Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game Impressions
I will admit, as a fan of the Mouse Guard comics my view of Luke Crane’s new game is fairly biased. Mouse Guard follows a civilization of anthropomorphic mice who utilize a small army of fearsome heroes to do anything from delivering the mail and fending off predators, to quelling insurrections. The creator, David Peterson, has a distinctive art style that instantly draws you into this storybook world. Having read the first six-issue miniseries, it is clear that Peterson is a gamer himself, and that his world translates beautifully into Crane’s Burning Wheel system.
Speaking of beautiful, I would almost recommend this book on its physical quality alone. The book is hardcover with the same dimensions as the collected volumes of the comic, and it’s dust jacket unfolds into a map of the Mouse Territories. Illustrated with art straight from the books as well some original art, Peterson absolutely deserves billing alongside Crane. My few complaints stem from the way the rulebook is written. The book is not laid out in a manner conducive to on the spot rules checking. There is an extensive index, but it never seemed to send me to where the information I needed was. A few sections in the book will reference a rule that appears later on, but never gives a page number to follow. Our group experienced it first hand in the sample adventure we ran the other night (ed. As the GM I was constantly taking several minute breaks trying to track things down that I wanted to get right). The rulebook seems like it was written in the author’s journal at times, speaking more to his friends than professionally to an audience. On death and dying: “Dying nearly always sucks.”
We did experience death in our short adventure as well. The notorious milk snake from Issue 1 defeated us with a dramatic final blow in which the fierce mouse warrior Saxon perished. Fortunately, all was not lost thanks to the games interesting conflict mechanic. Whether fighting, arguing, or crossing a swift stream conflict is determined by a simple rock, paper, scissors mechanic that encourages role playing over dice rolls. As long as you can put up a good fight you are allowed to make a compromise. For example, if you were to lose a conflict (ie. have your disposition reduced to zero) you can still make it to town to warn the mouse-folk that the villainous weasels have discovered their home, but then suffer another potentially unforeseen penalty at the GM’s discretion, such as arriving only minutes before said weasels attack.
So far I’m very impressed with the game, and hope it finds more play on our table. Since we only used the sample adventure and characters, my full review should be able to detail how interesting character creation is, as well as how the conflict resolution plays out in situations outside of combat. If you are a fan of the comics, I would recommend this game right away. However, I feel that this game can extend beyond its fans and will receive a high rating from me a few weeks from now.