I might start getting into this Magic the Gathering thing, especially when you can translate something like a card game into a fairly simple and fun board game reflecting the same universe.
I apologize in advance to all MtG fans out there, I don’t know a lot about the world or lore.
While at PAX Prime this year, I got to experience the Magic the Gathering board game, which is getting an expansion soon. Overall, it’s a simple game if you know the basics of MtG, life points, attack points and spells. However, it’s also easy to understand for newcomers to the game since there are plain rules and circumstances to follow, like any other board game.
I think one of the coolest things about this game is the fact that there are different layouts to the board for every variation of play, one on one, two on two, three for or up to five players all head to head. The board itself consists of 6 pieces that can be arranged, and then two elevated areas and two walls. There are printed photo instructions on how to arrange the board so that you don’t have to guess on the positions. One game averages the 45 minute mark but may be a little longer or shorter depending on the skill level of the players.
You play as one of the five colored Planeswalkers, kind of the ‘main characters’ of the MtG world. These character’s models in the board game, unlike the other monsters are painted, giving them that all important look on the battlefield. All of the Planeswalkers have two groups of creatures that they can control. Each creature comes in a group of three and move as a group and share the same amount of attack and defense across the board.
At the beginning of the game you only start with your Planeswalker on the field and if you want to summon a creature have to take a turn to do so. After you’ve called the creatures, you can set a position for them and that is the end of your turn. You can only move one thing at a time, for example, I can’t move and attack with my Planeswalker and my creatures on the same turn. Because of this, you have to stratigize where your Planeswalker will be safe or if they should move in for the kill.
The Planeswalker is the main focus of the game. If your Planeswalker dies, you can continue on with just your summoned creatures but you lose the ability to have any spell cards. Spell cards are your hand and give enchantments, permanent buffs, or have instant effects when attacking or defending. They have global effects or specific effects and using these cards in a series of certain ways helps on the way to victory so losing these would consequentially make the rest of the game very hard to win.
There are special dice in the game that determine the attack and defense of attacks made on characters. For example if you are attacking for 4, you roll four dice and out of those dice that have an attack symbol on them it does that amount of damage. I roll four dice and only two have the attack symbol, that’s two damage towards my opponent. My opponent also rolls, they roll X amount of dice that is their defense on the character I’m attacking. Say they have a defense of 3, they roll three and get only one defend symbol, they block one of my incoming damage. Writing this out it sounds a little complicated but when you play it, the visuals make more sense. The dice themselves have an attack symbol, a defense symbol and a couple of blank sides which means nothing happens and they cannot be counted towards the roll. There are conditions throughout the game, spell cards and special abilities that the characters might have to boost attack or defense – the number of dice you roll at one time – so you do have to take into consideration the randomness of the dice when you attack.
As a newcomer to the game it felt like some of the Planeswalkers were a little one-sided but I’m sure that like any deck of MtG cards, a little experience with it can go a long way. Since all of the character’s and colors have their own way to play, red/fire are like glass cannons, blue favors spells, green has big hulking damage suckers and etc. This is all translated well into the game with the stats that the creatures have and the Planeswalker abilities.
Even though I have never played Dungeons and Dragons it bares a certain resemblance to it with the creature’s line of sight, height advantages and dice rolls for attack and defense as well as the board layout itself. All in all, even though with my demo with the game I was about to die in the next turn, it was a fun time and I can’t even fathom what a five person duel would look like. With the various ways to play the game and the range of how many people can play, with a fairly simple layout of rules and sequences, there is a definite bang for your buck here.
Arena of the Planeswalkers was released on July 1st of the this year, with the Battle for Zendikar Expansion set for a January 1st 2016 release.