Just recently the great Forests of Pangea demonstrated how well the life cycle of a tree works as a mechanical basis in a board game. The debut work Mycelia from Split Stone Games brings players closer to the world of mushrooms in an equally exciting way. We spoke to Jack Neville from Split Stone Games about his game, which he also illustrated. Crowdfunding for the game starts almost exactly a month before the SPIEL on September 7th Kickstarter.
Mycelium is the “network” of a fungus that is often not completely visible to the eye. This is exactly how the players build a network in this easy-to-learn game with an area control element. But being easy to learn doesn't mean that the game lacks tactical depth. The possibilities offered in the game are just as fine and extensive as the network that gives it its name. In addition to a short interview about the development of the game, we were also able to test a prototype. The impressions from the games follow in the second part of this article. All photos show the prototype. The finished game material may differ from the material shown.
Two passions come together
Jack Neville has been fascinated by mushrooms for a long time. Board games are another passion of the Englishman. After a few attempts to develop a board game that, according to his own statements, were not very successful, the idea of developing a game about mushrooms grew at the beginning of 2020.
In addition to the personal interest in the topic, the natural thematic implementation of the game has another decisive advantage: many mechanics have developed naturally. Based closely on the life cycle of a mushroom, an easily accessible connoisseur's game was created in just over three years that can also challenge people who play a lot.
Before the game can start crowdfunding in a few days, a few years have passed since the first idea. The game was tested privately for the first year and a half and further developed before there were further tests. Even though the game has already made its first public appearances at the UK Game Expo, development is still not complete. There are always little things that can be adjusted.
Over the course of the game's development, for example, the triangle tiles and the wind mechanics have changed. The way the spores are distributed on the field has also been revised so that the game does not become chaotic or confusing. Of course, the cards with their victory points, costs and effects were also a major construction site that took many hours to work on.
It's not just the game mechanics that have been intensively improved and streamlined. The overall package has also been optimized. The game's box should be used as effectively as possible. For this reason, for example, the players' tableaus are divided into five individual tableaus in order to be able to accommodate them in a space-saving manner.
Build your mushroom network
Mycelia is one of those games that are quick to learn but difficult to master. There are only five main actions and one occasional possible action to choose from. You can always use two different actions on your own turn.
With the movement action you can move your main mushroom up to two spaces over the long sides of the triangle tiles. If you don't like the tiles on display or if it's starting to get a bit too full, you can decide to draw a face-down tile and place it on it. Another action is drawing a new card from your hand. This can be hidden or come from the open display.
To expand your own network, you can have one of your own mushrooms distribute spores. The direction in which the spores spread depends on the result of the wind die. The spores spread in a pyramid shape from the platelet of the sporing fungus. The main fungus always distributes two spores. Mushrooms played over the cards have a variable number of spores. Map mushrooms can only disperse spores twice before they are ready to decay.
If you have spores on the right fields, you can play a new mushroom. Each mushroom has a cost that indicates which of the four terrain types must drop spores from. You then place the card on one of your five boards and place the mushroom token on a field from which you dropped spores. The spores dropped must be part of your own network. Opposing main mushrooms or mushroom tokens can act as parent elements and block their own spores.
After growth is before decay
If a played mushroom has distributed spores twice, you can let it expire. The mushroom card is pushed under the tableau, the mushroom token is placed back on the tableau and you receive an effect from the mushroom card that has just expired. These effects can be one-time, permanent, or specific to the tableau under which they lie.
The game ends as soon as a person has at least one decayed mushroom among all five of their boards. The game then ends immediately. Whoever triggers the end of the game receives the corresponding token, which is worth five points. Now everyone adds up the points of their grown and decayed mushrooms. Every two insect tokens bring you another point. These can be collected on corresponding tiles in the game. By discarding two insect tokens, you can move an opponent's main mushroom or use an insect token to swap the three face-up mushroom cards.
The game will also have a solo mode. This is currently the most in development. The bot is controlled via a deck of cards and is, above all, a timer that forces you to work as effectively as possible towards the end of the game. Even though it hasn't been perfected to the same extent as the multi-player game, I also had a lot of fun with the game in the solo games, so it is also recommended for pure solo players.
Tactical depth thanks to simple rules
As briefly as the basics of the game can be presented, so much can be gained from them. After a short time you have carried out all the actions once and understood how to use them. During the game and in the different games, new situations always arise that you want to use to your advantage with the two quickly executed actions.
The interaction between the players is particularly important here. You shouldn't underestimate how competitive the tiles are with three or four players. As a couple you can avoid each other, but you don't want to just rely on the other person simply scoring fewer points than you. The movement ability of the main mushroom is a tactical element that is still underestimated when reading the rules and is ideal for thwarting the plans of other players by blocking their spores and mushroom tokens.
The game plays absolutely smoothly. The processes, actions and options are presented absolutely clearly. Thanks to the obvious source of points via mushrooms, there is no confusing point salad at the end.
Visually, the game is also absolutely convincing. The individually designed mushroom cards in particular wonderfully demonstrate the great attention to detail that was put into the game. The table presence with the triangular tiles and many wooden components is also something very special.
For us, thanks to its light and accessible nature, the natural-feeling rules and the fast and tactical feel of the game, the game can easily hold its own in our collection and, after the prototype unfortunately had to move on, it will definitely be back as soon as the game is finished Crowdfunding went.
Delivery is planned around nine to twelve months after successful crowdfunding.
There will be a total of three variants of the game. The basic version will be available for around €65. Two-layer panels, an inlay and wooden components are already included here. The Premium edition includes additional upgrades such as cotton bags for the components and art prints of the game's excellent illustrations.
If you want something very special you can also finance the absolute deluxe edition of the game. There will only be a very few copies of this available. Everything, from the triangular tiles to the box, will be handmade from wood. The price will therefore be many times higher and will be in the mid three-digit range at around €400.
Information about mycelia
Number of people: 1 – 4 people
Game idea and illustrations: JJ Neville
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