D-PADS AND DICE - Daring world of The Mouse Guard offers fun, intrigue

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The Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game is about stories. It acts as a sort of catalyst for tales of heroes, adventure, and unsurprisingly, mice.

The board game is based on a series of comic books telling the story of The Mouse Guard. The Guard protects the lands of mice from danger, delivers mail, patrols borders, and generally is why Mouse civilization is better off than ever. And in this game, you'll tell some stories of your own about the mice of the Guard.

All but one of the players creates a mouse they control. This is accomplished by making choices about where the mouse is from, who their parents are, what trade they learned when they started their training in the Guard, that sort of thing. You also decide what's important to your mouse, what they're willing to fight for, by writing a belief they hold.

All of this decides what sort of things your mouse is good at, and this will actually affect how you play the game. The book also includes a number of example mice to use if you'd like to get playing faster.

Once the Guardsmice are all in order, you can start the game proper. The one player who doesn't make a mouse is called the Game Master. The players who made Guardsmice control the character they made, and the Game Master is in charge everything else. That means everything else - the environment, other mice, animals, basically anything other than the Guardsmice of the other players.

The game is played in alternating turns. The Game Master's turn is one where he or she describes problems for the Guardmice to overcome. For instance the mice might need to navigate a forest that hasn't been mapped, and so one of them would need to roll dice based on one of their abilities, such as trailblazing. If the roll succeeds, things are good; if it fails, stuff gets more complicated. Maybe the quickest trail leads by a snake den, or perhaps it takes so long that the mouse gets angry.

On the player's turn, players decide what sort of things they want to do. Maybe see if they can meet with their brother for a drink, maybe calm down after being frustrated by the trip.

You only have a limited number of rolls on the turn, and you can get more by intentionally setting yourself up for trouble. For example, if your mouse is a Bigpaw, maybe they got stuck while trying to squeeze into a hole too small for them.

In addition to this basic setup, there are other rules and nuances. Your Mouse learns from its experience, and gets better at what it does. There are rules for important conflicts, like debating a course of action with a stubborn governor, fighting off evil weasels, even fighting a full-scale war against things threatening mice!

All in all, Mouse Guard is a daring and intriguing game that's deep but easy to learn. It's easy to get into, and gets better as you play it longer.

The Mouse Guard Role Playing Game was written by Luke Crane based on the comics series by David Petersen. It's available as a book with a suggested retail price of 34.95, and in boxed set for $69.95 that includes excellent accessories, including all the dice needed for play.

Walla Wallan Noah Hinz is a tabletop and electronic games aficionado. He's currently a graphic arts student the Evergreen State College, working on various art projects and game designs. Send him your questions and comments at noahhinz@gmail.com.

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