Secrets & Lies is the most recent expansion for the wonderfully artsy cooperative deduction title Mysterium, from publisher Libellud. Designed, like the base game, by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko this expansion adds in new characters, locations and objects. The big addition however is story cards which can replace the object cards of the original game. However, is it more entertaining to discover the story of the ghost or what object was used? Let’s find out.
The expansion box holds 96 new cards and a story game board component. 42 of these cards are the tarot like, dreamy vision cards that the ghost player will be passing out. The rest are two sets (identical bar their size for the ghost and clairvoyants) of 6 characters, 6 locations, 6 objects and 18 stories. While it is a little bit of a squeeze, all of this content fits into the base game box. Though, if you already own the previous expansion you’d probably have to ditch the insert.
While the expansion comes with 6 new objects that can be shuffled into the base game cards, this expansion really isn’t about objects. The biggest change is in fact removing objects from the game. When replacing objects with stories there isn’t a rule change past which deck to use. The base game rules stand, with the number of cards used kept the same. The difference is that instead of using vision cards to hint at what can be slightly plain objects the ghost must link to colourful situations.
Like objects, there are still times when stories are instantly picked, with a perfect vision card highlighting a single card. Despite this story cards have a bit more about them often leading to the interpretations of clues being much closer to the rest of the game – with locations and people left unchanged. Being only 18 cards there’s a chunk but not an abundance of variety: only a handful of these are used each game – with the exact amount dependant on the player count. On top of this there are only 18 objects included in the base game – increased to 24 via this expansion – and this never seemed too low.
Coming with 42 new vision cards these are simply shuffled into the vision deck of the base game. These new vision cards don’t inherently match up with the new locations, characters, etc. but there are links that can be made. One thing that did stick out from the new cards that potentially a higher proportion feature animals – though this is more of a feeling than scientifically proven. Like the rest of the additions it is all about adding variety into the vision deck, which wasn’t small to begin with. There is just enough to play a full game with only the new cards with less that 6 players – if the ghost doesn’t discard any. However it is probably better to just shuffle them in the top half of the deck and get playing.
Component wise this expansion continues the high standard of the original. The artwork on the vision cards is nothing short of glorious, if not a little trippy. The new characters and locations all have many aspects and layers to them – offering the ghost bits to hint towards. One improvement that for me elevates the story cards above objects – other than their look – is their size. I still don’t understand why the object cards are so much smaller than the other categories. Story cards are the normal to big size – so it makes them easier to see no matter where around the table you are seated. The inclusion of the story board game element – simply used to replace the object game board component – wasn’t necessary but rounds it off nicely.
As the expansion doesn’t do anything to alter the core gameplay the different player counts keep the same traits. At lower player counts it is almost a little easier to help each other and it is a tad slower at the top end of the player count – regardless of the “42 minute” timer being on the box. It certainly won’t be changing anyone’s opinions on the core experience, it is all about variety and not change.
A new player could join in and be none-the-wiser that an expansion is included. For some this will be a perceived benefit, as it doesn’t change a game they love. It also means there isn’t any awkwardness in splitting cards out to play with less experienced players. If Mysterium often hits your gaming table Secrets & Lies is a solid “more of the same” expansion. I’ll certainly be using stories over objects from now on, due to both the card sizing and vibrancy of the artwork. Otherwise the base game probably has enough included from the get go.
[Editor’s note: Mysterium Secrets & Lies was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £17.99. It is also available from local board game stores, find your local store here]