You and your mates are Gods, but being a God in contemporary society isn’t what it was back in the heady days of yore and your powers are a bit less than they used to be. Turns out if people don’t believe, you don’t have quite the amazing abilities you remember from when you first came on the scene.
Worse, Death is afoot and he’s ready to do some serious malevolent things to the world and it’s up to you to stop him. You have nine rounds of the game Mortals to seal all the gates before Death shows up; accomplish that and you’ve won the game! You can battle and defeat Death once he shows up, but that’s not for the faint of heart and even at the height of your powers, that was going to be a challenge. Now? Yeah, best close those gates soonest!
Problem is, the gates are located in an abandoned museum and there are ghouls, liches and mythic bad guys attacking you and generally getting in the way of your quest to seal up those pesky gates. And time’s running out!
Mortals is a fun new cooperative game — which I reviewed in prototype form — that pits 2-5 players against Death and the denizens of the underworld on a six tile board that represents the museum where everything transpires. If you’re two players, each of you controls two characters, otherwise each has one. Below you can see the character card and token for Isis: The Magician, along with a pesky mythic baddie Griffin and fellow adventurer and hero Horus with the eye beams:
Lots to notice above, but let’s start on the left: The blue die is one of the seals and it’s at full strength: beat on it and you can drop its strength down to zero and remove it. Remove all six in time and Death never shows up because you won! Also look closely at the Isis character card. Along the left side is health and yes, she’s doing very poorly, with 1 health point left. Along the bottom is experience and in that regard she’s pretty tough, weighing in at 18 points. Her base attack is “Roll 2 die, deal one damage for each 2+, this attack ignores walls”. At 10 points, she gained a free second attack, and at max XP of 30 she’d basically levelled up and would gain the ability to roll four dice for each attack instead of two.
Each of the six rooms in the game has an assigned number 1-6 so that spawning monsters have a starting location. Notice in the photo that the top left room has a bunch of ghouls, as does the room to the close left, and that both also have untouched seals. In fact, the next turn we lost because Isis was killed by that darn Griffin. Boo!
These are prototype tokens rather than the final shipping game components, but you still get a sense of who’s who from the below photo. Notice the lich has a blue head, while ghouls look like they’re out of a techno dungeon crawler in the prototype. The two heroes are Hela with the blue background and Sekhmet with the red background:
Fortunately, the bad guys are generally easy to take out, and both ghouls and liches are felled with a single hit. The difference between them is that ghouls have a range of two spots, while liches can go three. The mythic bad guys are a bit tougher, and some have up to 12 hit points to overcome before it’s too late. Death has some pesky pals, for sure.
A bit of a closer look at the cards offers additional insight into the game design:
On the left is a mythic bad guy, the Griffin. This beast starts with 8 health points and gets 1 bonus monster action each time it has a turn. The smaller card “Lunar Bouncies” is a common item and these generally let you reroll or do other minor things to improve your results. This particular one lets you get out of a space with bad guys without the usual “mob rule” health penalty. Darn useful!
Sekhmet himself has 3 health (marker on the left edge), 20 experience points (marker along the bottom), a base attack of “roll 2 dice, deal 1 damage for each 3 and 4, 2 damage for each 5 and 6”. With 20 xp, he’s also unlocked the free additional action of being able to ignore mob rule and go through walls with a lucky free action dice roll. At 30xp he’d also add 2 dice to each attack roll, a ridiculously useful ability.
The bad guy cards are helpful and easy to understand:
Ammut and Minotaur are mythic creatures with 8 hp each, and the ghouls tend to spawn 2-3 at a time, while liches are more loners. These cards are all generally shuffled together so when you spawn a monster, you never know what’s going to show up!
There are also both common items – the small cards – and legendary items, as you can see here:
The common items are helpful and we decided that the best strategy was to use them quickly, not hoard them. Legendary items can give specific heroes much greater powers, as shown with the Mask of Niflheim, which is specifically for the hero Hela. A close read will also reveal the sense of humor that shows up throughout the game components. Most every card has a funny quip or saying on it. For example, Gleipnir is “forged from the impossible and probably rope.” and the Blue Cow Energy item gains you a bonus move but “side effects: you may grow wings.”
HOW DOES IT PLAY?
The description’s all well and good, but what’s it like to actually play Mortals? The answer is: really fun. This was a real winner and both my friend and I were ready to turn around and immediately play a second game after we lost our first adventure. It’s fast, easy to understand, not bogged down with complex rules or obscure nuances to movement or attacks, and even these prototype components were bright, fun and thematic.
Props also for the rules book, which clearly explains every subtlety of the game – of which there are few, thankfully – and includes big, bright photos that help you set things up and jump into the game quickly and confidently. Too many games eschew necessary detail in their zeal to keep to a minimum page count, leaving players puzzled about how to proceed, or get so bogged down in the minutia that less dedicated players spontaneously vote to play something easier. No bueno.
Mortals is also clearly inspired by the popular game Zombicide, which works just fine for me: I love a good game of Zombicide! [I’ve even reviewed it here on my site: Zombicide Review] From the board being assembled by big room tiles to monster spawn cards bringing out ghouls and liches, the homage is clear and if you’ve played Zombicide, you’ll laugh and be delighted how quickly you come up to speed on Mortals.
I can’t say enough good about this game. As a reviewer, I try out a lot of games that trade fun for complexity and while they can be satisfying from an intellectual perspective, some of ’em just aren’t highly entertaining. Mortals is the opposite; a well designed game with lots of replayability, fun, fast, and easy enough that casual gamers and friends interested in co-ops can jump in and enjoy themselves.
Want a copy for yourself? Then you want to back the game on Kickstarter! Here’s the link: Back Mortals on Kickstarter.
Disclosure: The designer sent me a prototype copy of Mortals in return for this candid review.