In the last preview, I briefly introduced Ansel, the mouse warden. Today, I like to share my experience with this third new hero during play testing.
“Who’s in need of help?”
Ansel – a brief overview
Just like Jakobe and Ditty, Ansel adds more uniqueness to the hero selection for Mice & Mystics. When looking at Ansel's hero card and starting equipment, you immediately notice that Ansel is an unrivaled melee combatant. I think that he even surpasses Nez due to his greater defense. This is only fair, since Nez is as much a tinkerer, as he is a soldier. Ansel, on the other hand, specialises in melee at the expense of versatility and presents a formidable obstacle standing between dangerous minions and goodly folk. When you play Ansel, you cannot help immersing yourself into the role of the honourable protector of the Downwood. Aside from his excellence in getting close and personal, the warden’s Selfless ability perfectly encapsulates Ansel’s protective personality within the game rules.
The warden’s second ability, Quester, reflects Ansel’s purposefulness. This mouse does not enter the mystical Downwood whistling a happy song and entertaining the party with rat jokes*. When playing Ansel, you will not only enjoy story moments for their narrative but also for the cheese token they add to your stash!
Ansel’s starting gear
Similarly to Prince Collin, Ansel starts the game with two items that improve his base battle and defense values, respectively. As opposed to the young princeling, however, Ansel’s items include other, circumstantial benefits. Clearly, this mouse has been around the bush for a while, and his starting items reflect Ansel’s history as clearly as the fantastic artwork. I still find it remarkable how John Ariosa manages to instill individuality into each mouse’s appearance.
Ansel’s sword, the Retribution Blade, grants an additional battle die whenever attacking a large minion. This includes spiders and centipedes, which you are likely familiar with; as well as the new fearsome critters in Downwood Tales and even boss minions, such as Brodie, the cat and Hesster, the snake. Yet again, I love the union of flavour and game rules. Knowing the blade’s benefit, I couldn’t help but feel that Ansel was the most capable mouse for the job when facing a large minion. I wanted to make the most of my fourth action die, after all!
Ansel’s Serpent Scale Shield also adds a nice touch: immunity to poison wounds! In addition to its defensive benefits, I am sure that anybody playing warrior mice will appreciate an ability card that uses a shield! Whilst I don’t think the Shield Smash could ever rival Ansel’s sword attacks, I found it surprisingly useful when rolling poorly against normal minions, such as rats, roaches, fearies and froglodytes.
The warden class – attacking options for any situation
Obviously, a raging molox wouldn’t be too scared by a shield smash. However, I enjoyed that Ansel can learn an ability card to react to a variety of situations. For instance, seeing other mice hurt can fuel his strength of arm, and he can even execute a powerful attack against multiple minions all around him. In the case of a minion defending with four defense dice, Ansel’s Roaring Smite is simply fantastic! In addition to automatically inflicting a wound, the minion has no opportunity to fill the cheese wheel. Ansel can truly find the gap in any foe’s defense!
Ansel – a defender of the weak
Another aspect I really liked when testing Ansel was the flexibility in how each player can focus on another aspect. If you have the most fun in cutting down minions left and right, the new warden and warrior ability cards included in Downwood Tales will provide plenty of options to drive terror into hearts of rats and the open circulatory system of any invertebrates you’ll come across. On the other hand, you can completely focus to turn Ansel into a protector or defensive juggernaut. For instance, if you equip the new promo card, Turtle Shell, Ansel’s defense immediately jumps to four, and some ability cards and other items can turn him into a walking fortress.
The promo cards are included when ordering Downwood Tales here .
In addition to previously released warrior cards fitting this defensive role, Downwood Tales includes an ability card that might just save other mice – and not just once! Guard allows Ansel to jump into any incoming attack wounding a nearby mouse. I found this heroic bodyguard playstyle thematically great but would not opt to use it too frequently – particularly not if you have not learned the Inner Strength ability card. Nevertheless, played at the right moment, Guard will ensure the appreciation of your fellow mice. Better yet, if you prevent other mice from being wounded, your friends can easier heal Ansel due to his Selfless ability.
Although Ansel might not bring as much novelty to the game as Jakobe and Ditty, I loved playing this knight of the forest. I’m not sure rats will share my enthusiasm about the warden’s addition to the world of Mice & Mystics.
*P.S. What’s a rat’s favourite game?
Hide and squeak!