Skip to main content

Board Game Review: Mystery of the Temples

Deep Water Games provided me a review copy of Mystery of The Temples , an abstract area control game designed by Wei-Min Ling. It's one of three games in my collection from the Deep Water Games catalog that were originally published by EmperorS4 and feature artwork by Maisherly Chan (Shadows in Kyoto and Hanamikoji are the other two).

In Mystery of the Temples, players take on the role of adventurers on a quest to collect ancient runes protected by dark curses.  In order to break the curses, crystals must be collected and aligned. During game setup, five temple cards are arranged face up in a circle and two wilderness cards are placed in between each pair of temple cards (the picture below shows an alternative arrangement for a 2-player game). A stack of rune cards (4 cards per stack; these cards provide valuable crystal bonuses) are placed face down above each temple card and the top card in each stack is flipped face up. Temple objective cards are laid out; these cards provide additional victory points for breaking temple curses. Each player is given a grid to collect crystals on.

game setup - temples, wilderness cards, and crystals

During the game, each player moves their curse breaker meeple clockwise across the temples and wilderness, obeying the detailed rules provided in the rule book. Ending a turn on a wildness card allows a player to collect crystals to carefully arrange on their grid.

player grid

Ending a turn on a temple card allows a player to turn in crystals (which must be connected on their grid sheet in the precise order specified on the temple card) to break a curse and earn victory points. There are multiple strategic decisions to be made during a turn as each wilderness card offers up different crystal gathering opportunities and each temple card provides victory points ranging from 3 to 8, depending on how many crystals a player is able to pattern match and discard. Each of the various crystal combinations on the temple cards can only be claimed once so a player must decide whether to amass the minimum amount of crystals to quickly fill in the lower victory point slots before their opponents can, or work at a slower pace, giving themselves time to collect and arrange longer chains of crystals on their grid sheets that will be worth more victory points.

The game ends at the conclusion of the first round in which a player has broken their fifth curse. Victory points are then tallied and the player with the highest victory point total wins the game. Once players are comfortable with the standard rules of play, they can experiment with the advanced rules, which provide for more complexity and variability in play and scoring. As with most area control games, scaling player counts can be an issue. The designer has addressed this in Mystery of the Temples by providing a 2-player variant that uses extra player markers (to block off temple curse claim spots), less wilderness cards, and an extra player meeple (to occupy random temple and wildness card spaces and block movement to those spaces; the meeple moves after each player’s turn). We found these adjustments allowed for the 2-player game to be just as compelling as with higher player counts.

Replayability is high due to the abstract nature of the game play in Mystery of the Temples. There are no narrative cards to tire of and the unique move combinations that can be sequenced to earn victory points are numerous as the temple and wilderness card layout vary each game. There is a moderate amount of analysis paralysis but it is manageable. Game play lasts around 45 minutes on average.

Game components include beautifully illustrated plastic coated cards (everything Maisherly Chan creates is visually appealing and the card and box cover art here are no exception), cardboard tokens, wooden player markers and meeples, and acrylic crystals. Everything should hold up well under regular use. The crystals are sparkly and fun; I absolutely love them.

While the other Deep Water Games titles didn’t work for me (too frustrating in the depth of analysis required), this one is a keeper. It’s the only one of the three games that hits the conceptual sweet spot for me of challenging but still fun. There is a nice flow to the game; the rhythm of moving my meeple each turn and collecting crystals is pleasant.  Mystery of the Temples provides plenty of intellectual challenge in a small box (this game is not easy by any means) with beautiful artwork and an affordable price point.


Publisher: Deep Water Games
Players: 2-4
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 45 minutes per game
Game type: area control, abstract



Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.


Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Lost Cities Roll & Write (A Comparison to the Original Lost Cities)

I really love the card game Lost Cities , designed by Reiner Knizia. When my husband Christopher and I were first getting to know each other, we used to meet up at Starbucks sometimes and play games. Lost Cities was one of our frequent picks. It’s a head to head, two player game in which both players are trying to outscore each other by laying down ascending runs of card suits on a small board between the two of them. There’s a theme laid over the mechanism (completing expeditions in the lost world) but it’s basically pasted on and so that is the last we will speak of it. So there we were, newly in love, eyeing each other across the table, smiling and flirting, and doing our best to beat one another at Lost Cities . It was awesome. And now, with the roll & write genre having made an impressive rebound a few years ago (let’s not forget the mechanism has actually been around since the 50s with Yatzee ), Knizia has ported his award winning game Lost Cities   into this format, releasi

Board Game Review: Hues and Cues

Last week we received Hues and Cues from The Op Games. We recently finished playing through Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion (a fantastic game in The Op Games catalogue designed by Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, and Kami Mandell that you should absolutely pick up to play with your family) and wanted to give another game from the same publisher a go. I picked Hues and Cues because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by other “test whether our minds think the same way” games such as The Mind   and Wavelength. In Hues and Cues , players gather around a large central board comprised of 480 graduating colors of the rainbow surrounded by an x-y axis and scoring table. White and black (which are technically not colors) are conspicuously absent as are shades (mixtures of color + black; e.g., grey) and tints (mixtures of color + white; e.g., cream).  On each player’s turn, they draw a card with four colors and the x-y axis codes of those colors depicted and they select one. They are in the

Board Game Review: Brass Birmingham

Here’s a story of a lovely lady (spoiler: it’s me) and her pride and how it has led to the discovery of the single greatest board game I have ever played. It’s probably also a good primer for other reviewers on increasing your reach. At GenCon this year, I was perusing the wares of the various booths and my eyes caught a glimpse of two beautiful game boxes. Each had crisp metallic lettering with an old world feel and artwork that radiated European class. I made my way to the booth and waited patiently to speak to to the team manning it as there were many buyers lined up to purchase the games. I didn’t know anything about the games (Brass Birmingham and Brass Lancashire), or the publisher – Roxley Game Laboratory – but I knew I wanted to review one or both of the games. Almost every board game love story I star in in can be summed up this way: I am seduced by the artwork or theme and then I stay for the right mechanics. When the lead rep spoke with me, he gently rejected my request. He