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‘The Mystic Wood’ Revolutionized What a Board Game Could Be

3 Minute Read
Mar 26 2024
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Long ago, board games were seen as children’s toys. But The Mystic Wood sought to change all that with a large stack of cards and a dream.

Terence Peter Donnelly loved playing Dungeons & Dragons, as we all do. But finding a group to play with and someone to DM for a group can be tough. Thus, he set out to solve that problem and helped pave the way for all dungeon crawler board games.

The game features multiple different box arts.

We already covered Donnelly’s first (not-wargame) game, The Sorcerer’s Cave. It was very rudimentary by today’s standards but laid the groundwork for so many games we love today. Games of venturing deep into uncharted territory, battling vicious monsters, tackling treacherous obstacles, and finding miraculous treasure. And that’s what Donnelly brought to the table with The Mystic Wood.

Images via Board Game Geek

The Mystic Wood Overview

The Mystic Wood is a competitive exploration game with a modular map, unique character stats, and random encounters. The goal of each player is to be the first to achieve their own unique victory condition. The map is laid out in a series of map tile cards that contain some special locations, but for the most part, simply build the maze of the woods.

As players explore the mystic woods, they will encounter a variety of people and monsters. Some can be bested in combat while others must be bested through wit. Regardless of the method of defeat, whenever one such encounter is defeated, the player gains some benefit. Either a bonus to their stats or some specific ability. There are a wide variety of possibilities with the encounters and the rewards.

Since each player has their own victory condition, it comes down to whichever player can accomplish theirs first. There are a few cards, such as The King, which will even alter your victory condition upon defeat. That said, whichever player does so first wins!

And that’s basically the whole game. I did say it was simple.

Final Thoughts

As with The Sorcerer’s Cave, by today’s standards, The Mystic Wood is pretty outdated. However, both of these games were among the first to implement a modular map mechanic and characters, which improved over time. Additionally, having each player have their own unique victory condition was leaps and bounds ahead of other board games of the era.

So while this game might not amaze anyone today, you better thank your lucky stars they exist because, without it, you wouldn’t have the Gloomhavens you love today.


Author: Matt Sall
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