Jan 30, 2018
This is the abridged version of our discussion of Mouse Guard. We encourage you to listen to our full, in-depth potluck, but we understand if you don't have the time. If you want to listen to the podcast AND read these notes, you get a gold star! (Note: Gold stars have no monetary value, and are simply for showing the world that you're a totally awesome being.)
Overall, we enjoyed Mouse Guard, with a few reservations. While we loved the world that it inhabits, and the stories that can be told within it, it is also mechanically dense. The game uses a simplified version of the Burning Wheel system, and the fact that this version of that system gave us this much trouble speaks volumes. There is a large amount of options to keep track of, and knowing when to use which stat is not always intuitive.
Character creation is pleasingly streamlined, and does an excellent job of incorporating your character's background and personality into their statistics. We also loved the incorporation of a Belief and an instinct into character creation. They make for a helpful guide to roleplaying, and give you a benchmark to measure yourself against. However, some of us felt a bit restricted by the premise of the game; your character is by definition a mouse, and a member of the Mouse Guard. If you want to make a Chaotic Evil weasel, you're out of luck.
Mechanically, Mouse Guard often frustrated us. The conflict system in particular, while unique, requires it's own special reference that is included on character sheets. The fact that all of the major decisions in conflict are made by one player can make the other players feel less engaged in the scene. Other mechanics, such as incorporating a character's Nature, required a flowchart to figure out when to roll the die, which stats to include, and if your character suffers a penalty.
If you are worried that you wont understand the game because you have not read the comic books, don't be. The world of Mouse Guard is explained in depth in the sourcebook, and the concept of the game is simple enough for anybody to dive right in. What makes the game really stand out is the sense of scale, an important aspect of the comic that is beautifully translated into gameplay. In Mouse Guard, even something as simple as rainfall is an epic challenge, and just surviving in this world makes for compelling storytelling. No other game we have encountered does this so well.
Overall, our experience with Mouse Guard was positive. We enjoyed making our characters, and having them interact with one another, and the world at large. On the other hand, we lost a lot of time referring to the book and reference sheets, in order to make sure we were playing the rules correctly. If you are a fan of rules-light systems like Fate, or Powered By The Apocalypse, Mouse Guard may not be for you. However, if you don't mind a bit of complexity, and want to play in a unique, fully realized universe, then we can recommend this game wholeheartedly. If you want to play Mouse Guard, it can be found on Amazon, and can also be found in many comic stores.