Clearing the Mist
I could have waited a bit longer to write this post, but Mistfall requires dedication and repeated plays. It would take me a month until I was able to say I have a fairly good grasp of its mechanisms, so I decided to share some impressions now. After trying four different characters and three quests, I think I at least understand the game's potential.
People tend to compare Mistfall to Mage Knight: faster than Mage Knight but almost similar in depth, they say. Having not played the former King of solo games I cannot speak about this analogy. My point of reference is Spirit Island. I was looking for a game that offers satisfying card play and combos like Spirit Island does. Mistfall delivers in this respect but feels somewhat limited in its scope. It's all about the card play and not much else. Where Spirit Island offers card-driven interaction with the pieces on the board, and an ever-changing landscape, Mistfall is more static and all about combat. The heroes take a few steps on the map tiles, and that's it. All the action happens in your deck. I wouldn't call this a problem, but I believe it could have been a more fleshed-out experience. Let the heroes take breaks between fights. Let them do something other than fighting. Turn the map into a board, perhaps.
But let's talk about the meat of the game, that is the card play. Assuming you play with two heroes, you start with a hand of five cards from their basic deck. Over the course of the game, you will be spending 'resolve' to acquire better cards from the heroes' advanced decks, to have a better chance at either dealing damage to enemies or healing and returning discarded cards into your deck. Synergies can happen, as one character may be able to deal with the enemies that pester the other character, or help them get cards back into their deck. A hero's deck is basically their life. If they run out of cards to draw from, they are eliminated.
Enemies come in three different types: Wild, Undead, and Sorcerers/Brigands. The location you move into dictates the type of enemies you will be facing. If you don't manage to either kill the enemies or complete the objective of an encounter card in the first round, things can easily go South. Enemy reinforcements arrive, and if you haven't managed your deck well, you're going to be overrun. Time is never on your side. Not only does it go by fast, it also has nasty effects, usually causing you to discard cards and tokens.
Each hero comes with a different deck and special abilities. Not all of them are equally interesting to play, though. So far I have found Arani the cleric to be the most versatile character: her deck allows you to deal hits, heal yourself and your companion(s), add tokens to encounters, defend, and make enemies temporarily retreat. You rarely feel out of options with her, your hand will always allow you to do something. Other characters offer less choice. Venda deals blows with her hammers, over and over. Fengray has a whole lot of defense, it gets boring. Hareag the old wizard is more enigmatic. You have to figure out how exactly to use the cards in his deck, or before you know it, his deck runs out and he becomes a meal to rabid dogs.
There is an excellent Player's Guide on BGG with helpful information about each hero and tips on how to play their decks. I chose not to read it, though, and discover the strategies myself. Which is why I got annihilated twice by Rahlfors (the boss of the third quest). If I'm not mistaken, the 2016 edition has a revised rulebook which is easy to understand, so don't be discouraged by complaints about the rules. I had no problem going through it but did have a few questions when I started playing. Thankfully, BGG forums always come to the rescue and Ricky Royal has filmed playthroughs too, in case things ever get misty.
Unfortunately, Mistfall and its expansions are now out of print, and Board & Dice seems to have focused their attention on eurogames with fancy names. Which is a shame. Mistfall (and, I assume, the Heart of the Mists expansion) is an excellent option for card-loving solo gamers. It deserves not only a reprint but also more content. If you can find a copy in the second hand market, and enjoy thinky card games, this is one to invest in.