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Author Topic: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.  (Read 3344 times)

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A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« on: March 22, 2013, 12:59:37 AM »
The Backstory


I have always had a weakness for Magic the gathering. It was the first "real" game I was introduced to, and it continues to be of love and fascination with me even to this day. But, I have left the life of a casual but can't afford to be serious MTG player for the cheaper (and more fun, but in a different way) life of a board gamer. Now, that five hundred dollars for a standard deck can be spent on something like Eclipse w/ expansion along with agricola, seasons, Rftg plus expansions, and Mage Knight board game w/ expansion. All of that hours of gaming for the price of a single deck of Magic cards.

But how did go from CCG addict to board game addict? Well, Brian Kibler, of MTG fame, had championed his Ascension game all over MTG websites. All of his deck sleeves were Ascension. We happened to be picking up a set of dual lands from our FLGS one day when we came across this game, and on whim we bought it. Me and friend then spent all night playing this game, and we played it wrong for about two hours of it. We just could not get enough of this game. So, we played it. And we played it. And we played it. And we played it. And we played it some more. And eventually, we had figured out the game pretty well. We had figured out the best strategy to winning the game (getting to 7 battle and beating the Avatar down, in order to pick up every Mechana construction on the board). But, this was game that was all contained in one box and had everything you needed to play for months. For less than ten percent of a standard MTG deck. I was hooked. I went out, like most other board gamers when they first discover this world, and bought every single game I could find that was of any interest to me. Any game. I went from a collection of a game to about 10 in the span of a month. Yeah, I was a full on addict. Until I saw a video of a demo one day in the summer of 2012...

Mage Wars! This game was awesome! It seemed to have both the depth of MTG with the compactness of Ascension. I just HAD to have this game, there was no way around it. And then I found out it hadn't even been published yet. I searched everywhere, read everything I could about this game, and soon I came across an announcement stating that Mage Wars would be released at Gen Con 2012. And the next thing I knew, I went about 200 dollars into debt in order to go to Gen Con specifically with the intention to get this game and this game alone. I was going to do anything. I remember I even signed up for the demo just so that I could play this game, if by small chance I couldn't get it.

We get to gen con, and the first day, it is completely and totally sold out. What a bummer. I mean really. 200 miles, 300 hundred dollars in debt, for it be sold out! There was hope, however, in another batch being sold on saturday. This was to be my last chance to buy the game before having to wait a whole month to purchase a copy. And what do you know? It's sold out. So, I held out. Eventually, I was able to purchase the game, after waiting 6 months for it's release, and I haven't bought another game since. I now have 6 spellbooks, 4 sets of action markers, an Organized Play kit, Core spell tome 1 and 2, and the expansion, and I am hoping to buy two more cores. 1 for more cards, and one to sleeve up and cube draft with. That's just how much I love this game. I have never demoed a game before either, but I plan on demoing this game at every store in louisville, even if it's just to share this game with a few more folks. But why do I love it so much? Well, if you don't know anything about this game, here's an

Overview

So, the basis of Mage Wars is to kill the opposing Mage through the intelligent and tactical use of spells, creatures, enchantments, and equipment. This usually takes about an hour for experienced players, but for newer players it may take anywhere from 75 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the speed of play and prior knowledge of spellbooks and cards. But what are spellbooks?

Well, the first innovation that Mage Wars offers is the scraping of the old "shuffling" that so many TCGs and CCGs have offered in the past. That's right! There is no "Well, you just top decked the right cards, and I just got mana screwed." With Mage Wars, players construct spellbooks of different creatures, attacks, incantations, enchantments, equipment, and conjurations to form a book of cards that players will flip through and select out of each round of play. There is no hand of cards and a deck to draw from, just you and a spellbook.

The second real innovation that Mage Wars has to offer is the way you select your spells. While in M:TG you can play as many spells as you can pay for and have in your hand, in MW you are only allowed to cast two cards a turn. you pick these two cards at the beginning of the round, set your spellbook aside, and then use your Mage's two action markers to cast these spells.

But, what are actions? Well, played have a set of actions markers that are colored in one color (blue/red) and have one side showing a white starburst, and the other side being blank. Players will place one of these markers on their mage at the beginning of the game, as well a black "quickcast" marker that only the mage can have. The normal colored action marker will go on every creature that is cast throughout the game, but the black "quickcast" marker will only be on the mage itself. With these two actions, the mage can do a multitude of things, such as moving a zone on the board (there are twelve, set in a 4x3 shape, with each mage set in a an opposing corner), they can cast a quick spell, or cast a full action spell, usually being a creature, or a huge thunderbolt, or a hail of stones. The list goes on..

Now that I have given a brief overview of what actions are, I can explain the third and final true innovation to Mage Wars, which is it's action allowance system. You only have as many actions as you have creatures. This completely gets rid of the broken combos of M:TG. You have to fight to win in this game, and you have to fight hard.

This game just seems too good to be true, but are there any downfalls?

Downfalls

This game does have a pretty steep learning curve. Yes, it is easy to grasp the basics of this game, but you will be referring to the rulebook many times before you fully grasp all the mechanics this game has to offer, in addition to a lot of key words. In all honesty, though, I did not find this game any harder to teach and to play then many other games. In fact, I found this game easier to teach than a lot of the other games I own.

This game is also a time investment. If you really want to get the full enjoyment out of the game, you are going to have to build your own spellbooks, think about your own strategies, and invest thought into winning. It is still an incredibly fun game with the preconstructed spellbooks, but in order to really feel the depth of what your mage can do, I would advise that after learning this game thoroughly, to create your own spellbooks.

Did I skip the strengths? I don't think I di- damn it.


Strengths

There are so many, I'm not sure where to begin... This game is great as a beginning game for card players, or as a veteran gamer. It has both the depth and fun that both parties need and strive for to play this game.

The fact that you roll dice to attack ( I didn't tell you before because I didn't want to make it seem to good to be true, but now that you are here...) makes this game all the more fun. The game comes with 9 red d6s and 1 yellow normal d12. The d6s are specially designed to contain 2 blank sides, one normal 1, one critical 1, one normal 2, and one critical 2. You roll these dice and add them together to attack. Rolling one dice or two dice is fun once or twice, but I can say that rolling 10 dice just to damage one creature is incredible feeling many times over. The number of dice does mitigate the luck, as well. I can guarantee that you will roll damage, because there are just enough dice to roll to not be lucky, but not too many dice that it just becomes tedious.

Designing your own spellbook is a game itself in that finding the best cards, balancing reactive cards with active cards, and fitting that all into one constraining mold is not only a challenge, but it is entertaining. You may think that constraint is a bad thing, but without rules, a rebel cannot create. With the core set alone, you have 322 spells to choose and create from, and with the two tomes, you now have 542 cards to play with. If you decide on the expansion, you now have 758 cards to form spellbooks with, and two more mages. If that isn't enough replayability, then maybe gaming just isn't your thing... only kidding!

The fact that this is a tactical card game only makes it all the better. Between the bluffing mechanics and the movement mechanics, you will burning your brain every single round for the best possible move of your creatures. There is nothing but interaction between players, but it isn't a "take that" sort of interaction, it's more of a "okay, I'm going to kill you now." sort of interaction. Mage Wars is designed to give the player who can better handle that interaction the win. This is why the learning curve is so steep, but also why it's so fun. You are constantly learning new information, figuring out opponent strategy, stopping movement, making your opponent retreat, and sending creatures off to battle. It's when to do all of these things that make this game so incredible.

So, I guess it's kind of obvious what I think about this game, right?

A Not-So-Subtle Opinion

I do think this game is for a lot of people. Between it's cheap to purchase, lots to play packaging, and it's depth of play, I think that this game is well worth the time it takes to learn how to play, and how to play well. It also has incredible component quality, and if anything is wrong with the components, Arcane Wonders staff is right there to help you in any way, which is another reason to fall in love with this game. Every question I've had has received prompt, courteous, and caring reply, and I cannot give any more of a glowing recommendation for all they do. I had an order from Arcane Wonders that not everything had arrived, and within a business day I had a representative with an order out for me. When I had problems with my mage books bubbling up, they instantly sent me new ones. They are a great company with so much to offer, with the added benefit of having an incredible product in Mage Wars. My only hope is that this review will encourage new and old players alike to at least try this game out. If you, don't be afraid to message me with your thoughts on it, if you want to purchase it. I love to talk anything and everything about this game. Although it is still a baby as far as gaming goes, I am a life longer to Mage Wars for its indepth and thoughtful gameplay, replayability, deck design, customer service team that is off the charts, it's innovative mechanics, and finally, because hell, we all like to roll a lot of dice. c:
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DarthDadaD20

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2013, 01:24:54 AM »
Well said.
Where does my greatest enemy lie?
It has been around since the dawn of time,
it follows your loved ones as well as mine,
takes the form of a mountain as well as a flower,
it cannot be outrun by the greatest of power.
Where does my greatest enemy lie?
Within Shad0w.

The Dude

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2013, 01:44:10 AM »
^This Guy ^.^
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DarthDadaD20

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2013, 02:18:45 AM »
I do share the enthusiasm that you do have for this game, and thankfully so do most of our players. This game is the only game that has made me stop playing MtG. Its not that I cant play anymore, its just that I want to play Mage Wars more. Not even factoring in price. (I got bye making connections with about 30 people and started a "Barrow and loan list" that worked well for my meta, that and I got really good at playing cheap. (I once made a deck that made infinite 1/1 wolf tokens with a deck that had no rares.) Now I know that this game gets a lot of comparison to MtG, but with me it has a lot of meaning. I play every game I can, play lots of role playing games, but I would lay awake for hours thinking about MtG. I would NEVER play any other game over MtG. I use to walk around with my deck in my pocket looking for people to play with. (That has happened in a gas station and a fast food place WAY more times then you would think possible. Not including my five employees that would play me after work.) I trained to win at that game like an athlete. I got visible tattoos, partly since I'm nerdy and get game tattoos and partly for an intimidation tactic that works REALLY well. And I'm good. If I go to a limited sealed deck event....Im walking away with a box. I never place less then 10th at FNM. Yet my first eight games of mage wars I lost. I cannot stand to lose. but it wasn't even the drive to crush the skulls of all who beat me that made me want to keep playing, it was the fact that I couldn't sleep the night after I played the game. I had to play more...What magic did to my social life and overall ambition, is what Mage Wars has done to magic. Now I just need to get a tournament scene going and I will be the happiest gamer alive.
P.S "Well said." didn't give the review justice. (Although I'm glad you found it humorous, that's what I was going for.) Its a great review, and I will go now and tip you some geek gold seeing as its on BGG. (Some one just tipped me five GG! Can you believe it!)
TL;DR: There is something to be said about this game. And I type fast and dont think about it....so sorry.
Where does my greatest enemy lie?
It has been around since the dawn of time,
it follows your loved ones as well as mine,
takes the form of a mountain as well as a flower,
it cannot be outrun by the greatest of power.
Where does my greatest enemy lie?
Within Shad0w.

Sausageman

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2013, 07:45:07 AM »
I've discussed this with a friend, but if I were Wizards of the Coast, I would be sh*tting myself about Mage Wars.  It really feels like the next evolution of Magic the Gathering to me, so much so, I'd have a hard time recommending MtG over it EVER, to any one...

reddawn

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2013, 11:48:45 AM »
I share the sentiment that Mage Wars is a much better game than Magic at its core, but I don't think WotC is really that concerned about Arcane Wonders overtaking them.  Though MTG is truly lackluster comparatively, the way the game is constructed encourages fierce loyalty from its players, as with many TCGs, but with Magic and its formats, even more so.  Single cards can be so expensive and so iconic to many players that they'll invest heavily financially to experience what they think is something worth having...and in a game like Magic, a card's price is usually pretty indicative of its power.  It's like buying a membership to a yacht club; you get to be a part of an exclusive experience.  

However, when you realize the game actually sucks, you're pretty much stuck with cardboard that is really only important to a select group of people.  And at that point, you're faced with a dilemma; do you want to stay a big fish in a small pond, or do you want to start all over with a new, if admittedly better game?  Do you leave behind the social circles which held value for you, in which you were possibly an important member?  

Magic is the worse game, it often brings out the worst in people (especially at the competitive level), but no one can deny the fierce loyalty behind its community.  It keeps many gaming shops open single-handed and that's just the truth.  Every single gameshop I've been to places its MTG product up at the front of the store, before everything else, and for good reason.  It's extremely profitable and the perception is that it is the best TCG around.  

And WotC isn't stupid; they know what sells.  There's a reason why they just got done with two product lines, Scars of Mirrodin block and the current Return to Ravnica block, that are pretty much revisits of their most wildly successful products.  Magic, put frankly, is an icon of the industry, one that is so successful it can basically regurgitate old products as new products and still sell fantastically well.      

Great games have died because they lacked community support.  I'm not saying Mage Wars will die; indeed, I hope it prospers exactly because it deserves to.  But it really needs to foster its own image, its own identity, and its own community before you can really ask to compete with a juggernaut like Magic.  It can't survive as "the Magic alternative" for very long; there have been plenty of those and honestly, none have them have come close to surpassing MTG.  MW needs to be its own entity and idea, and I think that's what organizers should be focusing on because other than some similarities in theme, the games are entirely different in form and function.  

That said, all the support MW offers to its players and the enthusiasm it's showing towards retailers and OP is very encouraging.  The forums here are welcoming and genuinely helpful, unlike the caustic forums at MTGSalvation or WotC's own site.  Players want a positive experience regardless of the game, and MW offers both in droves.  To be motivated about the game players need to see a strong, welcoming community as MW's backbone.  Once we have that, the quality of the game will speak for itself.
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Tacullu64

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2013, 12:24:36 PM »
Good post by the OP.

I really like this.

Quote from: "reddawn" post=9566
Great games have died because they lacked community support.  I'm not saying Mage Wars will die; indeed, I hope it prospers exactly because it deserves to.  But it really needs to foster its own image, its own identity, and its own community before you can really ask to compete with a juggernaut like Magic.  It can't survive as "the Magic alternative" for very long; there have been plenty of those and honestly, none have them have come close to surpassing MTG.  MW needs to be its own entity and idea, and I think that's what organizers should be focusing on because other than some similarities in theme, the games are entirely different in form and function.


Well said.

Gogo

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2013, 02:50:40 PM »
Magic is a worse game to a lot of games. The reason it remains is because it has a huge playerbase. You can find players nearly anywhere.


I play another TCG that "competes" against Magic and it is certainly a struggle to be in Magic's shadow. There were some difficult times, but as with Mage Wars, perseverance is the key. You need to start a regular Mage Wars day and stick to it the best you can. Eventually people will join in (it may take a while).

malgor

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2013, 05:12:12 PM »
Excellent review, and I am loving this discussion about MtG v MW.

I agree that MW needs to try and be its own product, but the shadow of magic is so large (as you said) the comparisons are inevitable.  This ties into what you were saying about community-we do need to be able to explain similarities/differences and strengths/weaknesses of MW over MtG.

The point about the magic community being fiercely loyal is spot-on.  I'm 28, and i played MtG through half high school (haven't played since about 2001).  I have friends who still invest lots of time and money in magic.  They have played with me some, but they prefer magic because it's what they've been collecting and playing for so long.  I dunno if any of them will ever be the kind of person who wants to play MW a couple nights every week.  I'm sure others have had the same experience when trying to promote the game in their social circles.

It reminds me a lot of the MMO community.  Plenty of great MMOs have come out and fizzled.  Star Wars is struggling and it has the most recognizable brand name in America attached to it!  Why?  Because WoW has built up such a dedicated and invested fan base they just won't switch.

I'm in no way saying MW won't make it; I think it will be around a long time and make AW a nice chunk of money.  But it's certainly something to keep in mind.  There are a lot of selling points, and the things that make MW a superior product are outline very well in the OP's review.  It's a much more enriched, engaging,  experience.  Most importantly IMO, it's tactical as well as strategic.  The deck building is important, but the tactics in game are what separates chumps from champs.  

For me the sign of a great game is one that you think about when you're not playing, and when you lose you wanna jump right back in.  MW nails it in that department.

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Re: A Not-so-subtle review: Mage Wars.
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2013, 10:57:53 PM »
Hello all and thank you so much for taking the time to not only read but think about my article! It is truly a wonder to see the community react with such enthusiasm when I write.

MW and MTG are amazing games in their own rights. For me to call MTG a lower game would be like saying Kill Bill was better than The Big Lebowski. They are two completely different games that have two completely different strategies, thoughts, and flows to the game. Plus, even thinking about how big the MTG community is hurts my brain cells. But there is a reason it is so big, and it isn't necessarily the game itself. It is also.. you guessed it, the prize support. Winning 40,000 dollars by playing a card game? That's like the best job in the world, right? By giving players this dream, WoTC has guaranteed the success of Magic for many, many years to come. Can Mage Wars do that? I do believe that the game is solid enough that it could very well be a game perfect for competitive  play. It will take a lot of work and a lot of reaching out to gamers and non gamers alike. Arcane Wonders has a wonderful product on their hands, all they need to do now is get player support behind it, and this, I believe, is where they may be lacking a little bit. But I do not think it is their fault.

They do have an incredible Customer Service department, but we need more than that... we, as competitive players, need thought. We need to learn this game from the inside out, from the upside down. The only way to do this, besides playing, is to read, and think, about strategy. There is so much in the way of MTG strategy out there that is NOT created by WoTC. Actually, most of it isn't. This is where we, as players, come in. It is our game to share thought about the game. We are a community, we are vying for the same cause, rooting for the same team. So I challenge you all. Do you all really want this game to be as big as MTG? Because it can be. But it is up to us. Tell everyone you can about this game. Teach this game at game night. Write strategy articles, share your thoughts, decklists. If you can branch out to other forums, by all means. I want Mage Wars to be around for my kids to see, for my kids to play. Most kids growing up wanted to play professional ball, but I wanted to win a Pro Tour. And I want to be able to share that dream with my kids through the beautiful game that is Mage Wars. It doesn't take much, and I know you all love this game, or you wouldn't be reading this right now. So join me in this fight! I know that next saturday as part of National Tabletop day, I will be running demos of this all day long. And I will the next weekend too. I even bought some OP kits to GIVE to my FLGS just to try to get them as excited about this game as I am. What can you do to help?


Sorry guys for the whole V for Vendetta rant, but I think you all get the point! :3
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