Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2
Amount of time to play: 60-120 min
Age requirements: 8+
Set-up time: 5 minutes (if your spellbook is already made)
In Mage Wars you play one of four wizards and must defeat your opponent’s mage. You cast spells, summon creatures and get equipment to help your cause. It will take strategy and some luck to win this wizards duel.
To set up Mage Wars you pick one of four mages, the Beastmaster, Priestess, Wizard or Warlock. Each specializes in a different school of magic but can use any spell in the game. You can spend your mage’s spell points to build their spellbook. Spells in their school tend to be less expensive than others. If you have played the game a few times you may have a favorite mage and some spells too. If not there are starting spellbooks for each mage in the back of the rules.
Each round you gain mana and cast spells. You and your opponent secretly choose two spells you want to cast. You reveal them and then may cast them based on initiative order. You take turns with your opponent activating a creature until all creatures have gone.
Combat and offensive spells specify the number of dice you roll to hit. Some damage will penetrate armor and some attacks can have lasting effects. Some creatures can avoid attacks altogether and some get a counterstrike attack. You can have creatures guard a space which grants them a counterstrike and means they must be attacked before other targets in the space.
Once cast most spells are discarded and you might have multiple copies of a spell in your spellbook. Some spells happen instantly while others are triggered later or revealed when you deem the time is right. There are enchantments that can boost or penalize creatures and stay on them until they die. And there are spells to dispel these enchantments.
The match is over once one mage loses all their health.
Mage Wars is good mix of strategy, tactics and luck. You must play smart to win but bad rolls can ruin your plans. The luck doesn’t overpower the strategy in this game but it is present. I love that you have your full range of spells available from the start of the game. You just need to have the mana to cast what you want. You aren’t hoping and waiting to draw a certain spell. You have them all from the start.
This game has very nice components and the artwork is great too. There are actual books to put your spell cards in and the box is laid out pretty well. The rulebook is fairly thick and there are a lot of details I did not mention above. That said there are many examples in the rulebook and an index of all the pertinent terms.
The game itself is pretty simple and straightforward and after a game or two things will flow pretty well. But for new players and early games things may not be so smooth. Part of the learning curve is what I said I love about the game, all those cards. By having all your cards available you will want to be familiar with them. Even just skimming through them before your first game will take some time. There is also a lot of key words that you’ll need to learn. It would be nice to have a player aid with all these terms on it.
Compared to games like Summoner Wars and Dungeon Command, Mage Wars requires a bigger investment. There is a steeper learning curve and more choices to make. I am not saying those games are better. In fact each of these games can fill a different niche in your collection. Mage Wars allows you to really dive into deck building and will take more time. You will be rewarded for your investment of time though.
If you are looking for an in-depth two player skirmish game, Mage Wars is worth a look. Just know there is a learning curve and a decent time investment. If you have a game group or even just one friend who will dive into this game there is a lot there. If you are more of a casual gamer or don’t often play with the same people you will still enjoy this game. It will just take longer for you to play.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 4 out of 6
Player Interaction 6 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 5 out of 6
Overall 5 out of 6