Articles Reviews Ugly duckling MYTHGARDIA turns out to be a swan

Ugly duckling MYTHGARDIA turns out to be a swan Michael Barnes Hot

Written by Michael Barnes     July 23, 2009    
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Just in case you forgot, MYTHGARDIA (pictured) is really ugly. The good news is that it's also pretty great. The bad news is that it's mad expensive, and probably sold out by now. Somebody really needs to give Bob Harris a call and get this game out to more folks. I thought I'd write about it over at Cracked LCD to try to help get the word out about it.

But is it worth $80? Believe it or not, I'm inclined to say that it is. If you're one of those lunatics who spent $100+ for a secondhand copy of a game like DUNGEONQUEST or TALISMAN then this one is pretty much par for course. I think it's almost in the league of the great 1980s fantasy adventure games, it just kind of stinks that it's taken us 20+ years to finally see it.

As an added bonus over at Gameshark this week, Bill Abner reviews BLOOD BOWL. It's a great review. Bill's one of the top writers about sports video games in the industry and he's a BB nut, so check out what he's got to say about it. Me, I'm still waiting for the DS version. 

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Comments (33)
  • avatarmetalface13

    Mythgardia sounds pretty fun: Shortish playing time, player interaction, equipment from the start. All sound like winners in my book.

    I actually find the goofy art a little endearing. It's not annoyingly goofy like Munchkin art, but I don't really see the need for it to get the full-blown FFG style treatment. I mean the graphic design as a whole needs work, and that map is boring beyond belief but that goofy bard looking guy puts a smile on my face.

    I can totally envision Mythgardia as a Z-Man Games release. Zev, are you paying attention?

    As for Abner's Blood Bowl review, it's great to see the game covered by a games journalist who is also an avid Blood Bowl fan. It's a shame to hear about the crappy AI and the other niggling injuries the game has. I wonder how the XBLA version will shape up. Will it be the exact same as the PC version?

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Well, I kind of find the bad art kind of charming too, to be honest. But like I say in the review, it automatically puts the game in a bad spot. If I didn't know who Bob Harris was, or what TALISMAN was, I'd look at the game and probably never play it. I think someone in Uba's thread about the game said it looked like the kind of art you'd see in a bible game, and that's pretty much dead on the money. It simply doesn't look appealing to most modern gamers. Those of us who were around in the 80s and played through a lot of stuff with terrible art know to look past it, but I can't see someone new to the hobby seeing the game and not immediately writing it off.

    Graphic design matters. A lot. Board games are a visual medium, they need to look good.

    I think Z-Man would be a great publisher for this as well, but Zev already has PROPHECY in his stable and I think that's a pretty dynamite fantasy adventure game to have on board. He needs to be getting those expansions out. I'd actually really like to see MYTHGARDIA go to an up-and-coming publisher- I think the potential is there for expansions and for the game to really become a flagship title for a new firm.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Barnes Mythgardia Emporium perhaps?

    Yeah, a lot of games have crappy graphic design. I mean if you really want your game to be elegant, please hire a graphic designer. That Dominion logo claws my eyes out. Oh the typographic sins!

    When IS Z-Man releasing those Prophecy expansions? I've been waiting about 4 years now.

  • avatarBulwyf

    It sounds interesting, but until this game dosen't look like shit or cost $80 plus, I'm out.


  • avatarubarose

    Yeah, I think there is still a part of me that compares the art work and quality of games to what we played in the 80's. I still marvel at full color printing and bits that aren't white cardboard chits printed in one color. I remember one game where the pink chits where actually white, with the work "Pink" printed on them.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I think that was probably the WEG TotAN, actually...

    We saw that kind of printing as recently as BETRAYAL AT THE HOUSE ON THE HILL- all those chits with plain-font words like "kidney" on them.

  • avatarGary Sax

    I would be embarrassed to have that in my apartment and horrified if anyone saw it. Therefore I wouldn't buy it no matter how good it is. Call me a snob, but there it is. Sorry, I'm with Bulwyf.

  • avatarubarose

    It would be great to see this game re-worked by a professional game publisher. The art work aside, there are several other things I'd like to see re-tooled.

    The map needs to be completely redone, and not just for aesthetic reasons. The dots suck. You need spaces that are large enough to fit more than one pawn in, and are easier to see and count.

    The character cards need to be more useful, and set up so that you can track skill upgrades, luck and stamina with tokens rather than paper and pencil. All that background story belongs on the back of the card.

    I also think that the Companion name keywords on the Legend cards could be printed in a color to match their region.

    Also, having the region colors on the map actually match the colors on the cards would really help.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    See, it just proves what I'm saying. Homey charm doesn't mean squat if the look of the game is offputting and represents a barrier to sales.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Alright, somebody send me a copy and I'll do a redesign.

  • avatarShellhead

    This a Game-Z prototype with a high price tag.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    The character cards need to be more useful, and set up so that you can track skill upgrades, luck and stamina with tokens rather than paper and pencil.

    I wonder if eliminating the pencil and paper would take $30 off the asking price?

  • avatarubarose

    The pad and golf pencils are priceless.

  • avatarmoofrank

    I think Herr Baden suggested briefly that we could use chips for tracking. He was quickly voted down by the two other players who demanded that the game should be played exactly as written. We even shared golf pencils.

    ...which sounds like one of those things we were told distinctly NOT to do in Health Class.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I was a hardline golf pencil advocate in our game. If it comes with 'em, play with 'em.

    But it would be smart to have a better way to track stats...writing "+1 charm" on a sheet gets lots pretty esily.

  • avatarJuniper

    But what if the pencil gets dull? Think of how that affects the collectible value of the game! If you're putting the game cards in plastic protectors, why are you so cavalier about the other pieces? I always have a ready stock of transparent sheaths for my pencil.

  • avataracetate3

    Thanks for the write-up. I just bought the last copy a few minutes ago.

  • avatarZMan

    The Prophecy expansions will come - I assure you. Believe me, I'm as frustrated to have it take as long as it has.

    I've been going back and forth about this game. I was going to order it then no, then yes... But Michael might be right in that since I do have Prophecy do I really need to have this in my stable?

    But if it is really, really good, well, it might make sense business-wise.

    However, I'm also swamped with so many other projects and submissions, that I think and hope that if it is good enough, someone else will pick it up. But if not and I have some spare moment, I can revisit it....

  • avatarmetalface13

    FFG has a bazillion adventure games in their catalog. I'm sure you'd be fine with three.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Oh and about those Prophecy expansions, I've got the old Altar version, will they be compatible?

  • avatarubarose
    Thanks for the write-up. I just bought the last copy a few minutes ago.

    They certainly didn't last long.

  • avatarubarose
    I was a hardline golf pencil advocate in our game. If it comes with 'em, play with 'em.

    I hate writing stuff, plus the Man injured himself doing some stupid outdoor type sport thing, so he couldn't write. We used some craft gems to track points and stats. They looked nice with the big crystals.

  • avatarUniversalHead

    I'm sitting here working on the Prophecy expansions and I thought I'd take a quick break and check out FAT.

    Hmm - better get back to work then!

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Yeah, I'm really looking forward to the PROPHECY add-ons...Branham will probably play only those exclusively for about month when they come out.

    I've been going back and forth about this game. I was going to order it then no, then yes... But Michael might be right in that since I do have Prophecy do I really need to have this in my stable?

    Well, I do think it has some compelling competitive differentiators, so to speak.

    - It's not every day that a Bob Harris design shows up- and the last time it was TALISMAN.
    - The setting is really kind of unique even though the current production doesn't really make the most of it- the idea of adventuring in five different mythological realms isn't something we see among the usual post-Tolkein fantasy concepts that inform most adventure games.
    - The gameplay is at once lighter but more possibly more decision-heavy than TALISMAN or PROPHECY and there is a greater sense of accessibility that I think interest casual gamers and non-gamers.
    - The game could be practically endlessly expanded a la TALISMAN so if it were successful it would be a good franchise.

    So it does have some things that kind of set it apart from the competition, it doesn't feel redundant with anything that I can think of, except for maybe TotAN but that's really a different concept with the storytelling aspect.

  • avatarKingPut

    After playing MYTHGARDIA last weekend with Uba, I asked her if we would have even tried out this game if it wasn't a Bob Harris game. She said probably not but that would have been a shame because Mythgardia is a fun game.

    However, I can just imagine a typical review on BGG for Mythgardia. The first complaint would be that the components and art sucks. Also there would be the complaint that the main mechanism comes from the roll and move pick up and delivery game similar from 1970's kids games like Emergency and the Fat Albert game. We could also say the game is completely broken because there is so much randomness. Luckily, Uba and Barnes don't review games by following a check list or using a spread sheet.

    I don't have a long history with Talisman and I didn't even know who Bob Harris was until a couple of weeks ago but after one play I'd have to say I liked Mythgardia quite a lot and I'm looking forward to playing it again at WBC in 2 weeks. Just like Talisman, Mythgardia is a light fun stoner game that can be played in about 90 minutes for 3 players. The 2 coolest things about Mythgardia are making choice between moving the maximum distance to get to your destination faster or to play it safe and not use your maximum dice roll and stop in a city. The 2nd cool thing is deciding how many Luck Points to use on each encounter. There's sometimes you'll want to use luck points to avoid really bad things happening to you but other times you'll want to use luck point to get the potential reward. In the game I played with Uba and the Man, me and the Man were battling for 1st place until each of us spend about 10 luck points beating each other up trying to get to one of the gems that close to both of us. This ended up putting Uba in a great position to win the game.

    I'm not planning on buying one of the 100 copies. I guess I'll have to wait and play Uba's copy once or twice a year. Hopefully, somebody will reprint this the US so one day I can get a cheaper and higher quality copy.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Just in from Mr. Harris-

    Michael, You win. We're making more. The website's in a transitional state right now, but we should be offering the chance to get copies of Mythgardia again in the next 24 hours. Thanks for your enthusiasm and support. The fact that so many people out there are really enjoying Mythgardia makes all the hard work we've put into it worthwhile. Bob
  • avatarubarose
    After playing MYTHGARDIA last weekend with Uba, I asked her if we would have even tried out this game if it wasn't a Bob Harris game.

    You have to understand, to Talisman fans, this offering of Mythgardia is like J. D. Salinger suddenly offering to sell 100 copies of an unpublished work, printed and spiral bound at Kinkos.

  • avatarmaka

    Hehe so the 100 first copies are not that exclusive anymore :D

    I just played our first 3 player game of Mythgardia with my 5yo son. We all enjoyed it, and I think it's a great game to play with kids. He did have some trouble recognizing locations (he's starting to read) but otherwise he managed to snatch a win...

    BTW, I don't find the game more "adult" than Return of the Heroes or Runebound (and probably Talisman). It's strength to me is that it really feels different than other adventure games, so it doesn't feel redundant. But if you consider any of those adventure games "children" games, then this is it too...

  • avatarZMan

    Hey, KingPut - maybe I'll join you in a game of Mythgardia at WBC. If interested stop by the booth and we'll set up a time.

    While I think you can use the Czech expansion with my base game, my Dragon Realm edition is going to be very different from your Dragon Realm as cards and rules have changed/been added/been deleted....

  • avatarKingPut

    Zev, Uba's planning on hitting WBC with the Man and Mythgardia from Thursday to Sunday. So I'm sure she can hook us up. Mythgardia is probably a perfect light game to play after working the Z-Man booth all day.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Zev: Well, I certainly don't have any of the Altar expansions. As far as I'm aware they were never printed in English nor were they available in the U.S. But my base games is the Altar Games English version.

  • avatarZMan

    Ah, yes, if you have the base game you can use the expansion, though we made many changes to the base game - mostly affecting cards and their cost.

  • avatarmetalface13

    Well, I guess that's what I get for being an early adopter. If it's workable enough then it is good enough for me.

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