Review: The Mystery Zodiac Game
Publisher: Remco
Year: 1969
Players: 2 to 4

A family of three look at the fortune wheel

how we met

Last year someone posted The Mystery Zodiac Game online in a vintage toy page. Bill immediately asked me if I was interested in it and managed to buy it before it was up online anywhere. The game looked really interesting and fun, and I couldn’t find any information about it anywhere.

The person that found The Mystery Zodiac Game and sold it to Bill is very nice and has a ton of interesting stuff for sale at any given time. If you enjoy vintage toys or games check out the starwarsdan Etsy shop.

how it plays

The Mystery Zodiac Game supports 2-4 players. In order to play, separate the cards face down into four piles based on their suit – hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. Each player chooses one random card from each suit pile without looking at the back of the cards! The player with the zodiac sign that falls earliest in a given year gets to go first.

The card decks split out by suit
The suits show numbers as well, to help you keep your fortune in order

Before starting play each player chooses a fortune tablet. The suit on that tablet becomes that player’s suit for the game. These tablets resemble small, dark magnets, or like the snake fireworks you can set on fire each July here in the US and then enjoy the marks they leave on your sidewalk year round!

Small magnets with stickers showing the suits diamond, heart, club, spade
My table is nothing to look at, but these tablets would not go nearer to each other

The first player moves the white arrow on the constellation disk to their sign and then just holds tight while the other players take turns, starting with the player to the left. Each player in turn should place their fortune tablet on one of the available white spaces on the middle constellation disc. You can place your fortune tablet anywhere within the white space since the placement might help drive the magic of where the wand finally lands.

The wizard looking kind of sad
Most of my photos focus on the board and not the unhappy wizard holding the mystic wand.

The first player can then place their fortune tablet in one (or the, if it’s four players) remaining space. Then they hold the mystic wand to the side, spin the turntable, and release the mystic wand to land where it will. This can take awhile, but it is telling the future so a little patience is in order.

Eventually the mystic wand will favor one of the fortune tablets, and the player whose turn it was must follow the instructions for that suit on the board game. For example, if the wand selects the fortune tablet with a heart suit and the pointer at the base of the tower lands on “EXCHANGE with person to the RIGHT” then the active player trades their heart suited card with the player to their right. So the wand chooses the suit and the pointer chooses the action.

A shot of the wheel showing different possible options
This is the Zodiac wheel from above, showing the white spaces where Fortune Tablets go and the outer edges that define what happens to cards

Play continues in this way until each player has had four full turns! Divination is not a quick thing, my friends. At the end of four rounds each player turns their cards over in the 1, 2, 3, 4 order they should be in and reads their fortune. So everyone wins!

how it went

I was not only excited to receive this old Remco game, but I was excited to share the game with a world that seems to have forgotten about it. I do not often pick up a game that does not exist on BGG. When I do, it enters a series of flowcharts in my head. Should the world know about this game? Do I care enough to enter it and submit photos? What is my goal here?

The game laid out on the table
Maybe if I put it all out there, my direction will be clear

I thought The Mystery Zodiac Game was sufficiently cool for me to jump through hoops and help ensure its place in tabletop archives. But the rules, folks. Board Game Geek considers this type of game an Oracle. It is not eligible to be added to BGG because:

Divination products, such as ouiji boards and divination tarot cards, usually do not have win and loss conditions, and as such are out of scope. This is true for most things that say they will tell the future.

Board Game Geek game criteria

And while that was a surprise to me, it almost certainly was not a surprise to my Oracle.

And while I am disappointing you, I can confirm that the magic here is driven by magnets. Or is it? During our play we tried every trick we could think of to see if we could control the outcome of the magic wand landing based on where we placed our fortune tablets within the white areas. And we couldn’t really. But maybe because there was four of us mucking it up, hardly a controlled group.

We also for some reason had it out for one of our cards in the heart suit. We traded that bad boy back and forth, left and right, never keeping, always exchanging. It’s just what we had to do to land on our final fortunes.

I have already mentioned that Divination is not a quick thing. This is a game where you have to wait for the wand to settle for 4 rounds x however many players you have (in our case 4 players and 16 times). It can be a bit long. But we had fun, and it’s not easy to put a price on a good fortune.

I can’t share the fortunes we received that day with you. Then they wouldn’t come true. But I can share four completely random fortunes:

An old friend from school will come to your house when you least expect it and will give the answer to something that's been puzzling you.
A movie star will argue with you next week to arrange a loan.
Someone you see every day will take hold of you when you're in the shower to cheat you out of something.
Your best friend will send a message through a friend sometime after this game to arrange a loan.

There is something very fun about making your fortune modular and then trading bits of it around before you land on a final fortune. Especially if you are trading fortune bits with your close people. Fortune outcomes range from silly to interesting to bizarre. I could wax philosophical about the part we play in the fortunes of others and the part they play in ours, but I’ll settle with: this is a silly game and we had silly fun.

play or pass

Play. The Mystery Zodiac Game is a fun novelty. It is not, by BGG definition, a game – which is worth noting. But it does require setup, it does require decisions, and it does rely heavily on luck which are all aspects of games often favored on Idle Remorse.