Mercurial: First Impressions
Exert control over chaos with elemental dice as you craft spells and perform heroics in the fantasy world of Mercurial!
Mercurial is a dice-manipulation, resource management strategy game, enhanced with deck and combo building mechanics. Set in the otherworldly land of Valanyr, players take on the role of mages looking for renown. They will need to capitalise on the fertile and mercurial nature of magic unique to Valanyr to craft new spells, perform heroic deeds, and spread their name.
Players start off with asymmetric mage characters, each with their own abilities, starting resources, dice, and hand of cards. These are all displayed neatly on the player board. They will need to build their strategies around what they have for the best chance at earning the most victory points and winning the game. However, objectives in the form of spells, heroics, and Arcanas are randomly set-up for every new game of Mercurial, keeping each game fresh and different.
Mercurial features a truly innovative array of mechanics, all melded together into a crunchy yet streamlined set of rules. For most of the game, players take turns to perform up to 2 actions — taking and playing — in any order to build up resources. Once they are ready, players then spend their turn to cast a combination of spells.
Each combination of spells is key to performing heroic deeds, the main source of victory points. Spells will grant either Ruin or Restore, which will cancel out each other. Players will thus need to focus on either one, or try to have the same amounts of both to cause an explosion of Myst. This option is a fine balancing act that I have personally enjoyed greatly while playing Mercurial.
With such a limited number of actions, gameplay will be quick and snappy in the hands of experienced players. The situation on the table changes rapidly between each player’s turn, requiring fluid determination and tactical decision in order to gain an advantage in a battle of wits.
Another major aspect of Mercurial is the feeling of progress. While the gameplay loop features a repetition of long build ups into explosive spellcasting, players are rewarded in multiple ways upon the completion of each spell. Players start off with more mana and crests, causing combos to be completed more easily and making subsequent build ups significantly shorter. Building an efficient engine is a major highlight of the game.
With an overwhelming table presence, the game could have easily overloaded players with information. However, excellent graphic design and iconography makes the game a breeze to learn.
Newcomers to the hobby will definitely be intimidated, but we believe that Mercurial will be the ideal game to introduce to players that have already tried out other entry level resource cyclers like Gizmos, Century: Spice Road, and Splendor, and are looking for the next level of strategy games. With high replayability from asymmetry and an ever-shifting board state, boardgame veterans will definitely enjoy the intensity that the game can provide!
Editor’s Note: The designer of Mercurial, David, has kindly lent us a copy of the prototype for this First Impressions post. We believe that the beautiful art will be brought out better in the production copy!