Mystic Vale, the card-crafting game from AEG, now has its first expansion: Vale of Magic. Here’s a quick look at what’s new.
At a glance: Mystic Vale: Vale of Magic is an expansion to Mystic Vale and requires the base game to play. It is for 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 45–60 minutes to play. It retails for $29.99 and is in stores now and on Amazon. The game has a magical nature theme and is appropriate for younger kids, but it would help if they had some prior experience with deck-building games.
The gameplay and component quality is the same as in the original game, so I won’t explain everything in detail here—for that, please read my review of the original.
Vale of Magic contains 72 new cards:
- 54 Advancements:
- 18 Level 1
- 21 Level 2
- 15 Level 3
- 18 Vale cards:
- 9 Level 1
- 9 Level 2
The advancement cards are the clear plastic cards, and the vale cards are regular cardstock—all are tarot-sized cards, and the component quality is the same as before.
As with the first set, each type of advancement has three cards, one for each position on the cards (top, middle, and bottom), so there are 6 new Level 1 advancement types, 7 new Level 2 advancement types, and so on. Oddly, the new cards are not marked in any way as expansion cards, so once you mix them in, you won’t be able to separate them back out easily without referring to a card list.
The rulebook only shows the cards with printed abilities that need clarification, but there are some cards that simply have a different combination of points, mana, and spirit symbols, so they are not shown in the rulebook.
The expansion comes in a small box, and the cards are meant to be stored in the base game box so the expansion box can be recycled once you take everything out.
How to play
Using the Vale of Magic expansion is easy: just shuffle the cards into the corresponding decks from the base game, and then play as before. The rulebook has detailed explanations of some of the new cards, but for the most part things will be self-explanatory, just with some new card abilities and combinations.
There are only two new types of abilities that were not present in the base game: a “Discard” ability and some “When Bought” abilities.
The Hatchery advancement has a “Discard” ability, which triggers during your discard phase. Its ability is that if it isn’t the first (left-most) card in your field, then you leave it in play as the first card of your field for your next turn. Basically, it allows you to play that card twice before discarding in most circumstances—and it even triggers if you spoil, since it happens during the discard phase.
There are several vale cards with “When Bought” abilities—these are one-time effects that happen immediately when you purchase the vales. For instance, the Fauna Hollow gives you 2 extra mana to spend on that turn as soon as you purchase it, and the Direwolf Burrow lets you flip your mana token face-up immediately if it is currently face-down.
Vale of Magic adds new cards to the base game without any significant rule changes, much like most expansions for deck-building games, but the new effects and abilities make for a multitude of new combinations of advancements. There are also a few cards (one advancement and a few vales) that allow you to flip your mana token to the active side without spoiling, making it easier to get that extra mana to spend.
Since the new cards are shuffled into the decks (rather than replacing any cards), it does mean that the existing cards do get diluted a little, so you can’t count on any particular advancement being accessible during the course of a game. This is especially true for the Level 1 advancements, since you shuffle those and set out only a limited number of them in the game. There are more Level 2 advancements because you tend to use the most of those—after the Level 1 runs out, you fill out the market with Level 2, but chances are slim that you will run out of Level 2 advancements and start filling in with Level 3.
I’ve found that the particular mix of Level 1 advancements present in the game can have an influence on the feel of the gameplay, even though the Level 2 and Level 3 decks are the same each game.
In my original review, I mentioned that one of the complaints about Mystic Vale was that there is not any direct player interaction—you build your world and I build mine, but none of my cards directly affect you. At most, the way I interact with you is by buying a card that you really wanted for yourself.
I guessed that future expansions would add more direct interaction. However, at Gen Con this year I met designer John D. Clair, and talked to him a little bit about Mystic Vale, and he said that in this design he really embraced the “multiplayer solitaire” aspect of deck-building games. Thematically, you are all druids trying to restore a cursed land, so it doesn’t make sense to have direct attacks on each other. But as I’ve played more, I’ve found that (for the most part) I enjoy the game and it feels like the market competition is a pretty good level of interaction. I could see having some cards that allow for positive benefits for everyone (you get something, and I get something better) but I’m not sure if that will happen.
I had also mentioned that the game felt too short at times, but I’ll revise that: I have seen games go much longer, and it really depends on how players are building their decks. I’ve witnessed a few instances where a player has been able to play through their entire deck in one turn: once you’ve reached that stage, you really don’t want the game to continue for several more turns.
I did like the expansion—I think it provides a nice new mix of cards that change up the game so that you don’t feel like you’re seeing the same things every time you play. And, the more I play Mystic Vale, the more I enjoy it, though I do know there are some players who still strongly prefer other, more traditional, deck-building games to it.
If you enjoyed the first one, I highly recommend adding the expansion to the mix. If you were hoping for an expansion that adds more direct player interaction, this isn’t it.
You can order Vale of Magic from Amazon or other online retailers, or check in with your local game store.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game.