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General Category => Off topic => Topic started by: silverclawgrizzly on January 23, 2014, 12:32:28 AM

Title: How we built our Mage Wars gaming group.
Post by: silverclawgrizzly on January 23, 2014, 12:32:28 AM
I live in Charlotte NC, which has a very thriving and active gaming community. There are a number of good gaming/comic stores in our area and I'm an active alumni of the sci-fi/fantasy guild at UNCC. I work full time, have a girl friend, and live a very active life. I am a reigning local Hero Clix champion and I run my own table top RPG game every other Friday. I have been running games at local conventions for the better part of a decade now. I never play competitive games online. That's enough background. This is how in less than a month 11 people who had never heard of Mage Wars got hooked. I'll be referring to my friends by their chosen Mages btw.

So about a month ago my roommate and I went down to a local gaming store to pick up his order of OGRE and there was a mix up in the shipment. He'd already pre-paid so he's sitting around with about $90 of store credit. We wander the store a bit, get some game I forget and we haven't played yet, and the core Mage Wars game. We go home and the next day we try it. He plays Priestess and I play Beast Master. We instantly fall in love. The next day he heads to his folks and our younger roommate comes home. I teach him the game and he's hooked. We go up to another game store and I pick up DvN for Priestess. One of our good friends over and is hooked on playing Necromancer. Our younger roommate buys FvW for Priestess as a Christmas gift and he himself is hooked on Force Master. I get Priestess BoC. So now we have Priestess, Beast Master, Necromancer, and Force Master all playing every day for a week or so.

We take it to the campus club and teach J. Beast Master how to play along with two other friends...who now I think on it haven't commited to any one mage John and Tim get to use their real names here. I got over to my best friends house and teach him how to play. He gets hooked on Druid. He orders his own copy of the game. Necromancer buys me a copy for my birthday and this past Monday got his own copy. Everyone mentioned is still playing regularly.

Last Sunday we have a "Mage Wars Party" at Druids house and teach two more players(including my girlfriend) how to play. They choose Wizard and another J. Beast Master as I also got FvW and BoC for my birthday. Now everyone is playing a good bit, Priestess bought another copy of the core game so we can support other players until they get their own and Force Master is buying his own copy too as is the first J. Beast Master.

I read that people are hurting for folks to game with. Come on down to Charlotte and we'll play with you. We also found out that a lot of our clix friends also already played Mage Wars but didn't get a chance to play much as did another alumni of our Guild. The message here? A good game will grow fast in a healthy gaming environment. We haven't even begun to spread the word yet.
Title: Re: How we built our Mage Wars gaming group.
Post by: DeckBuilder on January 23, 2014, 06:31:18 AM
Silverclaw, I read this with jealousy... :) This sounds so awesome. Before I give some strange advice, some background.

There are many hardcore gamers in our group (all Magic and/or Warhammer background), I think there is 19 in our FB Group. I was the last in our group of 6 players with copies of the Core Set (we're control freaks who want to customise our own builds), mainly because I had other LCG/CCG overheads (fellow addicts will know what I mean) and I was reluctant to start another. I don't think any of us played Apprentice Mode or Pregen Books (we play far more complex board games and we're completists so add all the expansions for extra complexity). The appeal of the game was the strategising involved in building your own book.

We initially set ourselves a "synchronise expansions slowly" rule (I started July I think, I will have to look at BGG Strategy thread as that is where I met sdougla2 and the Dude who PM'd me to join this forum). This is because we are ultra-competitive and we would not allow any unfair advantage (there would be uproar with promos!). Yes, we're sad hardcore gamers. We also know you get the best value by adding slowly, not gorging with 1 big "I'll have all expansions please". You start to appreciate the evolution of the game and what new mechanics are trying to mitigate (Hurl Boulder too strong? Let's add Intercept in the next set!)

So to those new to the game, AW will probably frown at this but I advise you to wait 1 month between buying expansions (I advise CoK, which may seem expensive as only 110 cards but the card quality is great, new cards boost all 4 core mages but maybe Wizard most, then DvN and finally FvW because frankly some of it has caused an imbalance in the game). They are all worth getting. It's just better to pace yourself and not burn out (I'm discovering why design takes so long, they put so much effort into it), restrict your local meta and learn the ins-and-outs of a smaller pool before expanding. I honestly feel those 1 month gaps between upgrading to FvW then CoK made me a better player. We finally upgraded to "borrow/trade/proxy so we can build extreme books" (like the Beastmaster Swarm stickied here) which is the tournament level game, also the game you can play on OCTGN. This led me to getting a 2nd Core Set (from 7th player who moved away) which is far better value than Spell Tomes, in the UK anyway. I was also quite hardcore in trying to teach Magic friends but although they liked it, the choice either overwhelmed them or it wasn't as combotastic as Magic for their tastes. I think my initial fear of being sucked into another game was what worried them too.

2 of us were hardcore Grand Prix-level Magic players and were winning quite regularly which was not fun for the others (I'd mostly beat him but our Wizard-on-Wizard matches were EPIC, diminishing other matches). I am also good at many customisable games and have a reputation of breaking a game on first play, often needing a house rule. This is worsened by a relatively small playable card pool (give this young game time) so I can in my mind crosstab cards to identify column/row synergies. I'll deconstruct most games into their abstract mechanics as variations in Resource Management (Eurogamer who loves theme, RPG background). Anyway, I started to demonstrate "quirks" in the game, we made house rules, which became a thread here, which prompted some rule changes/FAQ additions.

However, without going into detail, before DvN, there were certain archetypes that basically won against almost all other archetypes, and this created disillusion in our super-competitive group. DvN has gone part of the way to fix this. Problem is none of the others remember the major teething troubles Magic had when it started (it was a broken game, Ancestral Recall, Moxes etc). Designing any customisable game is a nightmare as R&D needs to be ahead of the creativity of every player, an impossible task. They will break your game; the best you can do is fix it with the next release (as Netrunner did with Noiseshop, Katman etc). AW doesn't have the resources of WotC/Hasbro or even FFG, they are a tiny Indie company with the 24th game on BGG (far more prestigious than 1 man's recommendation, especially when there seems to be a cosy deal with promos). I was willing to house rule over the cracks but, combined with the fact that they were almost always losing (I did handicap myself with some ambitious builds), the game sadly fell out of favour (we have so many alternatives) before DvN came out. Which is a shame as DvN goes some way to fixing many of the issues and every new release is showing greater maturity and sophistication.

Currently I only play occasional playtest games. sIKE, our OCTGN ambassador (another regular, Lettucemode, took over programming), is doing a good job convincing me to try OCTGN and I see it as my future play outlet. It also helps with playing against new books as our analytical local meta stabilised into some preset optimal builds for each archetype which are influenced by each other's builds. In another meta, there may be a totally different cascading effect resulting in different optimal builds. OCTGN is probably my future unless I manage to reactivate my disillusioned group. However, nothing beats the social element of playing IRL, the jaw-dropping moment when you reveal the hidden enchant (to me, this trap-setting is the most fun element of the game, I love Jinteki in Netrunner). So I read about your gaming group and I'm so envious.

All this background above is there as it explains my next 2 bits of advice to you as a wiser burn-out case.

(1) Don't read the Strategy & Tactics or Spellbooks section of this forum (or BGG) much. This would be power-gaming (in RPG terms) and it could spoil the balance in your group; mix highly competitive and fun books and one person will come out feeling awful. The game is pretty good but it's far from perfect and discovering these flaws (that are being fixed, I'm a pain off the public forum) will only spoil your enjoyment of the game. The game is amazing fun (which is all that's important) as long as you don't over-analyse it. It was lettucemode or aquestrion who said "I always find forums reduce my enjoyment of a game" and I so agree with him. Ignorance is bliss because there is always someone who will tear down the curtain. This forum remains extremely friendly, a nice community, a great resource for clarifying the rules (which are living rules). I really don't advise getting an unfair competitive advantage by reading all of the good stuff. It's what I did. I am the only one in my meta on this forum. I devoured all the still-relevant old stuff by Dude (more game philosophy), piousflea (ROI is a seminal piece in my early game development) and others, then added my own insights to my education. It certainly made me a far better player but at the cost of harming my local meta. It's easy to let your competitiveness get the better of you, to power-game and pick up tips to beat your opponents. And if this helps you stop always losing against your Forcemaster friend, great. But don't take it too far. Else you may end up killing your local meta like I did.

(2) Specialising in Mages is a nice start, and is a nice comfort zone to begin with - but it's doing the game a disservice. Because it is "Pick Your Cards", half the game is strategising, contingency planning before a game even starts. Mage Wars has even more pre-game preparation than Magic, it is precise and can be unforgiving (forgot to pack Eagleclaw Boots against Air Wizard?). Knowing the mage you are playing against (or the few you will play) is a huge advantage. Once your group has burnt out on their initial mage preference, make sure they try other ones (maybe ban everyone from playing their comfort zone mage so that everyone is in the same unfamiliar territory). You will experience the same wonder of discovery you had with that first mage (to a slighly lesser diminishing extent) with every subsequent mage that you play. Here Tom Vasel got it right: "every Mage plays differently to the others". This is a huge strength of the game as there are currently 13*13 match-up combinations (Wizard = 4), each mage has at least 3 viable archetypes (at least in casual play), that is basic strategies. With every release, the game gets stronger and stronger. So encourage your group to switch mages once they are too familiar with what they chose. Yes, with limited card pool, this means reallocating cards. But it's really worth it to leave the comfort zone (as you found out with Beastmaster then Warlock, the first 2 that I played in that order, the Wizard scared me to begin with). The game becomes so much more fun and is much more deeper when the Big Reveal of who they are playing (like hidden enchants, just far more important) causes your mind to race as you have to improvise your game plan to cope with your opponent's mage and his/her chosen strategy that you will slowly discern. This "thinking on the fly" element can be incredibly satisfying if you have been bitten by the gaming bug (I remember when I revealed my Nullify on the enemy mage in my first game, nobody had done that, I had too many Nullifies for Beastmaster, utter control freak). So do make sure they get out of comfort zones as the game is so much more fun in the deep end.

Anyway, this ramble has gone on too long.

What you've got is something special, Silverclaw. Be careful not to spoil it by eating poisoned apples in this forum.
Title: Re: How we built our Mage Wars gaming group.
Post by: silverclawgrizzly on January 23, 2014, 12:55:07 PM
Deck you really got some good points there and I thank you for bringing them up. I've played the super competitive scene in Hero Clix for over a decade now, I firmly believe that if I went to Gen Con I could win worlds. Mage Wars is like clix in that you need to understand board control, probability of dice, range advantage, and about a hundred other little details that make me love both games. I love Mage Wars, but I excel at clix. Many of my friends I mentioned earlier are also quite capable of wrecking house in clix and some of them at Magic. I've never been one for Magic and my horrible deck building skills show in Mage Wars lol. I've been teaching games to new gamers since I first became a game October 31st 1995(easy day to remember cause hey it was Halloween.) It's my "role" in the Charlotte gaming community, and one of the main reasons I hang on with the UNCC Guild.

Right now we're all testing the waters of this game with specific mages. But most of us have secondary mages too. I play Warlock and want to mess around with Priest. Just  like you gotta play different teams in clix, you gotta try different mages in Mage Wars. Nobody here has any doubt that once they get their own core games we're gonna drop this specialized mage set up we have now. Note there aren't really any tournaments near us, one game store wants a league but they sound like idiots and the other store we hear has events is a good hour drive.....why drive an hour when we can just game ourselves we figure. Mind you there was a huge tournament at a convention here in Charlotte last year and we ARE going to enter that.

In terms of specific strategies dominating, if there's one thing I've learned in eleven years of clix it's that anything can be beaten. Anything. Solid tactics and strategy will win over cheese build of the week generally. But yeah Mage Wars is new and I can already see the areas that need adjusting. But you get that even with games that have been out for a while. My Magic friends tell me there are Turn 0 or Turn 1 wins? I know clix has similar issues sometimes and just altered half a dozen pieces or so. One of the big things that appeals to our group is Mage Wars is so young and we're all starting off on the same playing field. This is a HUGE bonus to me in particular as the skill gap isn't as wide between our group as it is in other games.

Hehehehe I doubt we'll all be buying every expansion right off the bat. Note I own core set, Kumanjaro, and FvW but I haven't spent a dime on any of that. My birthday was yesterday and I have awesome friends :) Yeah Priestess my roommate owns all of it but he got FvW for Christmas and Druid owns some of the expansions but he works for a gaming store. We're all members of the UNCC Sci-Fi/Fantasy Guild....not the one at Princeton :) Necromancer and I qualified for a championship clix tournament next week with $50 on the line, after I win it I'll either get a second core set or DvN.

Now we get to the forums. You know it took me two weeks to figure out the Online Spellbuilder was linked in the post it's discussed? I was using the one that's linked on the AW front page and wondering why I couldn't get the cards to go away  :P I'm just flat out not playing the online version of the game, why would I when I live with two players and know so many more? I hate online competitive games as too often sportsmanship(which I am adamant about) goes right out the window. Yeah I hear stories of people being cool on there, but I also hear the opposite. Obviously I'm here on this forum and it's been helpful at the very least. There's oh about two or three dozen weird things the Rule Book doesn't explain that I've asked on here or learned by searching for the answer. Mainly that comes from having played other games and questioning how X works with Y etc. I've posted two spell books on here and the advice has been ok. Mainly I'm just here for ideas on things I might want to try, but I don't necessarily take anything as holy writ, my play style isn't anyone else for example. Most people seem nice on the forum though I'm not dense enough to try arguing Dice v Piercing again as that's frankly gotten stupid.

Anyway Deck thanks for the insights, I do appreciate them. I'll be sure to update how the group evolves around here. Maybe we'll run into each other at Origins, Gen Con, or something.