Released last year (2019) Mystic Market is a game that immediately intrigued me. As a big fan of set collection games I like to try and check out most games from the genre. In addition to the set collecting mechanics I was intrigued by the fantasy market theme. Instead of buying and selling generic goods you get to deal in fantasy ingredients. The mechanic that intrigued me the most though was the fact that the market was controlled by a gravity mechanic. I have played a lot of different board games and I have never seen anything quite like it. For all of these reasons I really wanted to try out Mystic Market. Mystic Market is not perfect, but it combines fun set collecting mechanics with a truly unique market mechanic to create a fun and original experience.
How to Play Mystic Market
- Select a dealer. The dealer will shuffle the Ingredient and Potion decks.
- Each player will be dealt four Ingredient Cards face down. They will also take five 1 coins and a Reference Card.
- Take the top five cards from the Ingredient Deck and place them face up on the table to form the Ingredient Market.
- Randomly select three of the Supply Shift Cards and randomly add them to the Ingredient Deck. Place the Ingredient Deck face down next to the Ingredient Market. The three Supply Shift Cards that were not picked are returned to the box.
- Select the top five Potion Cards and place them face up on the table to form the Potion Market. The rest of the cards are placed face down next to the market.
- Place the coins next to the cards to form the bank.
- Assemble the Value Track by placing the vials on the track in the correct order.
- 15 – Purple Pixie Powder
- 12 – Blue Mermaid Tears
- 10 – Green Kraken Tentacles
- 8 – Yellow Orc Teeth
- 6 – Orange Phoenix Feathers
- 5 – Red Dragon Scales
- The player to the left of the dealer will take the first turn.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they will get to choose one of three actions to perform. They can either buy, swap, or sell ingredients. They must take one of these actions as they cannot skip their turn. In addition to one of these actions the player can also craft and use potions.
Players can hold a maximum of eight Ingredient Cards at the end of their turn. Potion Cards do not count toward this limit. If a player has more than eight Ingredient Cards in their hand they must discard cards until they reach the limit.
On their turn a player can buy one or two Ingredient Cards. The player can either buy a card(s) from the Ingredient Market or they can buy the top card(s) from the draw pile. They can also choose to buy one card from both sources.
To buy a card from the Ingredient Market you will pay a number of coins corresponding to the ingredient’s current position on the Value Track. If the ingredient is in the five or six space the player will pay one coin due to the one dot symbol beneath the spaces. If the ingredient is in the eight or ten space you will pay two coins. Finally if it is in the twelve or fifteen spot you will pay three coins. When you buy a good from the Ingredient Market it will immediately be replaced with the top card from the draw pile.
If a player wants to buy the top card from the Ingredient Draw Pile they will pay two coins.
With this action the player can swap Ingredient Cards from their hand with cards from the Ingredient Market. They may swap one or two cards from their hand with the same number of cards from the Ingredient Market.
When a player chooses to sell Ingredient Cards the action they will take will depend on the number of cards that they sell.
Each Ingredient Card features a number along the bottom. This number indicates how many cards of that type need to be sold together in order to sell the cards for coins. If a player sells these many cards they will collect coins from the bank equal to the current value of the ingredient on the Value Track. The player will then perform a Value Shift.
When a player performs a Value Shift they will take the vial that they just sold and remove it from the track. All of the vials currently above this ingredient will shift down to fill in the empty space. The player will then insert the vial they sold into the five space on the Value Track.
The other option that a player can choose is to sell a single card. When a player sells a single card they won’t collect any coins, but they will perform a Value Shift with the vial they sold.
A player can choose to sell as many types of Ingredient Cards as they want on their turn. They can also sell sets and individual cards in the same turn.
When a new card is drawn from the Ingredient Deck there is a chance that one of the Supply Shift Cards will be drawn. When this type of card is drawn the players will see what ingredient the Supply Shift Card references. The corresponding vial will be moved to the fifteen space on the Value Track. To move the vial to this space you will begin by moving the vial currently in the fifteen space to the five space. You will continue to do this until the correct vial reaches the fifteen space.
After the Supply Shift is completed another Ingredient Card will be drawn. If another Supply Shift Card is drawn its effect will also be applied and another card will be drawn. If the card was originally meant to be placed in the Ingredient Market this new card will be placed in the market. If a player bought the Supply Shift Card this new card will be added to the player’s hand.
At any time during a player’s turn they can choose to craft a potion. When a player wants to craft a potion they will look at the cards currently face up in the Potion Market. If the player has the two Ingredient Cards shown on the Potion Card they can discard them in order to take the Potion Card. The Potion Card that was taken will be replaced with the top card from the Potion Deck. If the Potion Deck ever runs out of cards it will not be replenished.
A player can choose to craft multiple potions on their turn.
Once a player has crafted a Potion Card they can use it at any time which includes other players’ turns. When a player uses a Potion Card they will take the action printed on the card. The player will also take coins from the bank equal to the profit listed on the used card.
End of Game
The end game will be triggered once the last card is drawn from the Ingredient Deck. The current player will finish their turn like normal. All of the players will then get to take one final turn to sell Ingredient Cards, craft Potion Cards, and/or play Potion Cards.
The players will count up how many coins they have. The player with the most coins wins the game.
My Thoughts on Mystic Market
As a fan of set collecting games I was really intrigued by Mystic Market. At its core the game is similar to many set collecting games. The objective of the game is to acquire sets of different colors in order to be able to sell them for a large profit. Players can accomplish this by either buying cards or swapping for cards already in their hand. These mechanics are pretty similar to your typical set collecting game.
The area where Mystic Market really differentiates itself is how you use your cards after you have acquired them. Timing is key in the game as the market is constantly fluctuating. The Value Track consists of a vial of all of the different colors in the game. On this track there are two different values to deal with. The most valuable ingredients will sell for the most, but they also cost the most to buy from the market. The least valuable ingredients are also the cheapest to buy. To do well in the game you basically need to buy ingredients at a low price and either swap them for other ingredients or wait it out until the ingredient becomes considerably more valuable.
How the market values fluctuate is actually really interesting as it utilizes a gravity mechanic. Whenever a player sells an ingredient of a certain type the following ingredient is temporarily removed from the value track which leads to the vials above it sliding down one position on the track. Due to selling an ingredient all of these other ingredients go up in value while the ingredient that was sold becomes the least valuable ingredient. Therefore you need to time your purchases and sales to correspond to the shifting market in order to maximize your profit.
As you can only take one type of action on your turn this adds an interesting risk/reward mechanic to Mystic Market. Once you have acquired a large enough set to sell them for a profit you have a decision to make. You can either sell them right away for their current value which is likely a good decision if the ingredient is currently valuable. If the ingredient is at one of the medium or low prices though things become more interesting. If you wait the value of the ingredient could go up allowing you to receive more coins. Another player could sell the ingredient before your next turn though returning it to the lowest price. To do well in the game you need to do a good job timing the market since if you sell too soon or too late you will have a hard time winning the game.
This mechanic also introduces a sort of take that mechanic as players have the opportunity to really mess with one another. In addition to selling ingredients for profit you can sell them to manipulate the market. If you have only one card of an ingredient that is more valuable than the ingredients you want to sell you may consider selling it in order to increase the value of your other set. This can also be used to mess with the other players. If you can remember what cards the other player has in their hand you can sell an ingredient just to tank the market for that ingredient before they can sell it. Along with some of the potion cards players can use these mechanics to really mess with the other players.
As a big fan of set collecting games I had a strong feeling that I would enjoy Mystic Market. The game doesn’t drastically differ from your typical set collecting game, but the set collecting mechanics are still really fun. What really makes the game though is the market mechanics. I found the Value Track to be quite clever. Most decisions you make in the game are likely going to have an impact on the cost and value of ingredients in the game. Thus manipulating the market to your own advantage plays almost as big of role as the set collecting mechanics. This might not seem like much at first but the Value Track really differentiates Mystic Market from other set collecting games.
At first glance Mystic Market might look like it may be somewhat difficult. It is more difficult than a mainstream game, but it is actually quite a bit simpler than first appearances would make it seem. On your turn you have the choice of one of three actions along with the ability to use or buy as many potions as you want. All of these actions are quite simple. There are a few things that players have to initially adjust to, but the mechanics are really straightforward. The game has a recommended age of 10+, but I think it could go a little lower. The game may be a little more difficult than games that non-gamers normally play, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to play the game. As a matter of fact I see Mystic Market working really well as a bridge game into more difficult designer games.
With the game being pretty easy to play I am glad that it still contains enough strategy to remain interesting. Mystic Market is not the most strategic game ever made. On many turns your best option is usually pretty obvious. The game does not play itself though as you have to make smart decisions in order to do well in the game. Choosing which colors to target and when to buy and sell has a pretty big impact on how well you will do in the game. For example a good way to increase your value is to buy one coin cards instead of more expensive cards. These cards will eventually go up in value or you can always swap them for more valuable cards on another turn. Buying one coin cards is a cheap way to increase your hand size which is important in the game. The strategy in Mystic Market probably won’t blow you away, but it is deep enough that it should keep all players interested as your decisions are meaningful in the game.
The game still relies on a decent amount of luck though. You make a lot of your own luck in the game, but there are things that you can’t control. For example you could be dealt valuable sets of cards to start the game that you could immediately sell for a large profit. Otherwise you need to hope that the market works with the cards that you have in your hand. You could have a set ready to sell and another player sells it before you. This could be because they knew you also had the set or they could have sold it for some other reason. A Supply Shift Card could also be drawn that messes up the market and your plans. You can mitigate quite a few of these problems, but you need some luck on your side if you want a good chance of winning the game. If one player gets considerably luckier than the others they will have a pretty big advantage in the game.
As for Mystic Market’s length I have some mixed feelings. I would say that a majority of games will probably take around 30-45 minutes. In theory I like this length as it is the right balance where it isn’t too short or too long. At this length the game fits well into the longer filler game role. The game is short enough that you can easily play a rematch or you don’t have to waste a whole night playing the game. While I like the overall length, it just felt like the game ended a little too quickly. I honestly think the game would have been better if it lasted a couple more rounds. It just felt like players didn’t have quite enough turns to finish their plans. The game could have probably benefited from adding a few more ingredient cards. This is far from a big issue though as it doesn’t really impact your enjoyment of the game.
I would say that the biggest issue I had with Mystic Market had to deal with the potions. In theory I like the addition of potions as they give you more things to do with your ingredients. The problem is that the potions are not used nearly as well as they could have been. I had two main issues with the potions in the game.
First in many cases the potions are not worth the hassle. While all of the potions give you a special ability which can be helpful, except in certain circumstances you are usually better off selling your ingredients for a profit instead of turning them into a potion. To purchase any potion you need to use two cards. No matter what type they are each card in your hand is valuable. You have to pay at least one coin for each card so the potion will indirectly cost you at least two coins. In addition you will lose cards from your hand which means you will have to waste at least one turn replenishing your hand. The benefits on all of the cards can help you, but for many of the cards this benefit is not worth the cost outside of a few rare cases.
The bigger problem with the potions is the fact that a couple of the cards feel completely rigged where you would be a fool not to buy them if you have the opportunity. By far the worst in my opinion is the Plunder Tonic which gives you six coins and allows you to steal five coins from another player. This can create an eleven point swing in the game and makes it really hard for the player whose coins were stolen to catch up. The player that gets this card can easily become a kingmaker in the game. The Elixir of Wealth is also powerful as it gets you 15 coins. The Reduction Serum makes it really easy to sell a valuable set. Finally the Duplication Tonic can be the most valuable potion in the game if it is used at the right time.
The problem with the potions is that pretty much all of them are either too weak or powerful. This is a shame as I think the potions could have really helped the game. Giving players more options for their ingredients is a good thing as it gives players more options to implement their strategy. If the potions worked properly you could use them to turn less valuable ingredients into a potion that could help you. In action though the potions mostly just add luck to the game. The weak potions mostly just sit in the market while the powerful potions are acquired almost immediately. Thus the player who has the right potions show up in the market on their turn will have a huge advantage in the game. Otherwise the potions become a source for quick coins at the end of the game as you try to turn worthless ingredients into a few coins here and there.
While not a huge problem I did have a little issue with the end game in Mystic Market as well. It makes sense to end the game one turn after the draw deck runs out of cards. Players will always be aware of when the game is about to end. The problem is that at the end of the game most players might not be in the market to buy cards as they can’t use them to generate coins. This creates a sort of stalemate situation where no one wants to waste money buying the last card or two. Instead of buying a card players may just swap cards to delay and force another player to buy the last card. Unless you can buy a card that allows you to sell a set or buy a potion you are just losing points buying a card that you don’t need. To fix this I think the game should have let players take the buy, swap and sell ingredient actions on their last turn as they would have more opportunities to create a set that they could sell. This might not happen in every game, but in some games players will lose one to three points because they are forced to buy a card that they don’t want.
As for the components I think the game does a fantastic job. The cards are made of a thicker cardboard and feel like they are of a higher quality than your typical card. The artwork on the cards are quite good and the game does a great job streamlining things so it is easy to find the information that you need. The coins are pretty typical for this type of game, but they are made of pretty thick cardboard so they should last. The vials and the value track are the game’s best component though. The vials are made of plastic but are filled with what looks like colored sand making it look like there are actual ingredients inside them. The value track is made of thicker plastic. The vials and value track work really well together as taking out vials and having vials fill in the empty space works really well. The components in Mystic Market really help support the overall game.
Should You Buy Mystic Market?
I had pretty high expectations for Mystic Market and for the most part the game lived up to them. At its core the game is a set collecting game. The set collecting mechanics aren’t drastically different from other games in the genre, but they are still quite fun. What really differentiates the game is how market prices are determined in the game. The game utilizes a gravity mechanic where whenever an ingredient is sold it causes a shift in most of the ingredients’ purchase and sale prices. This mechanic leads to most of your decisions in the game having a direct impact on the prices in the market. The key to doing well in the game is finding the right times to purchase and sell goods in the market. This involves a little luck but quite a bit of strategy as well. The game may seem somewhat difficult at first but it is actually surprisingly simple. The gameplay is quite satisfying overall. The biggest problems with the game is that the potion cards are unbalanced, the game sometimes relies on a little too much luck, and the end game could have been a little better.
My recommendation for Mystic Market comes down to your feelings towards set collecting games and the market mechanic in the game. If you have never liked set collecting games or don’t think the market mechanics sound all that interesting, Mystic Market probably won’t be for you. Those that like set collecting games or think the market mechanics sound clever though should really enjoy Mystic Market. For most people I would recommend picking up Mystic Market as it is a good game.