Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Origins Part 1: Mage Wars

Last month at Origins I played lots of fun games. One of the games I liked the most was a game called Mage Wars. It has not come out yet; they are planning to release it soon. The game simulates a battle between two dueling mages, similar to Magic: The Gathering. Many of the game mechancis are similar: you can summon creatures and cast spells such as fireball to destroy you opponents. But there are lots of cool new features, such as the fact that there is a board consisting of a grid of zones, and you can move your creatures and mages around on the board to jockey for position. Another big difference is that unlike in Magic, where you can only use the cards in your hand, in Mage Wars you can use any of the cards in your spellbook (which is like your deck). That gives you a lot more options each turn and limits the amount of luck, but also makes the game take a lot longer than a typical Magic game. The first day I played this game I went and did the demo, and played against one of the people who worked there. I chose the "Wizard", a mage who specializes in controlling the battlefield, improving his mana generation capacity, and draining his opponent's. ("Mana" is magical energy that you use to power your spells.) My opponent chose the "Warlock", a master of fire who specializes in burning his enemies to death. As the game started, my opponent rushed forward and pummeled my Wizard with a barrage of fire spellls, damaging him and catching the creatures that I had just summoned within the blast. I quickly switched to a defensive posture, putting fire-resistant armor on my wizard and moving creatures forward to attempt to drain his mana. Since my opponenet had run out of direct-damage fire spells after the initial barrage, he pressed the attack by summoning creatures, and my own creatures were sent out to meet them. The battle continued for at least a couple hours, and the rest of the Mage Wars demo team was getting ready to pack up and go home for the night. Soon my opponent dug deep into his spell book and pulled out what he thought would be the killing blow - an enchantment that would cause my mage to rot, taking damage every turn. But he didn't anticipate my counterattack - a spell that would shift that enchantment right back onto himself! With no other counters in his arsenal, my opponent's mage quickly rotted to death. The next day I went back to compete in the Mage Wars tournament - a four-round, single elimination tournament. We were each given a random pick from the set of four mages - I got the Wizard, as I had used before. This tournament had a 50-minute time limit per round, and once the time limit is over you play until the end of the current round and whichever person has the least damage on it is the winner. During the first round the game was going slow, and when the "one minute warning" was called we were still solidly in the middle of the game. My opponent had less damage but I was in better position to attack with creatures, and I just needed one more turn to win. Fortunately my opponent didn't have any remaining actions for the a round, so I was able to rush through the rest of thr round with my creatures and move on to the next round before time was called. The next three rounds were also fairly close, and they all went to the time limit, but I squeaked out a victory in all of them to win the tournament. After the tournament one of the people who worked there gave me a business card and said to contact him if I wanted to be a playtester. After the convention I wrote to them, and suggested possible additions to the game to make sure it doesn't drag out so much. - after all, as players get better at the game and develop more sophisticated strategies, it is likely that it will require more analysis and make the games take longer. They thought that my ideas were so good that they made me an official playtester for the game, and gave me the opportunity to look over their spells and rules before release and offer feedback. (That's why it's been taking me so long to get around to writing this blog pots - because I have been so busy looking at all the cards!) Since the cards haven't been released yet I am not supposed to talk about specifics, but you will see soon enough once the game gets released!

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