Back in 2012 Morels was published, you might know it by its alternate name Fungi. The theme of mushrooms lay dormant like fungi in the wrong conditions. I know there have been a few other mushroom-themed games published, but not many. That has all changed as the theme has ramped up a gear in the last year. Helvetiq published Kinoku while Blue Orange Games published Wonder Woods. On the horizon is Mycelium: A Mushling Game and Shrooms: Mycology The Game.
You might say there isn’t mushroom for another fungi-themed game, but thankfully there is. Mycelia is a game destined for Kickstarter later this year. It is from first-time designer J.J. Neville and is accompanied by his own illustrations too.
I had the chance to check out a prototype version…
Can you tell me more about the game?
The designer’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject shines through this board game. It is clearly a passion project. Mycelia plays through the life cycle of mushrooms, from the creation, expansion, death and rebirth of these fascinating fungi. In gameplay terms that means building a network, using area majority, playing cards and then retiring these cards to unlock bonuses. All with the aim of finishing with the most victory points.
Players will take two different actions on their turn from a possible six. They will need to react to the ever changing situation on the unique board in front of them. Victory points are mostly scored from cards, obtained by fruiting mushrooms. Once decayed these tuck under the player boards in a really neat way to show their one-off or ongoing benefit.
Final thoughts on Mycelia
After my very first play, the designer asked me nervously what I thought. I leaned back in my chair and thought for a moment. Usually at this point I offer some constructive criticism or discussion points to consider. I considered the balance of the cards, with resources versus points and powers, but didn’t experience anything overpowering. So, I was left saying, that Mycelia was really good and that actually, I couldn’t think of any improvements after my first play. Tweaks could obviously be made to the prototype to make it more finished, but the board game itself was solid. For a first time designer, I was seriously impressed.
Subsequent plays have left me convinced that this is a really interesting game. I have made minor comments on the rulebook, mentioned the advertised time it takes to play might be out slightly, and a few other tiny points. However, they have all been welcomed and addressed. This willingness to listen from the designer encourages me. It gives me confidence that any minor wrinkles, if any, will be ironed out by the time this game fulfils.
The theme may not be for everyone, but it shines through like dappled rays of sun in a woodland. I must confess the theme didn’t initially excite me, but it really works. The artwork by the designer is also incredible! With a good-looking game and interesting gameplay, I’m ready to be a fun guy and embrace it!
The route building and area control doesn’t feel as abstract as in some games. As it is constantly changing, the elements of ‘take-that’ in stealing someone’s network never offends. Stealing other people’s spores and breaking up their root network is just part of the natural ebb and flow of the game. Mycelia may not offer anything refreshingly new, but all the elements work so well together, it is just a joy to play.