Designed By: David Goh
Art by: David Goh, Jeannette Wang, Agus Setiawan, Thomas Tan, Chen Wei, Yang Shao Xuan, and Beverly Yim
Published By: Hyperlixir
Released: On Kickstarter 3/22/22
Player Count: 1-4
Time to Play: 45-60 Minutes
Mercurial is a card drafting, dice rolling and manipulation game where players work to manipulate elements in order to become the Ultimate Spellcrafter!
How to Play:
While Mercurial does offer a solo play option, we are going to focus on the multi-player game for our review (though see the What's Purr-ty Cool Section for a neat quick note about solo mode).
To get started, you will shuffle the three decks of cards (Heroic, Alteration, and Spells) and create three piles of cards respectively. Turn over 6 cards from each deck, placing the cards on the left side of the deck. Place the mana and acuity crystals within reach of all players, then add one mana and two acuity crystals on top of each heroic card. Place the mana and acuity discount tokens on the left most spells (mana on the 1st card and acuity on the 2nd card). Set out the prestige card and place the tokens on top, then set up the Arcana's and Equilibrium cards, placing 1 prestige and two acuity on the equilibrium card.
Players then choose the class they want to play as and take their board and matching components. Players then take their appropriate starter and class alterations, as well as a random artifact alteration. Players take their starter dice, mana, and acuity as indicated on their board. Depending on player count and turn order, players take or return acuity.
You are now ready to play.
While Mercurial has a lot of different cards, dice and resources, ultimately your turns will be fairly straight-forward, players will either Take and Play (in any order), or Cast. When taking, players will either gain a new skill alteration, a spell, an acuity, or return all exhausted alterations back into their hand. Players will spend mana, acuity, and available element dice. Once dice are spent they are not returned to your dice pool until after you perform a cast action.
Play means play one alteration from your hand and activate it's effects. There are a lot of different benefits to playing cards, such as changing element dice to different elements, rerolling dice, or gaining acuity.
If you do not want to Take and Play, your other option is to Cast. Cast means playing a combination of spells to acquire objectives. These are Heroics, Arcanas or Prestige. Players then reset their play are and resources. There are various types of spells, and some can even be improved with the Aether element. Spells are always resolved in the following order: resolve link spells, calculate ruin and restore, resolve enchantment spells, resolve ruin and restore.
Players continue taking turns taking and playing, or casing until the game end is triggered. The game end is trigged when one player collects a specific number of heroics based on player count. At this point, all other players with active spell cards must cast them and acquire whatever objectives they can. The game now ends. Players total their victory points from Heroics, arcanas and prestige tokens. Sigil bonuses (and arcana bonuses if applicable) are added. Then whatever player has the highest score wins!
What's purr-ty cool:
The first thing that drew us to Mercurial was the art. This game is absolutely stunning. The card art is amazing and we love that they chose to use tarot sized cards instead of poker cards because it really gives the art a chance to be showcased. The cards also use a lot of iconography and numbers instead of text, which gives them a clean look and leaves a lot of the art easily visible.
On the note of component choices, Mercurial does several things that we liked. First is the use of custom dice. We like that the die have the elemental symbols on them rather than having a number represent the symbol. It is much easier to understand this way, and we love when games use custom dice faces! Going along with symbols, the back of rulebook features a handy reference guide with all of the iconography (which is super helpful because there is A LOT of it) and turn and victory summaries. Super helpful for when you need a quick refresher between games and don't want to have to look through the whole rulebook for the quick stuff
Regarding game play, there were two things we really enjoyed in Mercurial. The first is the slightly asymmetric nature of the game due to the different classes players can be. For people familiar with games like Root, Mercurial is by no means that asymmetric, all player still do the same two action choices on their turns, but the different classes offer some unique starting combinations and special abilities. This is great for people who are new to asymmetric games since the overall gameplay isn't significantly changed based on the class you play, yet by being able to pick different classes with unique abilities, players can experience a mildly different game with different class choices and combinations. For us, this increases replayability since ever game does not feel the same.
The other game play aspect we really enjoyed was the dice manipulation. Having to draft a combination of cards the best allowed you to change around your dice to fit your mage's needs was a lot of fun.
One last thing we like about Mercurial is that there is a modified 1st game, which leaves out the arcana's and equilibrium cards in order for players to get a feel for how gameplay works before making the game a bit more complicated. All classes also start with the same beginning resources and cards. There is a lot of different pieces to gameplay and this can help simplify the core game concepts first.
And finally, as promised, the cool thing Mercurial offers for solo players are achievements that you can work to try and accomplish. As Mercurial uses a beat your own score mechanic for solo mode, the achievements encourage players to test out new strategies in trying to get their high score. There are quite a few achievements to try and reach so this definitely increases the replayability of solo mode for us.
Mercurial is purrrfect for gamers who like gorgeous games that allow for them to strategically manipulate and maximize a limited pool of resources. For me, the art really put the game over the top. It really is one of the most stunning games I have had the pleasure to play.
The cat's meow:
"There are lots of dice. I love dice. It doesn't even matter if I can't read the symbols. Lots of dice are always a good thing" - Pudgy Cat
Disclosure: Pudgy Cat Games was provided a copy of this game in exchange for a review, however, this review reflects the honest thoughts of the author.