Muse is a 2-12 player party game designed by Jordan Sorenson and published by Quick Simple Fun Games. Players break up into teams and attempt to find a mugger in a line-up of gorgeous looking picture cards. Their only clue was given to them by a crazed passerby, who, for some reason, does nothing but hum the description of the thief. If the team can decipher the song and identify the correct villain, then that team moves one step closer to winning the game. Welcome to Muse.
How to Play
Setup is as simple as dividing into two or three teams and shuffling the two decks provided; one of tarot-sized picture cards called masterpieces, and the other regular-sized inspiration cards.
The starting team, chosen at random or by whatever bizarre and twisted first player rule you can think of, draws six masterpieces and two inspiration cards. Together, they decide and give one sucker on the opposing team one of each type of card. This person is now the muse.
The muse looks at both cards and creates a clue following the instructions on the inspiration card. Examples of these instructions include: name a non-fictional person, a book, or one an event from season three episode two of Battlestar Galactica. There are also some more involved instructions like strike a pose, or hum a sound, as well.
After the muse gives their clue, they hand the masterpiece back facedown. The original team shuffles the card along with the other five masterpieces and then places them all face up on the table.
The muse’s team then gets one guess to find the card given to the muse. If they’re right they claim the card, otherwise it gets discarded with the other five picture cards. Either way it’s another team’s turn at having a muse.
The first team to claim five cards wins.
Dixit 2: The Dixiting. Muse is the next iteration upon the Dixit formula, as such they have a lot in common and will be compared in this review. If you’re unfamiliar, you can and should read my review of Dixit here. It wasn’t the perfect game, and Muse tries to fix some of the flaws found. Namely, Dixit suffers from blank page syndrome, whereby you look at blank page – or picture card – and you have no idea what to write. Muse skirts around this by giving players enough directions on how to be creative through the inspiration cards.
This also fixes the issue in Dixit where one person had to handle the burden of creativity. In Muse this creative toll is doled out between both the team giving the masterpiece and inspiration cards, and the muse. This lets lesser-creative people participate without feeling like they’re letting down the group.
It keeps the good stuff as well. There are still moments of spontaneous laughter when you find out what the actual card is, like when I found out my friend has no idea what a crab sounds like. There are also moments where you’ve provided the perfect clue, only to find that it applies to every other card revealed. While the other team gleams with devilish delight, if you had subtitles I’m sure they’d say [groans internally] because you’re not allowed to make a sound.
This forms the strategy of the game, where in Dixit you pick a clue and hope for the best. Muse allows you to choose the type of clue, and what card the clue is for before your hand it over. This a-muse-ing twist allows you to either choose the most obscure card combination, or the most applicable combination amongst all the cards, paving the way for mind games. These become more prominent the more you play, increasing the fun and the longevity of the game.
Like all good party games there’s not many rules, and in Muse they do a great job of condensing them into a small A5 card. This size makes for a smaller box for the board game, meaning that Muse is perfect for chucking into your bag and taking it to parties.
Finally, the card art is beautiful, and there is a good variety of inspiration cards. While currently not needed, adding more of either card to the game would be a great and easy way to give us some expansions. Right, Quick Simple Fun Games?
Muse, like it’s forerunner, requires the right crowd, and while it does a better job of mitigating this, it’s still a factor you need to consider. Along similar lines, the board game plays better with more people, as it thrives on the social pressure and the jiving back and forth banter.
In terms of fun, each round is inconsistent as it depends on the inspiration card given. Some, as mentioned, are quite fun and funny without going to the extremes of charades. However, others are a lot drier. Two that come to mind are: say a word with exactly six or three letters.
Additionally, there are inspirations which work better if everyone has background knowledge. As an example, you’ll do better on those previous clues with an increased vocabulary, and the mastery of the English language. Whilst other clues you’ll do better if you’ve read a lot or watched TV or if you’re a professional Foley artist.
Another issue was that some of the inspiration instructions weren’t always clear. It didn’t go to the meme extreme of instructions unclear, ended up playing Terra Mystica, but there were some arguments of what constitutes a tool – notably a picture of my brother does not, or if onomatopoeia count as words. See what I mean about vocabulary?
Lastly, and this was the difference between Muse and Dixit, and why I still prefer Dixit. The clues given never got personal, or meta, or surprised me to the same level. The clues in Dixit could be dumb like ‘My fifth-grade teacher’ or ‘What I like to do at home alone’ and the responses to the clue would be equally as funny as people trying to guess. However, in Muse, the clues don’t go beyond what’s on the cards. This makes the spontaneous moments of laughter I mentioned fewer and farther in between.
I like this type of game, and this is a fresh and worthwhile take on these mechanics. If there is an expansion for it, which there bloody well should be, I’ll gladly pick it up. Unfortunately, it never seems to reach the same heights of hilarity as Dixit. However, it still holds its own, and allows for greater consistency between playing groups. Because of this, the box size, and the longevity of gameplay, I’m more likely to put Muse in my bag than Dixit at this point. Where Dixit can get stale after repeatedly seeing the same cards, Muse becomes harder, better, and more fun with its strategy and mind games. All of this is my longwinded way of giving Muse my recommendation. It’s a great little party game that I look forward to bringing out at the next board game meetup.
While I eagerly await Dixit 3, let me know if you’ve played the Muse and Dixit, and what your thoughts are of either board games. Also if you’ve played Sakura Arms, for some reason I want to get that…