Mysterium / Tajemnicze Domostwo

Tormented spirits, psychedelic dreams and a murder most foul.

Is it nearly Halloween already?

PRACTICE:

  • present speculation
  • describing abstract images
  • comparing and contrasting
  • hedging (sounding less certain)
  • agreeing and disagreeing

WHO IS IT FOR?

  • Advanced learners and higher (CEFR C1-C2)
  • Ages 15+

THE RUNTHROUGH:

I’m not going to spend much time explaining how this game is supposed to be played.  There a two reasons for this: firstly, I’ve completely lost track of the differences between how the Polish Tajemnicze Domostwo, English-language Mysterium and the original Ukranian Містеріум should be played.  It’s all terribly confusing.  To top it all off, the components have French on them.

I’ll just tell you how I use it, shall I?

  1. Prior to the class, you need to decide which one of each of the pre-selected places, people and items is going to be the suspect for each group.  For example, for one group you may have decided that it was the explorer, in the library, with the cricket bat! Having done this, choose who of these two was the accomplice and who was the murderer.mysterium-suspects
  2. Tell the class that they are psychic investigators who have been hired by a wealthy landowner.  A property needs to be sold, but it is haunted and the ghost is scaring off all the would-be buyers.  It turns out that many years ago, a murder was committed and the crime went unpunished.  The class must solve the crime by identifying the real culprit.
  3. Split the class into two groups.  It’s important that each group has at least 2 pairs.  You can easily accommodate an odd number by having a three and a pair in one group.
  4. Issue each group with a play-mat, a coloured counter and the cards for the named locations. Then encourage learners to match the cards to each of the places.  This is a sneaky way of pre-teaching this vocabulary.  Be sure to check the pronunciation of some of the places: e.g. nursery, parlour, and library (2-3 mins)
  5. Inform the investigators that the ghost is only capable of communication through dream.  They have 7 nights to solve the mystery, and each night the ghost will give them a shared dream.  First they must identify who the murderer and accomplice are, before finally discovering who exactly the killer was.
  6. Ask the learners to talk about the similarities and differences between the cards currently at hand in the where? column.  Encourage them to use the language on the handout labelled: COMPARING AND CONTRASTING. (2-3 mins) mysterium-vision (Erik Gillespie)
  7. Issue each pair/three with 1 dream card  which points them towards the location where their suspect was at the time of the crime.  Pairs can look at this card together and speculate about what it might be trying to say.  Draw learners attention to the SPECULATION section of the language handout at this point. (5 mins)
  8. Ask pairs to describe the dream that they had, and what they think the ghost was trying to tell them.  Groups can listen to each other and cooperate, but they must not show their dream cards. (5 mins)
  9. After some discussion, the group must come to a conclusion about  the place they think was being suggested by the dream and place a token on it.  If the team is successful they can move onto the next set of cards, repeating points 4-9 until they have identified where, who and what.  If they are unsuccessful in guessing, then repeat points 7-9 until they guess, giving more than one dream card each turn if needed. (2-3 mins)
  10. Once both teams have successfully identified their suspects, then you can re-arrange pairs, so learners get new speaking partners for the final stage.
  11. Repeat stages 7-9, but this time you can give 1 dream card to each pair and it can relate to either the place, murderer or murder weapon.

BEAR IN MIND:

  • Conservatively speaking, you’re going to need the best part of an hour for this game in order to do it well.
  • In terms of timetable fit, it would be best to emphasise the speculation element if this game and use it as follow up to some recent input.
  • When taking on the role of The Ghost, don’t underestimate how difficult it is to find meaningful dreams.  It’s actually good to have previously selected a few cards, just in case.  You can always draw different cards if the Investigators speculations take an unexpected tack.
  • You need to be confident of having 8 students minimum.  Fewer than four pairs and things get messy. Well not that messy really, just shorter.
  • Be prepared to help learners with vocabulary for describing the weird dream sequences that they experience.  It’s a strength of the game that it tests them like this, but it can also be frustrating for them.

SUMMARY:

This game can be really challenging for learners, especially when they have to describe their dreams.  It’s interesting seeing them really reaching the limits of their linguistic abilities when presented by some of the beautiful abstract art in this game.  It has a nice pace, which is great for allowing learners to be more considered in their use of language, especially when they are speculating.  Mysterium is a bit more of a ‘slow burn’ than some of the other games on the market, but it is unique.  You can be sure your students will have never had a lesson quite like it, nor will they again.

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