Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MageStorm Impressions

This isn't a full blown review. We have a policy that we like to play a game at least 3 or 4 times before doing one of those and since I haven't played MageStorm yet that wouldn't be fair. I did want to play this weekend but unfortunately my copy had other ideas. It was a bit damp upon opening, this is purely bad luck as I've seen no other reports of issues. So I have spent a few days drying this out. That's given me plenty of time to read the rules and prepare.

What attracted me to this game is it's wasn't just a clone of Battlelore or Battles of Westeros. Don't mistake that as a slight on those games, I'm a huge fan of Battlelore. But MageStorm has some very interesting elements that I'm going to talk about here.

The first selling point for me on this game is the fog of war aspect. Your unit composition is created with cards and then put under a unit card. The plastic figures on the board represent these units but not on a one for one basis. In fact every unit for each army on the board looks the same until you discover what they are really comprise of.

Unit Cards on display

This adds a fog or war element not found in other game of this type. I'm over simplifying the rules because in the base game there is one particular unit due to it's nature is recognizable on the battlefield so it is represented in the unit figure composition. There are large and small units and forces in reserve in a unit.  However the point remains the same you're not sure what makes up that unit from a distance.

Objective Markers
Another interesting concept in the game is the use of objective markers. Instead of saying I am moving this unit 3 spaces here and that one over there your army moves as a whole. You as commander have to put objective markers into play and during the movement phase the armies move towards the closest objective marker.
Those little figures that look like pine trees are the objective markers.

You can use points to add or remove markers and also put hold orders on units. In this somewhat abstract way you are in fact playing the Mage overseeing the battle and you're telling units to move to this objective and not dictating the exact path they take. It's honestly a really great mechanic that takes some getting use to.

The heart of the game are the mages and like everything else in this game the mechanic for casting spells and acquiring power is pretty neat.  The base game comes with 4 mages and each has a mage card. At the start of a turn the mages get a sent number of tokens, think of them as mana. These tokens are distributed to the card but they can't just go anywhere they need to form a chain so to speak.
Mage cards are the center of your power.

Each card is different and there are limitations in the form of little chain links on the cards. As an example lets say you want to move 2 power over to a sleep spell but the chain link limits you to moving only one a turn. This prevents player from dumping 4 power into their stronger spells every turn. When it comes to casting you simply remove the indicated power, but unless the spell says otherwise you can cast as many times as you want.

As i said MageStorm has not hit the table yet for a game but the rules have me itching to play it. Hopefully it will dry out by Thursday for my regular session and I'll see if what's written translates into a great game.


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