MourneQuest Review

MourneQuest - Cover

MourneQuest is based on the books of the same name by Garry McElherron in which a lad called Jack meets a clurichaun (not a leprechaun) called Cobs and together they accidentally begin to set loose the Nightmares who's only goal is to unleash the Shimnavore; a creature of ancient Irish legend of terrible power. Your role is to play as Jack, Cobs or one of their buddies to try to keep these awesome gribblies locked up forever. Fail and it’s bad news for everyone concerned. So with stakes suitably high, we are set up for some epic beastie-kicking action.

Once the game is set up you’ve got a bunch of miniatures depicting the characters, Nightmares, Shimnavore and Bogbeans, the smaller baddies nipping at your heels along the way and generally being annoying. The mini quality is reasonable; they do the job and there’s enough detail for you to tell what’s going on. The cardboard quality is okay, nothing special although the insert does nothing to protect the board from getting a bit bashed up. Since the main board pieces are quite pointy due to the bespoke nature, those points can get dulled if the sections bump against the insert, which isn’t ideal.

MourneQuest - Grace Mini

Gameplay is quite straightforward; you have three actions to perform on your turn from the standard array of move, interact, attack, collect, drop off or trade. Roll to advance the doom clock and pass to the left. So far so standard. Your overall objective is simply to move resources from their collection point to one of the four Nightmares to keep the beastie firmly locked up before it breaks out and pisses in your chips. Do so and it’s banished forever, fail and it’ll run around the board trying to eat you.

Characters get the chance to pick up kit to help them beat up the gribblies and you’ll definitely want to do that as enemy stats are far in excess of your own, so at your base stats you’ll lose any fight you get into. With only three hit points, a series of painful scraps and your game will be over very quickly unless you tool up and go in armed. Combat is similarly simplistic, you roll up to three dice (one to begin with so we have the dreaded Single Die Roll until you level up) and add that to your chosen stat. If you beat the enemy stat, which varies with the phase of the moon, you win. Hurrah. The moon phases also act as the overall game timer; two orbits and the Shimnavore starts to kick its walls down to add to your woes. 

MourneQuest - Grace Board

It’s all very thematic and the art is in-keeping with the original books and story but during my playthroughs, there was literally nothing keeping me interested. Three actions and pass to the left. My team-mate(s) were similarly un-enthralled as it was more of a mandraulic chore to the play than anything else. The tension of the nightmares getting close to being released was vaguely interesting adding a slight degree of urgency to the proceedings, but generally we didn’t feel engaged enough in the game to care. The presence of the Bogbeans was more annoying than threatening which just meant you carried on with your day after giving them a stern talking to. 

I will throw out the caveat that I generally prefer heavier Euro-style games so to have a thematic game in front of me isn’t my usual fayre. That said, I really enjoy Too Many Bones, Mansions of Madness and the Arkham series of games from Fantasy Flight so a game with a theme over mechanics focus isn’t a bad thing in my eyes, provided it’s done well and keeps me entertained by being part of a good story with rising tension. MourneQuest has a bit of rising tension, but the connection to the action just isn’t there, so I zone out. It became a mechanical procedure of just doing what was most efficient to achieve the outcome and fetch resource A to location X; rinse and repeat. Kick the gribbly in the balls along the way if you feel so inclined. 

MourneQuest - Nightmare

My biggest problem with MourneQuest was the end of the game, the Final Battle with the Shimnavore. You spend most of the game building up to this finale only to have the Shiimnavore break out on two rolls of a single die. If you get the same bit of magic wall it attacks twice (without repairing it) then you lose. That's it. Nothing you can do and it renders the previous hour of game completely moot, which made us feel a bit flat and as if we've wasted our time.

Perhaps I’m the wrong target for MourneQuest and I will admit I can see it appealing to children, just like the books, so with that in mind it’s a decent enough lightweight game that’s simple to play (although not to explain, there’s a fair amount of detail to remember) and kids shouldn’t have much trouble playing it. There’s the idea of monstrous baddies about to wreak havoc on the world and You Are The Only One Who Can Stop Them™ which kids do enjoy (I certainly did as a child). There’s three difficulty settings once you’re used to the game to give you an extra challenge, although with the random nature of combat this could easily descend into frustration rather than tension.

Without having read the subject matter, I can’t comment on how closely the game follows the story, but it certainly appears to capture the salient points of the synopsis. In terms of an actual game, I can’t recommend it for regular gamers as they’ll probably find it a bit too thin to enjoy, but as a family game with kids who like a bit of folklore, then it’s probably a decent challenge with some tasty looking baddies to combat. Miniatures tend to elevate prices and at £60, MourneQuest is quite expensive for a family game which may put some folk off.

Now, give me some meeples. Daddy needs to place some workers before he drops off.

This review is based on a full retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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