a rate of 4 to 1 or you can use them to move farther during your turn. Any colored gem can be used as a colorless gem, as well.
Lastly, collecting the runes added another level of set collection and made you feel like you were becoming more powerful as you continued on your journey. Throwing in additional perks for landing on specific cards made your choices even more difficult and it can cause you to think through your turns even more, especially toward the end of the game.
Now, that being said, analysis paralysis is almost obsolete in this game – while you may have to think for just a moment, you usually know what you’re going to do because you can think about it while other players are taking their turns. You also, usually, have to think several turns ahead in order to achieve your goals. There are so many decisions to be made that it’s an absolutely crunchy game to play through, every time you play it.
The only criticism I had about the game was the fact that I knew that it was not going to be colorblind friendly – but when Deep Water Games brought it to the North American market, they decided to make that a priority. Their Kickstarter has an optional colorblind option that uses tokens and temple cards that have symbols for each color. I imagine this will make a huge difference – Thanks, Deep Water, for working to make the game accessible to everyone.
Try, Buy, Deny: Buy this, do it. At this point, it has the potential to become one of my favorite games of all time. As you can tell from the description above, it’s very easy to learn, but that’s deceptive when it comes to the depth of strategy that comes with it. If you like abstract, pattern building games that look beautiful and have several layers of amazing strategy, go to Kickstarter right now and back it for $25 – it’s worth every single penny.