Atheneum: Mystic Library is the third game from the L’Atelier studio and it is their most polished game yet even if it does not sport a particularly great theme. Players take the roles of students at a school for magic users (cool) who are cramming for a magic exam the following day (still cool). The library’s security guard allows the group of players to stay after hours to study but in return he asks you to clean up and organize the shelfs (way less cool). That is right, this is a magic school themed cleaning game, perhaps the first one ever in fact.
Each player gets a book shelf which will be their personal playmat, containing identical layout of shelfs of various shapes and sizes, and the main score tracker/card holder gameboard gets placed in the center of the table. The goal is to organize the books from the library carts onto the shelfs to meet the objective cards that are played out four at a time at the bottom of the gameboard. These objective cards will show one of two things; the first will be a small set of books in a with a particular color layout that needs to be met by the player to score the card, sometimes you will have to put these books on a particular shelf as well. The second will be a series of greyed out books that simply need to have a book of any color in that spot of the shelf to score the card. Easy, right? One objective card drops off the board every turn and is replaced with a fresh card so there is a limited amount of time to claim each card.
To claim an objective card you have to set out books in a certain order but how to you get the books? That is probably the most enjoyable part of the game as each player draws a hand of six cards from the study cards decks. You choose one card and hand the remainder off to the next player (to your left or right depending on how deep into the game you are) while receiving the hand from the opposite sides player. Everyone reveals their cards and performs the actions on it which is broken into three sections; bottom section is what the player putting the card down gets, the top left quarter is what the player to the left gets and the top right quarter is what the player to the right gets. Easy enough but this allows for some fun “screwing” over of the other players as you try to play a card that will help you which also depriving your opponent of what they need. Some of the options from these study cards include drawing certain color books, selecting a random benefit from bonus token bag, gaining victory points and (perhaps most importantly) allows you to arrange the books you have already played as you attempt to get them to match an objective card.
There are other things going on as well of course. Players have a limited amount of wands available which you need to claim an objective card, if you completely fill a section with books you get to draw from the bonus bag, putting books of the players color adjacent to one another will score bonus points and you can place candles on top of the book shelfs for victory points as well. The game wasn’t too hard to figure out, the manual is well done, and once we got a turn or two under our belts we had no problems playing the game. We played a couple games with a group of four players and the game moved quickly, we all had fun and when one game was finished someone would say “lets play again.”
There were a few small things I wanted to point out though. First, the components were hit of miss. They included a pair of “library carts” that you can assemble to hold five different colors of books which was a super nice touch and beat just having them in little piles. Also, the books all have amusing titles on them which got more than a couple chuckles while we were playing. I can’t speak for the designers but I think making up these book titles was probably one of the most enjoyable parts of creating the game.
On the other hand the magic wands in this game, and this may sound petty, look more like swords than magic wands (or they look like a sex toy if you happen to be the pink player). For a $45 game I would have liked to have seen the wands look a little more… magical. Have one wand in the shape of a snake, one the classic wooden wand, one made out of bone or something to spice it up visually. The same with the student pawns, put a sticker on them to give them some personality if you don’t want three-dimension minis but we did not even notice they were all different shapes until we were packing the game up. These are little things for sure but again, for the price it would have been appreciated.
Second, I wish there was just a touch more interactivity between players. Sure you can choose a card that does not give needed books to the person next to you during the game but how about stealing another players magic wand or perhaps “accidently” blowing one of their candles out? You know, just the kind of thing to slow a player who is really doing well down a bit. The game did not suffer that much but after a couple of games it would have been appreciated, perhaps in an expansion down the road?
Overall we enjoyed the game quite a bit and with its 30 minute play time it is a great game to break up the legacy games we have been playing lately.
Atheneum: Mystic Library
Renegade Games – $45
*Review copy of this game was provided on a temporary basis by Game On in Warick, RI with the understanding I teach the owner how to play. Can do boss.