Mystery of the Temples
Five temples hide powerful arcane runes, protected by ancient curses. Collect crystals and fuse them into patterns to break the curses. Can you uncover the runes that hold the Mystery of the Temples?
Mystery of the Temples is a game for 2-4 players, designed by Wei-Min Ling (one of the designers at Emperor S4) and published by Deep Water Games.
Mystery of the Temples uses cards to set up the “board” for the game. Place the five temple cards in a rough circle, then place two wilderness cards between each temple (in order from 1-10). Shuffle the rune cards, and place a pile of four above each temple. Select a few goal cards at random, but don’t forget to include the “runes” goal card.
Separate out the crystals into their six types (one color corresponding to each of the temples, plus colorless). Then give each player a “curse breaker” meeple, a grid card, and two colorless crystals to place on their grid.
How to Play
Players take turns, in clockwise order. On your turn, you will move your curse breaker, then either collect crystals or break a curse.
Move Curse Breaker
You’ll move your curse breaker (meeple) 1-3 spaces clockwise, on either temples or wilderness cards.
If you move on wilderness cards, disregard any temple cards; they do not count towards your movement. If you move on temples, disregard the wilderness cards; they do not count towards your movement. Skip over any cards occupied by another player’s curse breaker; each card can hold only one occupant at a time.
You may spend colorless crystals to move farther, if necessary.
If you aren’t going to break a curse this turn, collect crystals, depending on the card where your curse breaker ended its movement. Many cards give you crystals directly, but some require you to trade in colorless crystals to receive colored crystals of your choice. If you’re running out of space, you can always treat colored crystals as if they were colorless.
After you have received crystals, place them on your grid. Your crystal grid can hold a maximum of 12 stones, and it will cost you more colorless crystals to swap the position of two stones, so place them wisely!
Break a Curse
If you end your curse breaker’s movement on a temple card, you may choose to break a curse instead of collecting crystals.
To break a curse, you must have an unbroken chain of crystals that exactly matches a sequence pictured on the temple card (starting from either end of the arch). Return those crystals to the supply, and place a marker in your color over the corresponding point value. No one else may use that specific pattern to break this curse in the future.
After breaking a curse, take the top card from that temple’s rune cards, and place it in front of you. On future turns, you may collect extra crystals (as pictured) if you have a rune card that has “resonance” with (ie. matches) the rune on your curse breaker’s current location.
Ending the Game
When a player breaks their fifth curse (placing their last available marker), play continues until the end of the round.
Score each objective card: temple objectives give bonus points to the player(s) with the most curses broken on the pictured temple. Then each player scores their runes according to the runes objective card. Score increasing points for each unique type of rune you have. If you managed to collect all five types, you’ll get 11 points; a huge advantage in a game where final scores usually range from 25-40.
We started playing Mystery of the Temples expecting a complex, thematic game. It looks like so much more than moving around a circle, collecting crystals, and then turning them in at the temples. However, once we understood the core of the game, we realized the complexity comes in planning your turns.
The interactions between player positions, crystal availability, and rune resonance make for a lot to keep track of all at once. The crystal grids impose a necessary structure, but also tend to make players “lock in” to a particular curse-breaking goal and ignore others that might be just as achievable.
The nature of the movement around the circle of temple and wilderness cards means that it’s hard to plan out your move before your turn. Spaces near you will likely be taken up by other players, allowing you to move further, but possibly also denying you access to the space you most wanted. We spent a lot of time waiting for other players to take their turns. Our kids (currently age 8 and 11) had fun, but it became increasingly difficult for them to pay attention as the game progressed and turns became longer.
We also had trouble remembering some of the rules. Explanations of “charms” (how to spend colorless crystals for free actions) were scattered throughout the rulebook, with no way to quickly refer back to them. Each time we played, we missed at least one way that a player could have helped themselves.
Each crystal grid also comes with a special player power. We did not try these, because it was one more layer of non-standard actions, which proved just too much for us and our kids to keep track of.
For most of the powers and abilities outside the basic moves, a player aid would have been very helpful and kept us from feeling overwhelmed.
But Beautifully Executed
We absolutely loved the artwork. It was easy to picture ourselves in a world of fantastical temples and magic crystals. The symbology was extraordinarily clear for most actions. The difficulty of getting to just the right temple at the right time kept the tension high and kept us invested in the outcome of each turn (even when the game struggled to keep our attention between turns).
Based on our experience, Mystery of the Temples is not a great game for younger families, although it’s certainly playable by them. It shines, however, as a light, fast game for heavy, thematic gamers; possibly even as a hefty filler game. If that sounds good to you, find it on Amazon, your local game store, or buy it directly from Deep Water Games.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Mystery of the Temples from Deep Water Games for this review.
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Mystery of the Temples
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 20-40 minutes