The tinkerer’s treasure can be a wondrous thing. More times than I can remember, one of these has gotten me out of a tight spot. – Nez Bellows (Illustration: John Ariosa)
About this article
Hero Spotlight is an intended series of strategy articles, which will focus on our brave heroes of Mice & Mystics. Each article will discuss a hero’s strengths, weaknesses and potential party roles. In addition, I share my thoughts on abilities, equipment items and synergies with other heroes.
I focus on game mechanics and do not discuss story elements, particular chapters or character development from a narrative point-of-view. Just for fun (and hopefully discussions) I use a rating system. Our fourth mouse in the spotlight: Nez, the tinkerer.
All ratings are based on the hero in spotlight, only. One mouse’s garbage is another mouse’s treasure!
Simply cheese-tastic! A hero ability never to forget; a specific character strength; an ability card you will be able to use frequently and to great effect or an item of great value, which supports the strengths of your hero and greatly benefits the mice.
Tasty! A hero commonly useful ability; an ability card, which can be a great addition after selecting primary ability cards; or an item, which can be utilised to good effect.
Mediocre! A situationally useful hero ability, a rarely useable ability card or an item for the backpack.
Rotten! A poor hero ability, an ability card hardly worth six cheese tokens or an item to be traded for cheese immediately.
Illustration: John Ariosa
Nez’s attribute values are rather underwhelming. As a melee specialist, his battle value is only average and his defense value even trails that of mice more adapted to ranged combat. Worse yet, his slow speed sometimes prevents Nez from getting into a good position on a tile. Nez’ saving grace in melee is his high life value. The extra heart allows resisting being captured by rats more commonly than one could expect. Lastly, Nez’ lore value shows that this burly, former soldier is not a dumb brute and can be extremely handy when utilizing scroll cards.
Resisting two nasty conditions is a huge benefit for the tinkerer and any friends fortunate enough to adventure with this loyal protector. However, the ability is already situational when playing the base game and of no help when encountering new minions, such as those introduced in expansions. To make matters worse, Nez lacks a cheese-generating ability.
Nez starts the game with only a single item. Obviously quantity isn’t everything, or did anybody ever complain that Marvel’s comic hero Thor was too weak? In Nez’s case, his signature weapon is rather effective, too. One of the few items in Mice & Mystics with a printed bonus of +2 to battle value, Nez’s Hammer surely packs a punch. Aside from the obvious benefit of being capable to reliable dispatch annoying minions, the chance to toss four dice in your attack increase the chance of getting cheese – which partially makes up for the lack of a similar ability. The hammer’s drawbacks are the bonus reduction when attacking minions in the same space as the tinkerer and having to wield the weapon in two paws. The former can be problematic when minions have entered Nez’s space, since the tinkerer has to forgo +1 battle or waste his movement to skip a single space. The latter prevents Nez from equipping shields, which would aid turning this attack-minded solider into a more resilient defender. Nevertheless, Nez’s Hammer is a formidable tool in the area Nez specializes in the most: getting close and personal to swat some nasty minions.
Unless you find a sharp weapon that replaces Nez’s trusted hammer, this card is of no use to the tinkerer.
- Battle Squeak
Now we’re talking! At the cost of a single cheese token, Nez can toss all dice you find in the base game. The extra melee die gives you a 2-in-3 chance of either scoring another hit or re-gaining the just-spent cheese. With four or five melee dice at your disposal, you can expect to utilise Battle Squeak every other round. Another circumstantially important factor is the effect’s duration. Remember that the +1 battle lasts until the end of Nez’s turn, rather than for a single attack.
- Craft Item (Heart of Glorm)
I love thematic ability cards, and this one certainly has ‘tinkerer’ written all over it. Immediately gaining access to a much-needed party item can be incredibly useful. The card comes at a high cost of wasting your precious cheese token every second time you use it, on average. Highly situational but potentially hugely beneficial and progressively getting better with more party items released in expansions. No other ability card gives you the peace of mind when potentially facing Brodie in a chapter. My current rating assumes that your search deck contains party items from Sorrow & Remembrance and Heart of Glorm.
I wouldn’t bet against Nez being capable of breaking his hammer and using it as two weapons. Actually, his craftsmanship might outweigh his strength, so forget about that thought. Given the currently available equipment and the card’s cost, Feint is wasted on the tinkerer.
- First Aid
Nez’s cheese supply is commonly limited and better used in supporting his strength – hitting things on their heads. In addition, his slow feet could prevent him from getting to wounded mice on time.
- Fortitude (Heart of Glorm)
Since Nez is immune to the stunned and webbed conditions, Fortitude is useless when playing Sorrow & Remembrance. Its utility greatly increases when faced with some conditions introduced in expansions, however. While there is not urgency to pick up this card when you start a campaign, it’s nice to keep in mind for the future – if no other mouse has acquired the card in the meantime.
A defensive ability that functions regardless of Nez’s own (rather low) defense value! At a cost of one cheese and not preventing you from using your normal attack action, I like this ability card – a lot! Admittedly, the odds of actually benefitting from it are rather small. In a single defense roll, a mouse with a defense value of 2 or 3 has a chance of 31% or 42%, respectively, to deflect one extra hit thanks to your protection. Yet, if you use this ability with all mice in the same space and anticipate many incoming attacks, Protect might just prevent one or two wounds. When considering the cost of e.g. First Aid (2 cheese to heal 1 wound), Protect can be very cost-efficient!
Remember also that Nez himself also benefits from his protective stance! So if you find yourself surrounded by minions and expect multiple attacks, I would recommend playing Protect over an offensive ability card of the same cheese cost. The only downside is that you have to play this card at your turn’s beginning; so some foresight and planning might be required to get the most out of this card.
Nez’s limited defensive capabilities are dangerous for a frontline combatant. As such, Resolve can prove a fur-saving ability card. I recommend using it carefully, since it is rather costly with regards to precious cheese. A positive feature of Resolve is that you declare to play it after seeing how many hits the attacking minion has scored. As such, you can consider whether you’re better of accepting a hit or if Resolve could prevent Nez from being captured. In addition to its defensive benefits, Resolve is played during a minion’s turn, which accordingly allows Nez to utilise Battle Squeak or other abilities on his turn. A nice defensive ability to address Nez’s weakness and one I recommend to learn quickly!
- Set Trap
I think this ability card is commonly underestimated. One reason for it might be the misprint: the card depicts a sword/ shield/ star symbol, instead of the intended star symbol. The difference is that your odds to benefit from Set Trap jump from 1-in-6 to 1-in-2. And that’s for every minion on your chosen initiative slot.
Still, you might wonder why you would try to spend two cheese token to temporarily disable minions from attack when you could simply walk up and take one of them out permanently. My answer to this is that many situations turn Set Trap into a far superior option than any attacking power. The three major factors to consider are minion abundance, initiative order, and distance.
With regards to abundance, the more minions of one type, the greater the chance Nez disables at least one. For instance, if you play Set Trap against a single spider, your chance of succeeding in making the minion skip a turn is 50%. If you are faced by four rats, you can expect to temporarily take out two, on average, and are very unlikely to waste the ability card altogether.
Initiative order is of great importance concerning when the minions act in relation to your fellow mice as well as any wound markers on your friends. Imagine a situation in which Nez is first on the initiative track, followed by five greedy roaches. Instead of swatting a single roach with Nez’s mighty hammer, trapping two or three of them, on average, will greatly diminish the minion’s potential to add cheese to the wheel. Before the trapped minions get to act again, all your fellow mice will have had a turn, and chances are that not many roaches will remain.
Nez might be able to take out one greedy roach before the other four will steal cheese and fill up the wheel. Or Nez could trap, on average, 2-3 before your entire party has a chance to decimate the insects.
The second important factor about initiative is the wound marker situation. Think about a situation in which Tilda, down to her last life point, would be higher on initiative than Nez. Before her turn, an unwounded centipede would act and attack Tilda, since she is the highest on the initiative track. Your odds to take out the centipede in one swing are ridiculously small – your odds to trap it are 1-in-2. This would enable Tilda to get away, heal or allow other mice to weaken the critter before you finish it off on your next turn.
If it was Nez's turn in this situation, trying to trap the unwounded centipede has far greater odds to save Tilda, compared to a hammer swing.
Finally, distance matters when faced by ranged minions. If your mice will require one or two rounds to close in on the minions, trapping them will greatly increase your party’s chance to get to them in time. Without going into spoiler-details, I found the use of this card in successive rounds an absolute game winner during a certain key encounter in Sorrow & Remembrance.
A timely set trap can prevent the elite rats from hurling dangerous throwing knives towards the slowly advancing mice.
As a minor side note, Set Trap does not work on Brodie, since he is represented by a token instead of a figure. Other than that, I don't have anything negative to write about this ability, which clearly emphasises Nez as far more than a hammer-swinging brute.
- Thundersqueak (variable cost)
It’s a strange ability in that it support Nez’s blunt starting weapon but required minions to share the tinkerer’s space – which is counterintuitive to the battle value boosting limitation of Nez’s Hammer. But even with a reduced battle value of 3, attacking multiple minions can greatly aid your party. To get the most out of this ability, you might want three minions in your space. If you find some armour (say, you have a helmet and breastplate), I recommend the combination of Protect and Tundersqueak as a one-two-punch. You can play Protect, wade into the fray, watch the minions swarm you and attack to no avail, roll 12 defense dice (4 per attack with two armour items and Protect) and use the cheese you will likely gain to swart the fools on your next turn (see subsequent images).
a) Nez cannot engage the roaches in melee, plays Protect at the beginning of his turn and moves forward.
b) On the roaches turn, they all move in and attack Nez. In this example, Nez has two armour items equipped and can roll four dice to defend against each attack. Even with a single armour item, he would have three defense dice.
c) On Nez's next turn, he can send the roaches flying with Thundersqueak.
I find Thundersqueak situationally useful but won’t advice to prioritise learning this ability ahead of others.
- Fickle Amulet
Stopping the cheese-wheel from filling is great, but a 50% chance of having another hit inflicted on you is not. Use it wisely, and this amulet can be tremendous.
- Bone Knife
An item that increases in power with added defense value. Not Nez’s strong suit!
- Button Shield
Your starting weapon prevents Nez from using this shield. Surely, you can by fortunate to have rare item combinations or make frequent use of your equip action, however the shield might be better off in the paws of another mouse. In addition, unequipping your hammer will prevent getting an out-of-turn attack via Collin or other effects.
- Coin Shield
See “Button Shield”.
“Tell me ye’re not serious!” - Nez
- Slicing Dagger
“Keep yer toothpicks, I’ve got a hammer!”- Nez
- Throwing Daggers
Having a ranged weapon is useful when being slow-footed. However, I would still prefer to use my action to scurry, search, or set a trap to throwing the daggers.
- Needle Rapier (Promo)
The only one-pawed weapon I would consider over Nez’s hammer. It greatly pads up Nez’s defense and even allows equipping a shield in your second paw. The two limitations: the rapier might be even better for other mice and you can only carry one item between chapters – so the rapier and shield combo is of temporary nature.
- Clockwork Rifle
Since you cannot be webbed or stunned, you would only use this rifle when you don’t want to move. A battle value of 4 is obviously greater in melee, compared with ranged, so in many instances I would advice to close in on the minions, rather than to remain at the back. In addition, you cannot increase your ranged battle value, whereas you will often roll extra dice in melee combat. However, there are certainly situations in which the rifle is of great use. For instance, if your party can get a free round of ranged attacks against onrushing melee minions, the rifle allows you to join the fun. Since you have to discard it at the end of the chapter, you can utilise it as a nice secondary weapon!
- Hammer of Nandon
It’s Nez’s hammer in reverse. When you find it, you can use your equip action to achieve a constant battle value of 4 – regardless of minion position. It’s particularly useful if you find yourself frequently using Thundersqueak. However, I would consider passing it to Tilda, if she is in your party, and certainly wouldn’t advise to retain it at the expense of an armour item.
- Mystic Blade
The randomness of the blade’s benefit can cause excited cheers around the table. However, most commonly Nez’s starting hammer is superior, and as your primary carry-over item, I recommend to focus on improving your tinkerer’s defense.
It requires two paws and has a 43% probability of being discarded after attacking (assuming three ranged attack dice). I think it’s worthwhile given Nez’s slow speed but certainly not an item to carry over between chapters.
“Now that’s a toothpick!” Unfortunately, Nez’s low defense value greatly diminishes any potential this item has. It can be better if you have armour and helmet equipped. However, the chanc of possessing these items simultaneously is very slim, and even then it’s not a gaming-changing effect.
- Clockwordk Grenade
It can be used only once and cannot be used in conjunction with Battle Squeak. Yet, four dice in itself are solid, and if you have a chance to combine the grenade with Fungus Bits, those nasty ranged attackers on special area spaces are in for some fireworks!
- Acorn Helmet
Wasted on Nez.
- Thimble Helm
Increases Nez’s defense value and added protection from nasty treacheries as additional benefit – my first choice as Nez’s go-to item.
- Fishscale Armor
A constant boost to the tinkerer’s defense value and situational benefits! Being able to deter Brodie from going after your more vulnerable companions can feel particularly heroic. My second favourite armour item for Nez!
- Leather Breastplate
Simple, yet effective.
- Walnut Shell Breastplate
Nobody like to be dragged down in dangerous currents! This armour is marginally better than the Leather Breastplate and slightly worse than the Fishscale Armour, in my humble opinion.
- Tattered Threads of Reason (Promo)
I consider equipping Nez with body armour more important than any ability he could use via this item. However, if an opportunity presents itself to equip the Tattered Threads of Reason, many ability cards can certainly be useful. I list those that I consider the best for Nez, and my rating reflects my perception of the Tattered Threads of Reason with the particular ability card:
An ability that addresses both of Nez's major weaknesses: defense and movement. You can draw a minion in, entirely escape its attack and have it within range for a nice counter attack on your turn!
- Give Order
If Collin hasn't learned this ability card (or is not in the party), it definitely beats Battlesqueak in efficiency!
For details, please read my elaboration in the Hero Spotlight article featuring Maginos. As opposed to Maginos, Nez doesn't generate extra cheese with attacks and the frequency to play this card would consequently not be boosted. Nevertheless, an invisble, hammer-wielding solider with Nez's potency is a terrifying prospect.
Single use items
- Fungus Bits (Heart of Glorm)
This can turn Nez’s hammer swing into a devastating avalanche.
- Lore Rune (Heart of Glorm)
No reason to trade this for cheese unless every mouse in your group has obtained all available ability cards.
- Tinkerer's Treasure
Rejoice when you (or one of your friends) draw this card! Whether you need a particular armour or weapon for Nez or any other mouse in your party, you got it. Better yet, Tinkerer’s Treasure is shuffled back into the search deck; if you’re lucky, you could draw it again. And just as a reminder: when you find it when adding search cards from expansions, your options are so diverse that picking through the search deck could trigger a pizza break at your gaming table.
While using Tinkerer's treasure to craft a single-use item might seem wasteful, the clockwork grenade can quickly decide encounters against clustered ranged minions.
- Whiskerfroth Elixir
A great item to remove some wound markers. Don’t forget that you can pass it on to help out your fellow mice.
- Mystic Tome
Simply a fantastic item that only increases in utility with the addition of search cards in expansions.
- Heal All
An excellent scroll to have, particularly if Tilda is not in your party!
Fourteen of the 16 tiles in Mice & Mystics contain yellow/ red lines, possible mousetraps or water spaces. The tinkerer is guaranteed to find a good use for this scroll.
In encounters with a single type of minion, this scroll effectively grants one entire free turn to every hero in the party. Simply superb!
- Summon Cat
As I wrote previously, if Nez can craft party items and manages to obtain Catnip, this scroll can be of great assistance in dealing with clustered minions. If Catnip is not available, the scroll's risk might outweigh its benefits.
Synergies with Nez’s companions
Nez’s unrivalled efficiency in melee combat predestines him as recipient for numerous extra action granting abilities. Nez, the former soldier, will not hesitate when the prince gives him an order to fell another minion with a mighty swing. Collin’s Inspire maximizes the potential of Battlesqueak – since the increased battle value last until the end of Nez’s turn, the tinkerer can perform two attacks with five dice at a cost of only two cheese!
- Any mouse with a lore value of 2 and the Summon Brodie scroll
If Nez has mastered the Craft Item ability card, your party can safely use the Summon Brodie scroll at the right moment, watching the cat pounce on some rats and then defeat him using Catnip. Depending on the initiative track, you might be better off summoning Brodie yourself and passing the Catnip on to another party member.
When Tilda plays Fortify and Nez uses Protect, your party is in good paws! Both cards augment each other: Having more dice increases your odds to roll a sword/shield/star symbol for extra defense and having this option available makes the extra die from Fortify more valuable.