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The Mirroring of Mary King Game Review

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The Mirroring of Mary King, from Devious Weasel Games, is a taut, tense thriller of a horror film, Andrew finds in his review.

Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.

My partner recently, and dare I say reasonably, put her foot down about learning new games. “I can’t do it,” she said. “I can’t keep learning rules to new games, only to play them once. I like playing games, but I don’t like continuously learning new ones. Pick three. We play those three.”

I love two-player games. They represent a sizable portion of my collection, and there are easily a dozen of them that I’d love to delve deeper into. There are the big guns, like Twilight Struggle, 1960: The Making of the U.S. President, and even Empire of the Sun. There’s Watergate, with its tense exchanges, and Mandala, a largely-ignored masterpiece. There’s the impenetrable Japanese dueling game Sakura Arms, perennial favorite 7 Wonders Duel, War Chest, Red Flag Over Paris, Santorini, Schotten Totten, Targi, Lost Cities, Race for the Galaxy.

Magnificent games all, and all games I own.

The first game I put on the pile was The Mirroring of Mary King.

A three by four grid of tiles showing Mary's face. The front of each tile is the human Mary, while the back of each tile shows the ghost. At the moment in this game, the ghost Mary is solidly ahead.

While visiting Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh on a Monday, a young woman named Mary King is attacked by the ghost of her 17th century ancestor, also named Mary King. For a week, these two Marys fight for control of the modern-day Mary’s body. The struggle is represented on the table by twelve tiles forming a mosaic of Mary’s face, the human half on one side and the spectral half on the other.

As the game progresses, both players flip over tiles, representing the push and pull of the possession. I find this wondrously evocative. With every flip, I picture Mary slamming against a wall—in my mind this is usually in a library, for some reason—as she and the ghost gain and lose ground, like something out of Żuławski’s Possession.

On the surface, The Mirroring of Mary King is an area-control game. Most of the cards in your Mind (deck) are Control cards, which can be played in one of two orientations to flip tiles on the board. The indicated tiles are flipped, and the card is discarded to your Memory (discard). The rest of your Mind consists of asymmetric Power cards, which can swing from essential to useless, depending on the state of play. Learning both sides’ cards, understanding how to respond to what is and isn’t in play, is a huge part of this game.

It is theoretically possible to win by turning all twelve tiles to your side, forming a coherent portrait of either combatant, but it isn’t likely. In the meantime, at the end of each player’s turn, both players have to discard cards from their Mind based on contiguous areas of control on Mary. That’s when you start to realize what kind of game this really is.

The more likely conclusion to a game of Mary King is the end of the fifth round, Friday, and a counting of cards. Each card left in your Mind is worth a point, together with a bonus for your largest contiguous area on the board. At its core, The Mirroring of Mary King is about conservation of energy. It is about doing the most with the least. A monster turn where you burn through seven or eight cards will feel incredible, but may ultimately be the reason you lose.

Granted, it may also be the reason you win.

I sleeved the cards. I pulled an old dusty box full of kickstarted card sleeves out from under my bed, a box that hasn’t seen daylight since 2021, and I sleeved the cards. I don’t know what else to tell you.

The Mirroring of Mary King is an evocative, unusual, tense design that appreciates with repetition. It might be the best new game I played last year.

Fun bit of business: The card on the left and the card on the right go to the bottom of your Memory when you play them. Using these three cards, I was able to create an infinite loop that won me the game.
  • Excellent - Always want to play.

The Mirroring of Mary King details

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

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