The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Random thoughts on Magic Realm

Since every treasure appears in each game, the designer can plan for interactions between them. So you can have two treasures that are a key and chest, or map and destination. Whereas if you had a “Key” card in a game like Runebound or Talisman that only was useful if you drew another (specific) treasure, it would be a dead draw. It still could be, if your map to the Lost City got drawn a) on the other side of the board and b) the week after it was looted, but it may not be. And a few cards are likely to be out, since the Scholar won’t show up most games.

Some scenario games do this by having generic cards in the game and having the scenario define the meaning, or you could have a game with “core” cards (always the same thing) and “rare” cards (the few rare cards in the main deck let you draw from another, larger, deck). I do think Magic Realm’s consistent treasures allow for some nice features, and may even be needed to balance (somewhat) the characters, but I think a “core/rare” card deck may be more interesting. (Even strat-o-matic has a rare-events table! In a recent solitaire play a batted ball struck the mound).

Our games take 4-5h, with some setup (we’ve been leaving it out over the holiday between games). That’s two players, two characters each. Although our last game took <4 hours with setup and teardown, that’s because 3 characters died the second week and we didn’t restart, so the last two weeks took almost no time.

There are some clunky combats where one character is immune or useless. That doesn’t bother me — although I may eventually try the Advanced Combat rules — but I imagine that polarizes opinions about the game. Some characters are totally untroubled by situations that would destroy other characters. Since not all characters are equal, why should all monsters be?

I’ve finally won a game, with the Berserker. Selling the Sacred Grail to the Order for 50 Fame is huge, although I would have won without that bonus. I now see how slaughtering or hiring the Order — so that the leader is not available to buy the Grail — is one way to mess with people. Interestingly, the super amazing Amazon (see below) only squeaked by with +1 VP, but just one gold shy of a few more VP.

Right now I think both MK and MR can be played three ways: Co-operatively, Competitively but without PVP, Full competition. (There’s no distinction in the rules, but you could simply disallow PVP).

I found the following quote by the Designer (Richard Hamblen) describing his four requirements: Variety, Detail, Creating a Fantastic World, and Surprise. Surprise relates to my prior thoughts, in particular:

“A game that entertains like fantasy each time it is played must therefore be able to surprise its players with unforeseen developments even after they have played it many times and have become familiar with its mechanics.”

Full marks for that.

Magic Realm has a large number of house rules? I’m playing a few:

  • You can sell stuff at the end of the game (instead of having to take time to rush back to sell stuff). Better experience (no having to rush back to the valleys in the last few turns) and makes sense. (You could just sell it tomorrow). You can’t sell it and get the Fame/Notoriety Bonus for possessing it. Either/or.
  • Watchful Natives (so if you attack a group it can attack you back right away) and a ban on attacking friendly (and possibly even neutral) natives without a Casus Belli. The “Sell your stuff to them, kill them, and loot your stuff back” strategy is powerful and a-thematic. Exact rules TBD, but probably Protected Natives I (barring campaigns) from the variant list.
  • I’ve proposed a house rule to prevent you from being able to freely fling minions/controlled monsters at attacks/traps that curse instead of wound.
  • Right now I’m playing the character restarts (after death) have to bid on less VP per full week passed. (So, 4 points instead of 5 if one week has passed, etc). That seems better for learning games, but in my current game the information revealed after dying in a week was valuable in character selection. So that’s why experienced players increase the VP requirements for restarts.
  • The Knights’ Adjustment — (Both Knights start “Friendly” instead of “Allied” with the relevant groups).
  • I might play with serious wounds (if you take a wound that would exactly kill you based on your vulnerability), you don’t die but take a die roll (2d6, higher) of wounds. Also probably good for learning games.
  • I think I’m going to add caches, since it makes sense (you hide stuff to find later, instead of just abandoning it).

Characters played so far, in rough order of number of plays: White Knight (often), Berserker, Wood’s Girl, Amazon, Elf, Black Knight, Captain, Witch.

Spells Cast: Absorb Essence (on the Octopus), Broomstick, Control Bats, Make Whole, Peace with Nature, Talk to Wise Bird (wise, my ass). The TaoLing collapsed a roof.

Most amazing Combo (TaoLing): Belt of Strength combined with Garb of speed to turn any of the Amazon’s fight** chit into a T3 attack, which can basically kill anything. (I think Bats and the Octopus are still faster). Makes a Berserker feel inadequate, truly. Controlling six bats was pretty good, though.

Things I wish I’d known my first time and suggestions for new players.

  • Think of monster numbers as “Seconds.” Faster is better. (A T3 attack takes 3 seconds to resolve, so it goes before a H4 attack. If it’s attacking a H4/4 monster, your attack (T3) is faster than the monster’s maneuver (4) … so it hits. If it was an H4/3 monster, your attack is not faster than the mosnter’s defense, so you have to match maneuvers to hit.
  • Solitaire (with a single character) is challenging, but two or three characters teaming up can do amazing things.
  • Technically you could just deal out the Treasures within treasures, then shuffle the six site cards in the great treasures and start. Just deal out treasures into locations as needed. (Ditto spells). Start playing and finish setup as you go. That reminds me of a mantra I may not have mentioned on this site (at least, not recently)

Game First, Rules Later” — I’m personally one of those people who don’t mind getting a rule wrong or not knowing everything before I start. Here I Stand I learned despite an excruciating 2 hour rules explination. When the Bridge Club started, I showed up late. The club president (good guy, but over-enthusiastic) had corralled the new players and spent an hour explaining the game. Since I was late, the VP gave me five minutes and tossed me into a deal.

I don’t think any of the others showed up next week. (I would have, since I’m a gamer…)

The point of this is that if you are a “Rules First, Game Later” type  (instead of “GF;RL”) then MR is going to be much more difficult for you to get into.

I suspect I could teach MR and be started in 15 minutes before starting, using the following ideas:

  1. Praise the Maker, have the game setup before hand or do it while you explain. Pick your character from the lesser (easy) offerings. No Enchant phases or Hiring, but maybe an odd spell. Everyone puts one point in each (non-spell) VP category (or just ignore VPs and say that whoever gets the best story wins). Let them take Amazon, Berserker, White Knight, Woods Girl. I disagree with Steve McKnight (at my peril) by thinking that you should avoid giving new players the Dwarf and swordsman, because players won’t enjoy them as much (and the Swordsman’s bonus won’t work as well with the modified game).
  2. When explaining rules, only broad strokes, no minutiae.
  3. Go over the daytime phases (Move, Hide, Search, Trade,Rest, Alert,Follow). Cover prowling and blocking.
  4. Don’t spend more than a minute on combat. Just explain harm/vulnerability and undercutting vs matching. Don’t elaborate. Skip it for a few days. (Try to get your character into a reasonable combat and go over it slowly).
  5. Have multiple copies of useful charts.
  6. Play your turns normally, but new players get benefits.
    • For the first week let them free-form actions (as per Timeless Jewel). Point out situations where a player may be blocked or is walking into a deathtrap.
    • Second week have them write down their actions after their activation draw (so they don’t get to see their hide/search rolls, but do know which monsters are prowling, and their current locations).
    • Third week write down actions after monster roll but before activation draws (so they have to worry about prowls from other players moving monsters).
    • Fourth week normal.
    • If they are thinking about going to fight something (especially in week 1), let them play out a combat to see, then cancel it when they die horribly. This also teaches the combat rules.
  7. Mention spying and information secrecy when it first comes up.
  8. By all means, don’t feel compelled to play four weeks, but if you are playing a shorter game make sure you’ve gone to ‘normal’ turn order before the end.
  9. Maybe show a spell (from one of the artifacts/spell books) and explain how reading runes works.  Awakened spells are fun, because anyone can cast them. Maybe seed the deck with only generally useful spells, discarding weird/useless spells.  The first time it comes up you can go over spells quickly, and just summarize what it can do.


Written by taogaming

November 27, 2016 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Magic Realm, Ramblings

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