GTM #290 - Mycelia
by Ravensburger


 Mycelia box art by Ravensburger


Ravensburger’s new board Game Mycelia is a deckbuilding game of strategic movement, shiny dewdrops, and a colorful cast of adorable Mushrooms. Designer Daniel Greiner took the time to answer a few questions and share a bit from behind the scenes of the creation of his family strategy game for 1-4 players.

What was your Inspiration for Mycelia?

I’ve always been a big fan of deckbuilding games. In the summer of 2020, my wife and I regularly played deckbuilding games with friends remotely. We played so much that the actions started to get stale. I came up with my own cards to add variety, and eventually my wife asked, “Why don’t you create your own game?” I’d toyed around with game ideas in the past, so I listened and started working on Mycelia.

An early design goal was to create a deckbuilding game that would offer variety and extended discovery. Simultaneously, I wanted to break down the deckbuilding mechanic for easy game entry—I realized, the more people who understood this game, the more people who could play with me! Ultimately, I was aiming to keep the game simple enough that even my non-gamer parents could enjoy it. Throughout the process I kept these two things in mind.

How did you go from this basic idea to the first prototype?

Cards I created for an older prototype had a Japanese folklore (Yokai) motif, so I kept the theme as a starting point. I wanted the game to have a board, so that there was a nicely illustrated world to draw the players in, and I wanted the cards to interact with the board. In a first draft, the player’s position on the board granted access to cards, which in return allowed for better movement. To win, players needed to be the first to climb a stairway on a mountaintop-shrine. I created cards, doodled game boards, and played against myself. Then I scrapped most of the game (as you often do with first drafts) but I kept the idea of a “race to the finish.”

 Mycelia card art by Ravensburger

After scrapping the first draft how did you refine it to where you realized you were on to something magical?

I thought about other deckbuilding games with boards and racing toward a goal (notably Quest for El Dorado), and I wanted to differentiate my design from them. I wanted to make my game stand out, so I decided not to represent the players on a shared game board and experimented with giving each player different goals and their own board. I made the goal something most people enjoy, making things tidy and organized.

Mycelia set up by Ravensburger

The Yokai inspired me thematically: a lot of them are tricksters, playing pranks on people and creating chaos. I thought it might be fun to turn that idea around and have the Yokai be helpful and mischievous at the same time. Players would collect Yokai cards and use them to scare all the “pesky humans” (meeples) off the board. While meeples eventually became dewdrops and Yokai became mushrooms, this core element stays true in the final design. Each mushroom has its own rules on how they can move dewdrops from specific spaces, and players must assemble a balanced team to clear the board to win.

The “tidying up the board” mechanic resonated with play testers and myself. I had a grip on what the cards would allow you to do—and what they wouldn’t allow you to do. I created lots of charts and tables for the card pool, narrowed down the design by finding possible combos and card types. This was a very intense but satisfying process. With each rework, I was rewarded seeing the game more and more refined and fun. Suddenly there was this feeling of discovery and variety that I had set as a goal from the start, while the gameplay remained simple: play 3 cards and clear your board to win.

Mycelia card art by Ravensburger

At what point did you incorporate the current theme?

When I presented the game to Ravensburger, the mechanics immediately resonated, but we wanted the theme to be unique, cute, welcoming, and familiar. At one point we had cards with animals that collected snowflakes from a forest, and that last part, the nature design, stuck around. The mushrooms came from the art team and were such a lovely idea! Once we saw the first designs for these humanized creatures we were immediately convinced. Then we fleshed out the world surrounding the mushrooms. What do mushrooms like to collect? Water—in the form of dewdrops of course! Where do they take them? That is when the idea of the shrine came about. It took time to figure it out. I did have a tracker already, but not a 3D one. Lastly, I was happy that I got to write the flavor text. I may not have started with mushrooms, but soon they were my beloved babies.

Who is your favorite mushroom?

That’s a very difficult question, I really like all of them – they’re such a lively and colorful bunch! I especially like the sense of adventure and courage that “Russula virescens” evokes—the green mushroom wandering the tall grass. The three singing bards “Sarcoscypha coccinea” are also some of my favorites, they just seem so silly and joyful, I’d join their parade in a heartbeat! In the end though, I think my favorite is “Clathrus archeri”, the slimy and gloomy tentacle-mushroom that reads your (mis-) fortune from his magic orb. He has very strong over-the-top “cartoon villain” energy and those are my favorite kinds of characters!

Mycelia by Ravensburger

Daniel’s easy to learn yet immersive deckbuilding game is now available at a game store near you. So, whether you use it to introduce friends and family members to this mechanic or to add some adorable mushrooms to your next game night, Ravensburger’s Mycelia is the perfect edition to any game collection.