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Subject: MeepleTown Reviews: Mage Wars Academy rss

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Derek Thompson
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For many years before I was seriously into board gaming, I played Magic: the Gathering extensively and exclusively. Once Settlers of Catan introduced me into a whole new world of gaming, I also discovered that Magic wasn’t the only excellent head-to-head game of fantasy combat – Summoner Wars, for example, has become a staple for me as well. Another highly regarded game in the genre is Mage Wars, but for whatever reason I had never had a chance to play. Now here we are, with the new Mage Wars Academy being the perfect opportunity for me to get into the game with the introductory set. I’m exactly the target audience, the player likely to enjoy Mage Wars but having yet to play it. How does the game stack up to the many other two-player combat games out there? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:



Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?



Components: I’m pretty impressed with the components of this game. In a relatively small box, you get two very nice Spellbooks (i.e. binders to hold cards), a large variety of cards, two large dials, lots of dice and tokens, for a very low MSRP of $30. Sleeved cards fit into the Spellbooks, which is a very nice touch. The font on the cards looks a little prototype-ish, but the iconography is clear and the artwork is good. My only real complaint is that after sleeving all of the extra cards that I didn’t want in the two Spellbooks, I couldn’t fit them back in the box with everything else! I guess it’s assumed you’ll have a draw full of cards somewhere in your house for deck/bookbuilding, much like Magic.



Accessibility: The big draw for the Mage Wars systems over others is the Spellbooks – you can use any card you want at any time, if you have the resources, so there’s no luck of the draw (although there’s plenty of dice). This is pretty fun, but it does come with a cost. We spent a good 25 minutes after explaining the rules just perusing our Spellbooks and trying to understand what everything does and trying to evaluate the worth of each card – somewhat hard to do if you haven’t started playing! By the end of our first game, I had a good sense of how the decks play and what the advantages and disadvantages of each card was, but our first game probably took 75 minutes including explanation, not 30.

If somebody has never played any two-player kill-each-other card game, I don’t think I would start them with this over something like Star Realms or Summoner Wars, because in those games you can start a few cards and explain the rest as they appear. For veterans of the genre, though, this takes one game to get going but then you’re off to the races. Actual turns aren’t all that different from other games, though it has its unique twists. I especially like that you automatically get mana every turn – that really accelerates the pace of the game, skipping over the more boring part of Magic.



Depth: Here’s where the Spellbooks pay off. It makes for a much more strategic game when you can use any card at your disposal at any time, since you don’t auto-lose if your opponent plays a bomb and you don’t draw the answer that’s in your deck somewhere. This also somewhat demands that you know your deck intimately and that you do some deck-building, something I used to love in my Magic days (but don’t have much time for anymore). I could really see getting into this with another friend where you duel once a week and then go home and make adjustments to your Spellbook and develop your own little metagame between the two of you. Much like Magic, while there are tons of interesting decisions within the game (and a fair amount of dice-based luck), the extra depth comes from the game outside the game, I think. And to that end, this base set includes more than enough cards for you to experiment and deckbuild with.



Theme: Even though this theme is one that’s been done a thousand times, it works very well here. The Beastmaster can get out swarms of pest creatures, while the Wizard is draining the Beastmaster’s mana and enchanting things – in my case, I vividly remember enjoying turning a Sailfin Hydra doublestrike and 13 health into an even more monstrous beast that rolled five dice for each strike and had 18 health! The artwork is very good, although it’s not as captivating to me as other games – on the other hand, Magic has had over 20 years to improve its artwork. And again, the Spellbook mechanism delivers here, as it makes much more sense for a Mage to consider all the spells he knows and pick the best for the situation.



Fun: I enjoyed this game quite a bit. It properly differentiates itself from other games in the genre, and it has all the big creatures and huge spells that make similar games fun, yet a lot more strategy than the rest thanks to the Spellbooks. I think if you’re going to play casual pickup games every now and then, it’s hard to recommend this over Star Realms or Summoner Wars due to the demands up-front from learning the Spellbooks, but it’s a good supplement to those. And if you and a friend pay on really digging in and playing lots of games in a row against each other and enjoy customization, this is probably an even better option than those two games. Games are about the right length for me, and this actually did not make me eager to check out its big brother, but it does make me excited to see what’s coming next within the Academy system.



Mage Wars Academy is a great introduction to the Spellbook system of Mage Wars and a fun game in its own right.
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Konrad T
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I vividly remember enjoying turning a Sailfin Hydra doublestrike and 13 health into an even more monstrous beast that rolled five dice for each strike and had 18 health!

Melee+X applies only to first attack a creature makes in single attack action. Also how did You get the Hydra to 18 health?
 
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Jeff Dunford
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KonradT wrote:
Quote:
I vividly remember enjoying turning a Sailfin Hydra doublestrike and 13 health into an even more monstrous beast that rolled five dice for each strike and had 18 health!

Melee+X applies only to first attack a creature makes in single attack action. Also how did You get the Hydra to 18 health?


Giant Size

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Derek Thompson
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KonradT wrote:
Quote:
I vividly remember enjoying turning a Sailfin Hydra doublestrike and 13 health into an even more monstrous beast that rolled five dice for each strike and had 18 health!

Melee+X applies only to first attack a creature makes in single attack action. Also how did You get the Hydra to 18 health?


Whoops, I missed that. But yeah, he's right about the card I pumped it with.
 
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Imants Prieditis
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Question based on limited Mage Wars Arena knowledge - target for Giant size must be Minor living creature, does Sailfin Hydra qualifies?
 
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Aaron Shanowitz
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imis wrote:
Question based on limited Mage Wars Arena knowledge - target for Giant size must be Minor living creature, does Sailfin Hydra qualifies?

Minor creatures are level 1 or 2, the Hydra is level 3. So it doesn't qualify.
 
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Derek Thompson
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theaaron wrote:
imis wrote:
Question based on limited Mage Wars Arena knowledge - target for Giant size must be Minor living creature, does Sailfin Hydra qualifies?

Minor creatures are level 1 or 2, the Hydra is level 3. So it doesn't qualify.


It's a variant....

I don't think we screwed up too much other tban that, though. Still really enjoyed the game.
 
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Hans Otto
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Good review! I bought the game and do enjoy it! My first game took about 90 minutes!
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