Designer: Randy Van Gelder
Artist: Joshua Calloway
Publisher: Stormcrest Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Rules and Setup:
Master of Wills is a deck builder with a game board. Each player will pick a Faction to play and build a custom deck of 20-30 cards from their Faction cards. Setup of the game state is very simple and does not take long. After placing the game board between all the players, each player will take their deck and shuffle the cards, placing them on the board in the areas marked for the decks.
You then shuffle the Community deck, draw the first six cards, and place them in the middle of the board. Place the Community deck on the space marked on the board. These will be the starting cards available to influence to your side and are stored in what’s called the Neutral Area. You then draw the top three cards from your deck, which will be your starting hand for the game.
Each player then draws a card from the top of the Community deck to determine who will be the first player. This is done by looking at the top-left corner of the card and seeing which player has the highest numbered card among the players. Once that’s been determined, place those cards into what is called the Afterlife stack (as the start of a discard pile on the game board).
At the top of the board is a tracker to mark the round you are in. Place the included meeple on the "1" spot of the tracker. Gameplay then begins. On your turn, you will take one action, which can (and should) lead to other actions occurring. This is called the Move Phase. As you can see by the board layout, there are three colored areas on each side of the community area, labeled Recruits, Loyalists, and Allies. You will be moving characters towards the Allies section of your board and using the icons on the top of the cards to determine how the movements and follow-up actions go. Additionally, the cards have abilities on them, which can lead to the Draw Phase and/or Faction Phase.
Until the card is in your Allies section, they are susceptible to being moved and manipulated by your opponent. Each turn, you will move the cards back and forth toward this area and work towards having the most points at the end of the game.
Additionally, at the bottom of the board are areas marked as Lasting Effect and Round Effect. Some of the cards allow for either single-round or ongoing effects to gameplay, and they can be placed either face up or face down, depending on what they do. Each player will have the areas on their side of the board where they can play their cards.
Gameplay goes for eight rounds, after which the points of all cards on your side of the board are added, with the winner being the one who has the most points. A round ends when both factions have completed their turn.
Theme and Mechanics:
Let’s look at the theme for Master of Wills. You represent a Faction or group that is trying to sway the populace to your side against the opposing Faction. Using the cards' abilities, you will be manipulating the cards on the boards to try and get more of the populace to move to your Allies zone, where they will be protected.
As a deck-builder, each player begins with three cards from their faction deck, and really, that’s all they will have in their hands. Here’s what I mean by this: on your turn, you will be playing cards that are in the center of the board, all drawn from the Community deck; the cards you choose will decide the actions that are available for you. Let’s use the image below as an example:
As we look at this card, both the icons and the colors on the card tell us what we will be able to do. If this is the first card that we select on our turn, the gray box that says Loyalists on it shows where on the game board it goes. As we’re still in the Move Phase, look at upper right corner to see what options there are. On this card, we see that we can move a black bordered card one spot closer to our Allies section, and we can choose to move a purple card three spaces away from us. Note that you have to move at least one card and may choose to use more than one card to satisfy the other option.
Once the Move Phase is complete, we go to see if we have any conditions that trigger the Draw Phase. To do that, look at all the cards we moved from the neutral zone of the board for the icon in the near-middle (next to the number in the left corner) that resembles the Community deck's card back. For every card that has that image, draw a Community card and place it in the middle section of the board. Once we’re done, we see if the Faction Phase triggers. Unlike the Draw Phase, which looks at all the cards, we only look at the first card that we played. If it has the picture shown above resembling a galea helmet, you will draw a Faction card from your deck to your hand.
While we’ve focused on the Faction decks, let’s talk a bit about the Community deck. Within that deck, there are eight different types of cards that represent different sectors of the populace. Each one has a similar border color to help identify them, and they typically give bonus towards other cards in their same sector. Each card also clearly shows where their starting area would be on the game board when they are played.
I want to start this by saying this game is really a two-player game that has a four-player mode, turning the game into a two-on-two battle. This is not a bad thing, and the four-player mode allows for each player to alternate on the turns, which challenges each team to try and match the play style of their teammate. While this sounds easy, let’s talk about what make this a bit more challenging: the decks themselves. Each player will pick one of the two Factions that comes with the base game and can build a deck that varies upon their play style. You see, each Faction deck comes with enough cards to be able to build up to three different decks, based on your personal play style. Want to play an aggro deck? There’s cards for that. Looking for more control? There’s cards for that, too. How about a combo deck? Sure enough, there’s cards for that. If you're looking to build a custom deck, then you have enough cards to do so within your Faction.
There are limits to the number of cards you can include in your deck, with both a minimum and maximum for each type of card (Action, Epic, and Legendary). And while the rules allows for your faction deck to be between 20-30 cards, know that the more cards you have, the less chances you'll have to draw the one card you need during clutch time. That’s not to say you always need to be at or near the 20 card limit; I’ve tried a few games with custom decks based on combination control and manipulation style cards, and found that have more cards actually worked. Unlike other card games where you had to be worried about a cost to play the card, with your Faction cards, there is no cost associated with the cards, other than ensuring that the first card you played from the neutral zone had the Faction symbol on it.
Artwork and Components:
The artwork for the cards in the game in very consistent and very good. The artwork does have a futuristic look to them, and it fits the theme perfectly. Within the Faction decks, each card has unique artwork on them, and said art really fits the text and impact the card has. You can tell that the creator and artist for this game worked together to get the fit and feel to mesh.
The game consists of a game board and the cards, along with a meeple to help track the rounds. The game board is a solid board that folds neatly, and while larger than most game boards, it fit the cards being used. The cards are a larger size card than standard cards, and due to the larger size, they feel as if they were a lighter stock. I’ve played just over 15 games with them, and with the shuffling, very little whitening is appearing, so they do hold up well. There does seem to be some slight curving of the Razorcorp Faction deck that can be noted, but it's nothing that impacts gameplay.
While the game is called a deck builder, what you really are doing is manipulating the cards that are on the board and have to build your Faction deck based on your play style, as their purpose is to enhance how you play the game. Which really works! Gameplay is easy to learn, with all the text on each card made simple to read and understand. The colors are vibrant, and you can clearly see where everything goes and what it works with. For those who have difficulties with colors, the team at Stormcrest even added icons to help identify them and make it easy to play. With the promise of two additional Factions coming soon, this promises to scratch that itch to play a card game that requires some strategy while playing, both in knowing your opponent and your play style. While the age listed for the game is 14+, I had a few 10+ kenders try it out, and they liked it compared to some of the other big-name CCGs on the market.
The largest complaint that I have about the game is not about the game itself, but about the people who will play this. Those who are familiar with the pseudo-magical gathering game will enjoy this knowing that they can build a deck up and get a full game done in around 30 minutes. That being said, if you have an experienced player against a non-experienced player, then it can be very lopsided. The cards themselves are fairly balanced, but players need to be on a near-equal playing level. Additionally, you may want to look into sleeving the decks if the game will get lots of play. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be enough removal in the Faction decks towards the Effect cards.
This is a winner! When I heard about this, and was told it was a sci-fi deck builder, I had to look it up and immediately fell in love with it. With about a five minute learning curve on how to play, everyone from non-experienced to PTQ players were able to pick up and enjoy the game. The ability to customize your Faction deck to match your game style, then work towards drawing the cards using the random community cards, just added enough randomness that kept the game from being stale. While the two Factions that came in the base game seemed a bit similar in powers, with the upcoming new factions, hopefully we will get some new abilities or tricks to make it even better. Throw in a four-player team mode using the same deck, and watch the sparks fly as they try to work against their opponent. Expect a solid 45 minutes for the first time playing this with newer players, but I’ve been able to get it under 30 minutes for a full game with experienced players.
Players Who Like:
People who like a lighter card-manipulation game with the ability to have a custom deck will love this. If they’re familiar with any of the other card games out there, quickly pick this up and have them sit in for a quick game.
I am giving Master of Wills 8 out of 10 super meeples.
See more reviews from Delton P and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html
Thank you for such a great review, Delton!