Avery Abernethy, 27 March 2019
I backed Miskatonic University: The Restricted Collection on Kickstarter at the $25 level (plus shipping). My copy arrived on March 16th – later than the backers promised but not as late as many Kickstarter games. Screenshots of prototypes of the game parts were promptly posted lending creditability to claims that delays were due to production and shipping complications from China.
Although the actual rules are only 10 (very small) pages, I have not studied or played the game yet. The rule book is thicker because each of the two rule books provides the rules in two different languages. The game is ready to go for four major world languages: English, Spanish, German and French. The game cards use symbols, so from a design perspective the game is user friendly for multiple languages.
I’ve got at least two tabletop games higher on my priority list, (Mansions of Madness and Lords of Waterdeep) so a review or after-action report may be a ways down the road. But I’ve got the game so we can take a look at it.
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The game concept is Dr. Henry Armitage the Head Librarian at Miskatonic University’s Orne Library convened a meeting of senior university faculty to determine who gets to Chair the Library Committee which grants access to the most secret books held by Miskatonic. During the meeting a monster emerges from the stacks, spits out the remains of a student, and slithers off. Dr. Armitage locks the entrance to the restricted collection with a quickly drawn ward. You are charged to enter the stacks, search for lore fragments, and return with them. The faculty member collecting the most lore while retaining the most sanity becomes Head of the Library Committee.
As a retired academic, I did my best to avoid committees and worked even harder to avoid being named Committee Chair. Sometimes it was unavoidable, but committees were a time suck which yielded little in the way of decisions or useful work output. I have a coffee mug from despair.com stating: “Meetings: None of Us are as Dumb as All of Us.” When teaching Sales Management I required students to calculate both direct and opportunity costs of sales meetings under the title “Meetings are the Devil.”
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The game has five rounds. After that the sanity and lore scores are toted up and the faculty member with the highest total wins. At least I think that is premise of the game having read the intro page of the rules and scanned the rest.
The game is compact and is shaped like an old book. All of the sides excepting the title spine have artwork depicting book pages. The spine is rounded. When you open up the cover, there are magnets holding the cover closed to the rest of the “book.” This is very pretty as well as functional. The game takes little shelf room and looks much more attractive than most game boxes.
The game has a five player maximum and each player has a decorated play marker to organize the cards collected during the five rounds of play. These player desk boards are sturdy and attractive, but have minor functionality issues from an aesthetic perspective.
The play boards are designed to organize three sets of cards: Grimoire Fragments; Graduate Students; and Sigil Pieces. But the product design is a little off and none of these cards fit tightly as shown by the photographs. The Sigil Pieces should put together to form an elder sign – but the lines don’t match up when the cards are placed in the holder.
The cards are sturdy with high production values and should hold up to any normal play unless they get wet. But spilled drinks at game sessions are the bane of almost all game cards in every genre.
The Grimore Fragments look great. The defense cards, sanity cards, and lore cards all fit. But the graduate student cards are irritating. There are only two illustrations of insane graduate students out of 16 graduate student cards. This is unacceptable. If you have sixteen insane graduate students who can be sacrificed for the greater good of the Professor (just like real life academics), then each of those cards should illustrate a different insane graduate student. Somebody cheaped out on paying for adequate insane graduate student artwork and it shows.
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Other than the lack of graduate student diversity (OMG – I sound just like a lefty academic) and imprecisely designed player boards – the game looks wonderful and the card illustrations clearly indicate what each card stands for.
Gameplay and fun are the most important aspects of any game and I don’t have them for you now. But the game is pretty, seems functional, and the rules are short.
Avery Abernethy is a retired Full Professor of Marketing who wasted far too much time on committee meetings and academic paperwork. You can read his game reviews and after-action-reports at: https://averysgameblog.wordpress.com/