Review: Mage Wars – captivating duel of two wizards
He felt tingling on his fingertips, as he was preparing a spell. Opponent was far and just created some kind of aura around him. Steren, magician and second level master of animal school, was preparing something much more tricky. He concentrated all his mind power, until he felt, that his hands are literally trying to tear of each other. Then he broke them away with swift movement. And in just a short distance away, there was a roar echoing the whole arena in that instant moment. Sok looked up from his preparations and.. was that fear, what flashed in his face for a moment? Steren always thought, that warlock feel no fear. This knowledge gave him confidence.
He picked up his book of magic and spells again and flipped through it. One place was empty after a spell just made. Now, that he has a guardina, who will protect him, it’s time to armor his own vulnerable body somehow. He found one in the defensive spells section – enchantment for hardening the skin. He touched the page in the place, where was quickly scrawled picture of this spell. It immediately disappeared and his hands began to sparkle again. But some rustle attracted his attention. Just in time to dodge incoming fireball. The opponent does not play fair. He immersed again himself in his book, and totally dedicated his mind to the fight..
This was just a snippet of the experience, that may happen inside the arena. Each year, the magicians from all over the world and different schools of magic meet in the tournament, which will decide the best of the best. Such a mage has a huge castle only for himself for the entire year, filled with wealth and comfort. Up to the moment, before he passes the crown to his successor. Do you want to enter the arena? Be our guests and go..
This unprecedented opportunity is offered to us by a new board game called Mage Wars. Its author is Bryan Pope and it was published only recently – in September 2012. It was originally planned to be published a year ago, but the designers spent all this time testing and fine-tuning the game, so it becames a real gem. And they succeeded! You can really see the amount of effort put into this detailed work!
The game is published by Arcane Wonders company and illustrations are work of many authors. The game is gaining momentum from America and circles around the world and is available in stores everywhere.
At first glance it may seem that the Mage Wars is a collectible game, because it contains many cards. But you do not have to worry, there is no immediate need to buy additional expansion sets (unless you are really demanding). There is everything you need to play already in the box.
And it’s a really big box. Arena for mages must be large enough to accommodate all the incredible things, that can they conjure. Furthermore, it must be well protected, so no dueling magic could penetrate beyond the walls of the arena. On the lid you will find two mages in the middle of a fight.
We start simply by essentials – decks of cards. They contain a plethora of different icons, numbers, data and texts, that will engage you. Yes, this is the biggest obstacle to learn Mage Wars. We will make sure about this later. How can you split packages? Each card has a school of magic in its upper right corner, specifying to which school they belong. These make a perfect solution, how to easily categorize all available cards.
There are also four cards with large portraits of magicians among them. These are the main heroes – Beastmaster, Priestess, Warlock and Wizard. Each of them is trained only in some spheres of magic and these kind will make a majority of spells in your inventory, while playing. Each of the magicians has not only number of lives and the magical energy in the top line of his card, but also icons indicating, whether he controls fire, natural or even elemental magic. There is really a lot of different magic schools in the world.
In addition to these cards, there is also a huge board inside the box. You could underestimate its size judging only from the pictures and it will probably surprise you as much as has surprised us. In each zone four classical card seemingly fit and have space to fight or support each other. And there zones is a total of twelve of these zones. Each such area is surrounded by gray highlighting and marks one step for counting distance and only within it can melee combat take place.
Besides the plan, there are also two smaller boards to monitor the individual characteristics of magicians. But you will certainly utilize all round tokens, which mark different magical effects, like stun, burn and other interesting consequences, that can befall your wards. Tokens will also help to monitor injury inflicted to your monsters.
Complete kit of everything needed to play the game is closed with wooden tokens and many red dice (plus one yellow d12). There are tall black wooden chips with the emblem of M (only two) and they are markers enabling you to cast one quick spell. Other round tokens are already color-coded in red and blue – for each of the magicians one color, which will they choose. In addition, the box has also wooden cubes for watching of current status of your magician. There was a minor error in the package – we have some blue cubes missing, but they can easily be replaced and this is not a major shortcoming.
And then there are two more pieces of something extra. In fact, they would not be so necessary, but their presence shifts the feel of the game completely further. There are two books hidden inside the box! With hardcover as first and last page and over a hundred frames waiting to insert cards inside. Each of those two books has a different cover and belongs to one of the magicians. You simply put spells into it while preparing for the fight.
But that is the first fun part, which can basically be counted as a part of the game itself. So we’ll start preparation section of our review with it. We do not have to have a game board ready or anything else, you just need cards and books to prepare strategy and tactics for upcoming fight. But first you must choose a magician. His primarily focus on some of the schools will determine, which spells will you be able to use, when compiling your book of magic.
Once you know the icons your wizard controls, you can take the appropriate decks and start adding them to your book. Each of the mages (at least in the basic box is this number same for all characters) has a total of 120 points, which can be spent on magic cards. Each card has cost written along with the number of lives in the red zone and also a number of magical energy, which will be renewed each round.
But back to the building your deck. For 120 points you can buy cards of different values. It may happen, that you would want to buy cards from other magic schools, which fit into your strategy. And you really can add this kind of spell to your book, but you will pay twice the number of points, so you usually change your mind about this decision. You can buy few spells of your own schools for this amount.
Then each player takes his book and also all tokens in his color, and one big board with lots of numbers. He puts card with a picture of his magician puts into his corner of the map to place, where doors leading into arena are drawn. Then he places one cube to number of lives of his mage (according to his character card), the other on channeling and third scale should has its mark set on ten. This is the default state of magical energy with which all wizards begin indiscriminately. Fourth, the black cube is put on the counter of lives on the zero – this is an indicator of injuries. Player does not reduce the number of their lives, but increase the injury instead.
Players put one black marker with M sign on their mage card and also one color chip in their color, also with its icon up. All other tokens, whether wooden or cardboard, start the game next to the board.
There is constantly something going on in Mage Wars game, but at the beginning of each round, players have a few minor duties, that must be performed, before the real action can start. Both opponents will happily increase number of magical energy available for them – amount of new gained power is equal to their channeling value. They have a guaranteed supply of magical essence, and thus that they will be able to cast at least some easy spell.
Then there are the various maintenance activities, such as turning all tokens on your cards with its icons back up – this means, that your unit can be activated again. At this moment are also performed different effects, that last more than one round (for example burn or regenerate).
The following is the most important phase of the whole process of preparation and maybe even of the whole game. Both magicians begin to simultaneously scroll in their books of magic and try to find the most suitable spell for the current situation. You have available approximately around sixty (some mages more, others less) witcheries in your book, which makes for a fairly large selection. From this menu, you can select up to two spells. You will not be able to cast any other this round. Fortunately, spells, that you cannot or do not want to cast, will not be forfeited, but you return them back to your books in the next preparation phase. Opponents choose their spells secretly and in view of their state of magical energy.
Which brings us to the action phase of the turn constisting of three parts. The first and last allow you to cast a quick simple spell, which do not take up all your time. Between them is the largest action – you activate every character, which includes not only the movement, but also attacks or usage of more complex spells.
Players take turns activating their units. Every time you complete one of the envisaged activities, you turn the color token on this character with its icon down. It is now clear, that this character is already exhausted and can not act this round anymore.
Individual characters can (simply put) to move, then attack (the converse is not possible), or just attack. Those that have magical talent at this stage can conjure up some of the spells that you have chosen from his book in the early rounds. At the end of the round, then you can still use the card magic that you did not use during a turn, but they must be small and fast spell.
Your goal is simply to force the second mage to surrender. This happens, when his damage cube reaches number of lives. The second wizard is immediately declared the winner and walks away triumphant from the burning arena.
Mage Wars provide great adventures and thrilling action specifically for two players. Intensity of experience can be compared to the recently reviewed Claustrophobia (review in Czech). Any decision here has a great weight and selection of each spell is really important. Within a few moments, you control several creatures, whose service and skills you can use.
The game appears at first sight very easy, even after our description of the rules. And basically it really is, but on this intuitive basis, there are mounted up many small details, rules and keywords, that make a long learning battle out of your first few games. Now, that you have an idea, how to actually play Mage Wars, it is time to look a little deeper and find out, why it is so.
First of all, each card has a tremendous amount of numbers, icons and text, in which you have to learn to navigate. We have instant spells (such as fireball), summoning cards, but also equipment, incantations or enchantments. Each of them is used a little differently.
But these are substantial – amount of mana, you need to cast it, value for inclusion in a book of spells, special abilities described in the text box, and also armor and the damage line, which defines rules for the attack.
The latter is shared by all offensive spells and also monsters, although with slight variations. But you always get to throw a number of dice. Strength of attack (and therefore number of dice) always corresponds to the value in the red square on the card. These red dice are wearing numbers, blank sides, but also exploding numbers in the white field. These mean unsuccessful attacks (empty box), common hit (number) and critical hits (number in white).
But some cards have two rows differentiated by icon of flash / hourglass in front of them. These determine, how difficult it is to carry out an attack. Hourglass indicate demanding attack, that takes all the energy of character and he is left with no time to move. While activities with the flash icon, enable you to do some additional action (movement). These symbols are also same for marking spell cards – those ones with the flash can be cast during quick action at the beginning and end of the action phase, while conjuring a spell with an hourglass takes up whole strength of your magician.
However, regardless of the attack, result is always determined by throwing dice and comparing them with armor of the enemy. With the exception of critical hits, which ignore armor completely. The sum of all other numbers must be lowered according to armor of your enemy and then you get inflicted damage. The defender then puts the appropriate number of injury tokens on his creature. If the injury exceeds the number of lives, this character is removed from the fight and the card is not returned to the magic book! So you can not recall it again.
In this sense, every card in the book of spells is for one use only. Therefore, it is important to plan well and use the cards in the right moments. And not only offensive spells, but also the defensive or other ones, which can for example increase the ability to accumulate magic energy.
All spells and attacks have also the distance, specifying, how far can they be cast. Most spells can be conjured only for the zone you are in, but there are also those, that can be called remotely. And then there are, of course, magical shooting attacks, which also have a designated distance. Some attacks have also additional damage, which will succeed only, if you are able to roll the right number with yellow dice. In this case, the injured will get some specific token, which will further influence him, until he cures himself.
Its a lot of stuff, right? But it is far from everything Mage Wars offers. You can see abilities to strike back, some characters can interrupt your attack even before it happens, others will reduce the number of dice you roll for hits. There are flying, ethereal or nonliving creatures, each with different characteristics. You can secretly cast a spell on your or enemy monster and uncover it (for a cost), whenever you want. There is so much keywords, that you will go crazy at first. Fortunately, the rules contain a clear, accurate index of all of them.
Less relentless player may be discouraged by the length of the rules themselves. These, however, solves all situations carefully and you really have idea, how to play it, after one reading. But its not so easy to teach it to others.
Spells can be cast not only by you, but also your familiars or so-called spawnpoints and even for their own mana. Thus you can greatly alleviate the situation in some tense moments and reverse the outcome of the battle. There are also walls and traps in the game.
But what is great strategic option, we liked immediately, is the ability to make a guard out of some of the characters. This means, that if the enemy comes into the zone, he must attack these guardians first. Its perfect for protecting the characters with less lives, which have important abilities for your future plans.
The point is, that even after dozens of games, we did not get bored by Mage Wars. And more. We feel, that we still have much to discover in the game. There are numerous tactics, that can lead to victory. We are not even counting four different mages with different magic, which you can choose as you please.
At first glance, you may think, that each game could be the same. A few first moves can remind you of some past match. Player have no limit in trying their winning tactics again. But they must reckon with the fact, that the opponent is holding dozens of spells, that can be used (and will be!) differently, than the last time.
Mage Wars are the most difficult for beginners. The first few games are really challenging, you have to concentrate and constantly looking for (or ask) on the meanings of keywords. But as soon as you learn these few dozen concepts, you will enjoy a real reward. The game, which transmits dueling wizards on the table without any compromises. If you expect anything in a duel of wizards, you can find it here.
What to say about processing? Illustrations on the cards are excellent and lucidity cards, given the amount of information contained, is perfect. Game board is massive and huge, and tokens to monitor actions are quite sufficient. Thanks to its size, the map will not become crowded even in later stages of the match.
Mage Wars is not game for beginners and yes, that is a good thing. This way the game can become something more than a dream.. a reality. This game rules and is one of the best games, we have ever played! Basic rules are simple, but those keywords and various options is above your head. You can just imagine the wideness of choices in the first round, when you have a choice of sixty spells! But just pick one and then the strategy will be clear and can revolve around it alone. You really start thinking like a magician. For a moment, you will become one. You flip through his battle-wrinkled book of spells and experience the heat of battle as hard as never before! Welcome to the arena!
Review: Mage Wars – captivating duel of two wizards
Mage Wars is a revelation for all lovers of demanding and complex games, filled with tactical tricks and elaborated maneuvers. Its battle for life and death inside an arena filled with magic. Every player conjures up lots of servants during this fight. They will fight for him, but finally battle reaches wizards themselves. And one of them must fall. Do not let enemy catch you off guard and always be ready. This is your motto, whenever you step inside the arena. You can equip yourself with all kinds of defensive spells, guardians or enchantments, which can ultimately lead to victory. But you need large amout of mana to do this and it comes in limited numbers. And although you have lots and lots of tricks inside your spellbook, you have time to do only up to two spells each round, one of them must be easy to cast and you read incantation for whole turn, so your mage cannot move at all. Both wizards create their spellbooks themselves before the game according to class, they are trained in. No lack of variability is even possible. Game has only a little shortcomings, when it comes to processing - missing blue cubes (you get black instead) and rotated pages for spell cards in second part of the book. But then you reach difficulty and though base mechanics are really easy, straightforward and revolve around activating of characters and only two special quick action phases, there are tens of keywords standing in your way. Some cards are present more than once inside the game, but otherwise each card is a unique creation and does things a little differently. So you have to know your spellbook to be a good mage. But that is not a bad thing, right? There are incredible tactical choices, filled with traps, defenses, flying, ranged attacks, teleportation and others. Its unbeatable problem for inexperienced and children under 12 years. But if you are trained in board games, you will be thrilled. Mage Wars are the boy dream comes true for every player, who likes fantasy theme. And you can now fulfil your dream! All it takes is one journey to a closest retailer shop!
Reader Rating0 Votes
mage fight transferred perfectly to board game
incredible tactical options
building of your own spellbook
four mages, each completely different
easy basic gameplay
interesting combat filled with tiny specific details
perfect for all hardcore gamers and advanced players
half book is rotated other way, when inserting cards