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Mouse Guard

Second Edition

An Adult Game Based on a Popular Children's Comic (Playable by Kids With Adult Supervision)

Publisher Description

Based on the award-winning Mouse Guard comic book and graphic novel series by David Petersen, this pen-and-paper traditional RPG designed by Luke Crane contains everything players need to know about the world of the Guard including rules for forming patrols and heading up missions into the Territories. Features artwork and extensive background material from series creator David Petersen.

A More Mature Game (Run For Children With Great Success) [ edit ]

Let's get one thing out of the way first: Mouse Guard does not use "simplified rules for kids". It is a full-fledged RPG, complex and interesting enough for any adult gamer, and it has many dark/serious tones (although nothing gory or inappropriate for children).

That being said, the game is sold as being for ages "13-17", and its subject matter (playing as medieval mice) will likely appeal to even younger fans.  In fact, the comic book that the RPG is based on is recommended for ages 8+ (or possibly even younger):

​For sake of labeling, the publisher has classified it as “8 and up”, though there are fans of Mouse Guard younger than that.

And, just as the Mouse Guard comic itself has younger-than-recommended fans, so too does the RPG.  As it turns out, lots of parents have successfully run it for their (much younger) children ...

​In my opinion the system is a little too abstract fit children, but I played it with my daughter when she was 11 and she loved it. Once in a while I had to forego system in favor of telling the story, but it was a lot of fun.

​I've run it for my 9-year old. She enjoys it. The game is not really designed as a kid's game. But, if you're cool running it for your kids I think everyone will have a good time.

I've run Mouse Guard for kids as young as eight. In my experience and that of a lot of others, it works, and it works well.


The best session I've ever played with my kids and their friends was using Mouse Guard (we had an age range at the table from 7 to 11 at the time)

In other words, this is a game that requires an adult gamer parent to run it and explain the complex mechanics, and even then it works best with older/smarter children (8+, if not pre-teen).  But if an adult gamer is willing to provide that support, countless younger gamers have had a blast playing Mouse Guard with them.

Medieval Mice Adventures [ edit ]

Mouse Guard, based off the comic with the same name by David Petersen in 2006. is about a brotherhood of medieval mice with human-level intelligence.  The game was first released in 2008 as a single book, and then an expanded boxed set (which included extras such as action cards and a map) was released in 2011. In 2015 a second edition of the game was released, with a revised version of the boxed set coming in 2016.

Now, when I said the game could appeal to adult gamers, I wasn't joking: when it was first released, Mouse Guard earned three Ennies, several Indie RPG Awards, and even took home the 2008 Origins Award for best roleplaying game!  But at the same time the game's rules (loosely based off The Burning Wheel's rules) are detailed and full-featured.

There is one other issue with Mouse Guard though: it never gained enough popularity to warrant a continued printing, and thus it's not possible to purchase new anymore.  You can however use sites like EBay and Noble Knight to purchase used copies, and you can purchase a PDF of the game's rules on Drive Thru RPG.

Mouse Guard, Second Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Character creation in Mouse Guard is accomplished through a sort of quiz, with the player answering various questions about their character.  Each answer both reveals the character's background (eg. how old they are, where they are from, what their parents were like), and provides their in-game statistics.

The first choice a player must make in Mouse Guard is their mouse's rank (eg. Tenderpaw, for a new recruit, or Patrol Leader for the team's captain).  After that they decide where in the world of Mouse Guard the character hails from, with different areas providing access to different skills (eg. a mouse from Grasslake could choose between Insectrist or Militarist, while one from Sandmason could instead choose Glazier or Weather Watcher).

Next the player picks a skill, as well as a trait, such as Bold or Independent (that choice is also limited by location).  The player then picks a natural talent, which is essentially their "class" (eg. Baker, Cartographer, Scout).  You then pick your parent's trade, style of convincing others (eg. Manipulator, Orator), your senior artisan, and what that mentor stressed in training (another talent).  After that the character picks another specialty (ie. another talent).

After all that the character determines their "nature" score, which refers to how human-like the mouse is.  A mouse with a nature of 0 is extremely human-like, while one with a 7 is extremely mouse-like.  Each mouse starts with a Nature score of 3, and then answers three questions (do you save for winder, do you run ror fight, and do you fear predatory animals).  The answer chosen both impacts their Nature score, and can also provide other benefits.

Finally the player gets to pick two topics that they are "wise" about (eg. "Nut-wise", "Path-wise", or "Wolf-wise"), and they get one more trait (that they were born with).  After that all that's left is to define the mouse's personality, details (eg. their fur color or beliefs) and their name.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

There are two ways of resolving things in Mouse Guard: tests and conflicts.  Depending on the obstacle faced, one or more tests (ie. rolls) may be required, and if an entire "scene" is being run then the conflict rules are used instead.  Mouse Guard uses d6s exclusively, for all rolls.

To complete a skill test the player rolls a number of d6's equal to their rank in the applicable skill (ie. their "dice pool"), and for each 4 or higher rolled they gain a success.  Different tasks will require one or more successes (as determined by the GM), known as the "Ob" (ie. obstacle difficulty), and if the player gets "extra" successes then they succeed at the action by a greater margin.

Combat [ edit ]

Mouse Guard's combat rules actually aren't just for combat.  Instead, they can be used to cover any sort of conflict, from  physical battles to tense negotiations, and from chase scenes to noble speeches.

In conflicts each player plans their action, which will be one of four options: Attack, Feint, Defend, or Maneuver.  If you own the game's boxed set version, it comes with cards that can be placed face down for this purpose.  The DM also chooses actions, and then both sides reveal their choice, one player at a time.  The player then consults a 4x4 table, combining their action with the GM's to determine the outcome (which likely involves making a test).  There are also rules for players working together, as teamwork was a key part of the Mouse Guard comic.

When it come sto injuries, instead of using "hit points" (like Dungeons and Dragons), Mouse Guard has a condition-based system.  A character can have the  following conditions: Healthy, Hungry & Thirsty, Angry, Tired, Injured, or Sick.  Different conditions can be combined, so an unlucky mouse could at once be Sick, Tired, and Injured.  Each condition has its own description and associated rules.

Earlier I mentioned that Mouse Guard has earned a great number of RPG awards when it first came out, but I didn't mention perhaps the game's strongest endorsement, from fans on the site RPG Geek.  That site ranks over a thousand different role-playing games based on fan reviews of them, and on that ranking ... out of all RPGs on the site ... Mouse Guard ranks 24th.

That's higher than industry titans like GURPS or Vampire: The Masquerade, and even higher than several editions of Dungeons and Dragons.  In other words, despite being a game based on a (somewhat obscure) comic book, about medieval mice warriors, which is now out of print ... Mouse Guard made such an incredible impression, on so many gamers, that it ranks 24th out of all RPGs!

Again, Mouse Guard is certainly not (just) a kids RPG, and it does have real/complex RPG mechanics, so having an adult involved to run the game is pretty much required.  But as long as you're willing to play that role, you can be confident that Mouse Guard will give you and your kids (and possibly other adults) exactly the kind of team-focused, epic mouse adventure that readers of the original comic know and love.