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Author Topic: Teaching Variant  (Read 3044 times)

DeckBuilder

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Teaching Variant
« on: September 17, 2013, 06:29:59 AM »
I'm sure I'm not the only one who ends up teaching Mage Wars at their local Magic club. But it is so intimidating for new players because:

(a) the "choose 2 spells" mechanic is awesome if experienced but overwhelming for newcomers and lends itself to analysis paralysis

(b) book unfamiliarity makes it hard to understand strategic options available (e.g. to open aggressive or mid range with 2 crystals etc)

(c) there is a steep learning curve (chess-like optimal openings etc) so they are at a huge disadvantage unless I'm teaching 2 newbies

In life, you often only have one opportunity to impress someone. Fluff it and you rarely get a second chance. So that first game is critical.

In order to impress, I often demo 2 "seeded" books with markedly different strategies which make the game an epic equal battle (they are often wargamers). Beastmaster Swarm vs. Warlock Elites is good as this is shown on the box, demos many elements of the game (Lair. Battleforge, flyers, damage barrier, zone attack, Bobcat guards, burn, Geyser etc). If I am playing a new player (who often nervously turtles), I usually give him Priestess 4 Temples attrition (Archers, Guardian Angels, Knights, Unicorns) and I handicap myself with Air Wizard Mana Denial control to create another epic battle of contrasting styles with (Cheetah Speed) Hydras guarding Epic conjurations, tricksy but rarely deadly Teleports, Force Pushes by him to use Archers engaged in melee or to move Hydras, awesome Chain Lightnings etc.

However, I have been mulling over a heretical variant that may be The Best Way to Teach Magic Players. But because that first game is so important, I'm nervous of trying it out without first consulting The Wisdom of The Forum.


Mage Wars The Gathering

1. There is no spellbook as this unique "advanced game" choice mechanic is what overwhelms new players, causing analysis paralysis.

2. Instead you have a deck of minimum 60 cards (thin decks are good, minimum size is an extra constraint to required 120 spell points).

3. New Planning phase: if you have less than 7 cards in hand, you draw until you have 7. First turn, you may reshuffle and redraw 7 once.

4. To use Deployment or Spellbind, you must have that appropriate card in hand. Cantrips can always be played from your discard pile.

5. Extra to Reset phase (not relevant in the first turn): you may place any number of cards in hand at the bottom of your deck in any order.


So what is the point of this variant?
It makes the game far more random and less like a high learning curve game of chess so new players feel they can beat their teacher.
It is similar to many Magic mechanics that the new player is totally familiar with, increasing the comfort factor.
It reduces the overwhelming choice available, removing analysis paralysis and adds that "sweet! I just drew 1 of my 2 snipers!" moment.
It dramatically changes the game dynamics into an interesting deck-building and game play variant (for me).

Of course, once they are familiar with this limited choice set game (choose from 7), they progress to the full spellbook "advanced game".

Mindful I don't want to put off any potential recruit with a silly variant, what is The Wisdom of The Forum on this idea? (Please be brutal.)
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 10:22:54 AM by DeckBuilder »
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Sailor Vulcan

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2013, 10:25:40 AM »
The thing is that Mage Wars doesn't work like a card game. Rather, it's a miniatures game that uses cards instead of miniatures. It's possible to use the cards in a tcg style format, but that doesn't help them transition to the actual mage wars game, since its in a different genre. Have you tried apprentice mode? That's the standard format for teaching mage wars. The PDF manual for teaching the game in apprentice mode is on these forums in the resources and downloads section of this forum.
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DeckBuilder

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2013, 11:56:03 AM »
Thanks for the response, Imaginator.

I agree there is a lot of miniatures in Mage Wars (Malifaux comes to mind with its detailed thematic cards). However, I am trying to smooth the transition of seasoned Magic players into the game. Not trying to teach them miniatures (which most play too). You have to admit there is a lot of Magic in the game. Enchantments and artifacts/equipment that you remove with a spell. Summoned creatures as main threats and sorcery speed attack/utility spells (enchantments are your morphed instant effects). Even the activation and ready markers I explain to them as "tapped" (exhaust in many other games). I try and highlight these similarities to make them feel comfortable learning the game.

Mage Wars card types and traits are very familiar to Magic players. However Mage Wars adds some amazing new dimensions to Magic.
(a) tactical board position (Summoner Wars, D&D 4E)
(b) retain damage (Summoner Wars, D&D 4E)
(c) kill-the-king via alternating turns (Chess) with turn overlap (War of the Ring)
(d) accumulate unused mana (Summoner Wars magic pile)
(e) temporary and permanent conditions (D&D 4E)
(f) deck-building with card influence costs (Netrunner)
(g) must retain "fantasy realism" (D&D 4E, although that is debatable!)
(h) choose not draw - entirely original to Mage Wars in my experience

Now I want to stress that an idea only needs one element to be original to be entirely original. There are very few original ideas really, just improved variants. So it was genius of Bryan Pope to one day laterally think "what if my trading folder is my deck that I choose from?". And to top it all, the product he has created is far greater than the sum of its parts, an original entitity in itself. In evolution, mongrel mutants can become the new superior species and that is what has happened with Mage Wars. It is its own unique cross-genre game and its design should appeal to so many different gamer subgroups. To call it mainly a miniatures game or mainly a card game or mainly a boardgame or a mainly a fantasy roleplaying skirmish experience is to do it a disservice. It is multi-class, all of them!

I personally don't see Mage Wars as primarily a miniatures skirmish game. Sure it can be (Warlord is 100% that way but Forcemaster is 0%, other mages can be built to either end of the spectrum to varying degrees). I admit the new 2 swarm factions move it closer that way. But anyone who played Summoner Wars (pales in comparison, have not played it since I learnt Mage Wars) would have assumed Druid vs. Necromancer would be Swamp Orcs (with their vine walls) vs. The Fallen (undead graveyard recursion). Except from what I have seen from previews, this was utterly wrong and unfair: mechanics are very different, cleverer, the expansion is about Life vs. Death (like Horde vs. Near Solo in first one). The perspective we have of it is based on our background, picking up on the influences that every game has.

Sorry, I didn't mean to take issue with your viewpoint quite so strongly. I appreciate why you view Mage Wars as mainly a miniatures game with cards. I just wanted to highlight all of the many influences the game has and how others may see the game differently.

Back to the topic. Have you ever seen Magic players mull over for soooo long deciding how to play just 1 out of the 2-8 cards in hand? Now give them a spell-book (even in Apprentice) and their minds explode! :) I have thought about using a phone stopwatch but that pressures them even more! Then their hands get a nervous twitch because they have no cards in hand to constantly skiffle. It's a seriously sad sight.

All I'm trying to do is gently introduce them to the game. So game mechanics become more like Magic but they learn about board position, damage/armour thresholds, lifetime value, accumulating mana. They are all big new concepts to a Magic player. They are not bombarded with so many spell choices, just a few. The luck factor is increased so "every dog has its day". Hey, nothing wins a new recruit more than a first game victory.

I never played Apprentice. I don't think I ever would because of
* the half board reducing mobility
* generic mages removing flavour
* the unfocused spell books with so similar strategies
I can't remember the other issues but it all looks so awful really.

These Magic players at my local club are better at Magic than me (I've lapsed from my heyday, prefering to play all types of games, Mage Wars currently my favourite with its cross-genre elements). I think they will be similarly put off by Apprentice because they are pretty clever. Mage Wars mechanics aren't hard to grasp, incredibly intuitive, a strength. The biggest barrier to entry is the overwhelming choice from a spellbook that an analytical brain, not familiar with the book, will find "too much" at first. For good Magic players micro-plan all their plays.

Does anyone else have this problem when teaching the game? That people are put off by the overwhelming choice which is the greatest unique element but also the most challenging barrier to overcome?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 01:04:44 PM by DeckBuilder »
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Shad0w

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2013, 01:05:05 PM »
The reason that apprentice is used to teach is it allows players to get the basic mechanics of MW without getting bogged down. For this reason when doing demos I always walk player through the first 3 turns and then let then on their own. Even out side of shows I alot 50 minutes for my demos and this include the the full intro to the game. Then after play 2-3 apprentice games on their own I ask if they want to try full books and the full arena.

When I find player that catch on quickly I ask them if they are ready after the first apprentice game own their own.

* the half board reducing mobility
This is to get both players into combat faster and explain how attack dice work.

* generic mages removing flavour
This is done to remove the decision trees this in turn also helps alleviate analysis paralysis htat new players tend to suffer.

* the unfocused spell books with so similar strategies
This is done to allow players to find what they think is the path to victory. As the person running the demo you should hint at lines of play but do not take over for the players.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 01:06:38 PM by Shad0w »
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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2013, 02:13:23 PM »
I'd endorse the 'how to teach Mage Wars' pdf Arcane Wonders have provided.  All the people I've used it with have said it was a great intro.  While still feeling like a good game, they got enough to enjoy but still felt manageable.  I'd use that variant.


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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2013, 02:16:43 PM »
50 minutes? I guess you are wisely playing the numbers game, maximising exposure. Also at a GamesCon, time is the most valuable resource for everyone (sleep comes pretty much last). Attention spans will be shorter.

I allocate 3 hours including rules. I have also seeded the books to create a balanced (or handicapped if I'm playing) epic grand battle of contrasting strategies yet still give a player lots of choices .

Example (overseeing 2 new players):
Straywood: (A) Lair => Dog Swarm, (B) Flowers + weenie Swarm, (C) buffed Grizzly super aggro.
Warlock: (A) Forge Equips + Curses, (B) Elites (Vampiress, Slayer), (C) Lord of Fire super aggro

Option (C) is never taken by new players who prefer to build up resources before confrontation, prolonging the game.

The situation is even worse with the new player's allocated Priestess Attrition vs. my Mana Denial Air Wizard, a very long match up. I built that match-up because I wanted a challenge, I love big games and enjoy playing with my food. Though I've lost more than I've won as his 5 Force Pushes + 1 Divine Intervention trumps my 3 Teleports (I haven't played this since I got my 2nd Core set). I will Wand Teleport but his Wand Minor Heal and Sunfire Amulet (no Deathlock in my book of course) is too high a mountain to climb. These games sometimes last all evening. They come out happy though: "Epic!" they say smiling.

Still, maybe I have been doing it all wrong. Less is more and all that.

On the other hand, I know the calibre of these Magic players. I play Mage Knight, Twilight Imperium 3 and Rune Wars against them (with all expansions, sad completists). I've taught them other games like Twilight Struggle and A Game of Thrones (both boardgame and LCG). They are experienced games players. I feel Apprentice mode may be patronising them a bit...

Hey, we're Europeans over here. We're taught to play Agricola at kindergarten... :)

No comment on the "make it more similar to Magic to transition them in" approach? Ok, maybe not a good idea.

Are any of the team going to Essen? Would be interesting to see how the experts do this teaching malarkey...
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 03:00:35 PM by DeckBuilder »
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Shad0w

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2013, 03:44:36 PM »
50 minutes? I guess you are wisely playing the numbers game, maximising exposure. Also at a GamesCon, time is the most valuable resource for everyone (sleep comes pretty much last). Attention spans will be shorter.

I allocate 3 hours including rules. I have also seeded the books to create a balanced (or handicapped if I'm playing) epic grand battle of contrasting strategies yet still give a player lots of choices .

Example (overseeing 2 new players):
Straywood: (A) Lair => Dog Swarm, (B) Flowers + weenie Swarm, (C) buffed Grizzly super aggro.
Warlock: (A) Forge Equips + Curses, (B) Elites (Vampiress, Slayer), (C) Lord of Fire super aggro

Option (C) is never taken by new players who prefer to build up resources before confrontation, prolonging the game.

The situation is even worse with the new player's allocated Priestess Attrition vs. my Mana Denial Air Wizard, a very long match up. I built that match-up because I wanted a challenge, I love big games and enjoy playing with my food. Though I've lost more than I've won as his 5 Force Pushes + 1 Divine Intervention trumps my 3 Teleports (I haven't played this since I got my 2nd Core set). I will Wand Teleport but his Wand Minor Heal and Sunfire Amulet (no Deathlock in my book of course) is too high a mountain to climb. These games sometimes last all evening. They come out happy though: "Epic!" they say smiling.

Still, maybe I have been doing it all wrong. Less is more and all that.

On the other hand, I know the calibre of these Magic players. I play Mage Knight, Twilight Imperium 3 and Rune Wars against them (with all expansions, sad completists). I've taught them other games like Twilight Struggle and A Game of Thrones (both boardgame and LCG). They are experienced games players. I feel Apprentice mode may be patronising them a bit...

Hey, we're Europeans over here. We're taught to play Agricola at kindergarten... :)

No comment on the "make it more similar to Magic to transition them in" approach? Ok, maybe not a good idea.

Are any of the team going to Essen? Would be interesting to see how the experts do this teaching malarkey...

The trick is to get them to understand all the basics and then let them have that grand battle. This way they do not get bogged down by the learning and they can just enjoy the match. Think of it this way when teaching MTG you do not sit the new player down in a six man group game if they have never played before. You want them to have a few games under their belt before letting them wade in the deep end.
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DeckBuilder

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2013, 05:35:04 AM »
Yeah, I can honestly see the advantages of this approach.

But I don't have ever played a "basic version" of the boardgames we play, we always go straight to advanced.

The "How To Teach" PDF is really good and I will definitely refer it the next time.

I think I will create a really interesting Beastmistress vs. Priest match-up 2 seeded books.

Why those two? Because the theme is so strong (missionaries in the savage lands) and both have mechanics that promote board control. So this will promote more creature vs. creature combats (instead of assassinating the king).

I will post this seeded books up and see what you think.

I'm slightly deflated nobody has commented on the the "Mage Wars The Gathering" variant rules themselves, just that my approach is wrong. I am actually quite proud of the mutant off-spring.  Oh well.
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Shad0w

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 08:11:24 AM »
Yeah, I can honestly see the advantages of this approach.

But I don't have ever played a "basic version" of the boardgames we play, we always go straight to advanced.

The "How To Teach" PDF is really good and I will definitely refer it the next time.

I think I will create a really interesting Beastmistress vs. Priest match-up 2 seeded books.

Why those two? Because the theme is so strong (missionaries in the savage lands) and both have mechanics that promote board control. So this will promote more creature vs. creature combats (instead of assassinating the king).

I will post this seeded books up and see what you think.

I'm slightly deflated nobody has commented on the the "Mage Wars The Gathering" variant rules themselves, just that my approach is wrong. I am actually quite proud of the mutant off-spring.  Oh well.

But I don't have ever played a "basic version" of the boardgames we play, we always go straight to advanced.

This has been know to slow down the process. Because player are trying to learn as they play. In all honesty MW is not a shallow pool to learn in.

I think I will create a really interesting Beastmistress vs. Priest match-up 2 seeded books.

I use priestess vs wizard and warlock vs beast master for teaching. The reason behind hind this is to show off how element + and - work.

I'm slightly deflated nobody has commented on the the "Mage Wars The Gathering" variant rules themselves, just that my approach is wrong. I am actually quite proud of the mutant off-spring.  Oh well.

It is only an ok way to teach. Once players understand the game I am certain it would be more fun for them.
"Darth come prove to meet you are worthy of the fighting for your school in the arena and not just another scholar to be discarded like an worn out rag doll"


Quote: Shad0w the Arcmage

Sailor Vulcan

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Re: Teaching Variant
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 02:43:22 PM »
The problem isn't the variant itself. It's that you're using it as a way to "teach" or "transition" to a game that isn't even in the same genre as the variant. Mage Wars is not a TCG. A TCG style variant is already being discussed on these forums, but as just an alternate variant, not a substitute for teaching people how to play the regular game. If you want feedback on your ideas for a TCG style variant of Mage Wars, you should go there:

http://forum.arcanewonders.com/index.php?topic=13007.0
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