Self Published by Dylan Mangini
Play Time: 15 Minutes Per Player
“You’ve made a deal with the devil…”
In Mephisto, players have made a deal with Mephistopheles, an archdemon who demands the souls of monsters. With multiple players striking the deal, only one can obtain “unholy strength” by the demon, and to prove their worth, they must present the most souls to the demon.
Mephisto has a heavy dungeon crawling game that is played entirely with a small deck of cards. The game can be played by one to four players and is accessible to anyone ages 14 and over. It doesn’t require too much space to play, and the short playtime of 15 minutes per player makes it a fine appetizer to a game night.
Playing With Demons
Mephisto has a quick setup, consisting of dealing cards to player’s hands and setting up a dungeon. In a two player game, the dungeon consists of three rows of two cards, which are accessible to all players. The layout is mostly the same with other player counts just slightly larger rows. The dungeon row consists of monster, item, weapon, and spell cards.
A player’s turn is short, consisting of three quick phases. The player will draw a card, play cards from their hand, then choose between three actions. The actions consist of fighting a monster, grabbing loot, or summoning a monster to gain favor. The missing dungeon cards will be replenished, and the next player will conduct their turn.
Favor is a form of currency that buffs the players during combat. Players can gain favor through a variety of effects or by using the summon action. Defeating a monster is as simple as having sufficient strength when combining gear and favor together. For example, skeletons have a strength of three, therefore the player must have three of more strength to defeat the monster. Defeating a monster yields soul points, which is calculated at the end of the game to determine the winner. The favor system makes for an excellent calculator of strength that is constantly needing the player’s attention in order for them to succeed. Not having sufficient favor can lead to a player falling behind fairly quickly. Mephisto’s combat system is simple, but being allowed to use multiple weapons, items, and spells in a given battle can make for some fun combos. Discovering powerful card combinations is satisfying, especially when they result in a game-defining play.
Is it fun?
After reading the rules of Mephisto, I found myself concerned that it sounded somewhat similar to Munchkin, a game that I have lukewarm feelings towards. I was pleased to find that the game’s various mechanics help Mephisto avoid the pitfalls that bring Munchkin down, and makes the game more enjoyable and balanced for serious players. Mephisto’s strength is also its weakness though, and it isn’t quite as accessible to new players as games like Munchkin are.
Mephisto does have some interaction between players, but there isn’t a lot. Most of the player interaction comes from cards that might remove favor or items from opponents. Players won’t interact with the other player in any remarkable way when it is not their turn. The main way to win in Mephisto is to focus on controlling what your opponent has access to by removing key cards from the dungeon row. The game requires a lot of thinking, and the first few games can feel rather slow, especially to more casual players. Playing with new players resulted in some burnout and a sense of frustration at everything they need to keep up with. This game that isn’t for everyone. The game’s simple appearance is somewhat deceptive. Still, after a few plays, this game can be a blast in the right hands.
While Mephisto can be played up to four players, it plays best in two or three player games. With four player games, its recommended that players use the co-op variant, otherwise the game just progresses much too slow with too much downtime. Even three player games can lose momentum as the game carries on, as the players collect more gear and effects from monster souls that they need to keep track of. With all of this in mind, two player games are kind of a sweet spot for Mephisto, which makes for a thoroughly entertaining battle of wits.
The biggest surprise for me is was discovering how entertaining the game is for solo play. Mephisto makes for a fun game of solitaire, where the player is shooting for efficiency rather than beating other players. The minor tweaks in gameplay for solo play allow for Mephisto to feel incredibly balanced, and I found myself playing multiple times in a row in order to finish with a respectable score. Players will be thinking that they are in a fine position at one point, only for the wrong monster to strike, resulting in failure. To truly do well in the game’s solitaire mode, players will have to constantly plan their turns and expect things to go wrong along the way. Players who are looking for a fun solo game will find themselves sinking a lot of time into Mephisto as they grow to appreciate the finer mechanics of the game.
Mephisto is a fun dungeon crawling card game that is held back by a few minor annoyances. These annoyances will almost be a nonfactor to more hardcore players. There is a lot to keep track of in Mephisto, and the variety of effects and abilities make it a much deeper game than it appears. When played as solitaire or two player game, there aren’t too many dungeon-crawling experiences that are better than Mephisto.
Mephisto is great as a one or two player game but might be a bit overwhelming for casual players who can't keep track of a lot of information.