Magi-Nation Playtest Review by John Peralta on 13/02/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A card game everyone should be playing.
Author: Dan Tibbles and others
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: Interactive Imagination
Page count: n/a
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by John Peralta on 13/02/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Anime
In Magi-Nation Duel each player becomes a Magi who battles other Magi for control of the Moonlands, the universe in which the game takes place. At first look the game seems to share many similarities with other collectable card games but with actual game play it becomes obvious that this is much more than another card game clone.
Magi-Nation can be played between two or more people. Each player will need her own deck. Separate from the deck, each player has 3 magi cards representing the wizards he will use to battle his opponent. Magi-Nation has regions similar in many ways to Legend of the Five Rings clanís. Each Magi originates from a different region. As such each Magi is particularly adept at using cards and strategies for that region. Some generic artifacts exist which can be used by Magi from any region. If a Magi wants to use a spell or summon a creature from a region other than her own there is a regional penalty in energy needed to play that card. Even with this penalty multi-region decks are common and can be every bit as competitive, if not more so, than a single region deck. Each deck must have at least 40 cards, with a maximum of three copies of each card per deck. Before the game begins each person chooses the order in which each of the three Magi will appear during the course of the game.
To begin, the player to roll highest on a six sided die chooses his first Magi. Each Magi produces a certain amount of starting energy when he comes into play and a lesser amount each turn thereafter. This simple feature completely does away with the need for Ďenergy cardsí like land in Magic or Holdings in L5R. You use this energy to pay for cards and to produce effects. The game continues with each person casting spells, using relics, playing creatures and attacking each otherís creatures and Magi. To win the game you have to defeat all your opponentsí creatures and Magi.
Key to almost every card is energy. Energy is what a Magi produces each turn to pay for cards. It also represents the strength of that card as well as how much punishment it can take before being discarded. Energy is also what is used to pay for powers printed on that card.
Magi Ė Magi do more than produce energy they also provide you with a partial starting hand. Most Magi list two or three cards, which may be taken from your deck and used as part of your opening hand. This helps in preventing bad shuffles or bad starting hands. On the magi card are also printed powers and effects (if any) that that Magi may have while its in play.
Creatures Ė Creatures are the primary tools Magi use to defeat their opponents. Each creature has a cost printed on the card. To play a creature you transfer that much energy from your Magi to the creature. If the creature is from a different region than the Magi it cost one additional energy to play that card.
The energy transferred represents the offensive as well as defensive capabilities of the creature. Energy points are used if that creature wants to use any of the powers printed on the creature card.
Relics Ė Relics are items used by your Magi to help him out in the battles against your opponents. Some augment your creatures others help your Magi produce energy. Most cost nothing to play (0 energy cost). The only thing to keep in mind is that a Magi can only play relics from his or her region as well as universal relics.
Spells Ė Spells perform a wide variety of functions. They are generally one-use cards that help you or hinder your opponent, everything from discarding target creatures to looking at your opponentís hand. Costs to cast these cards vary.
Each person goes thru the entire turn sequence before ceding the board to the next player. Energize Powers/Relics/Spells Attack Play New Creatures Powers/Relics/Spells Draw
Energize Ė At the beginning of every turn your active Magi produces energy according to the energize rate printed on the card. This will be used to play creatures, relics, spells and powers.
Powers/Relics/ Spells Ė At this point, depending on what cards you have in play and what cards you hold in your hand you can play relics, spells or powers. Relics and spells are always played from your hand and take effect immediately. Powers are special abilities printed on cards already in play and cost a certain amount of energy to use.
If a power is used from a creature card the cost to use that power is paid from the energy of that creature, not the Magi. If the power comes from a Magi or Relic, the cost is paid for by the Magi.
Attack Ė Attacks are simple enough. Choose one of your creatures and one of your opponentís creatures. Each creature removes energy tokens equal to the energy of the opposite creature. This represents the damage taken from the battle. If a creature is reduced to zero energy he is discarded. If your opponent has no creatures in play you can attack his Magi directly.
Play New Creatures Ė After the attack phase is complete you can deploy new creatures. The cost to play new creatures is the same as the creatures starting energy. Transfer energy from your Magi to the new creature when it is played. You can play as many creatures as you have energy for keeping in mind that all cost must be paid for from your Magi.
This phase is identical to the first P/R/S phase. The only thing to point out here is the importance this phase has in strategy. Cards that you did not have in play during the first P/R/S phase might be in play now and as a result change the strategy of the turn and, as a result, the game. A lot can happen in a turn!
Draw Ė Draw two cards. There is no limit to the number of cards you can have in your hand. If the draw pile is exhausted reshuffle your discards and make them your new draw pile.
What you have read so far are most of the rules. Except for a few situational details you know how to play Magi-Nation just by reading this review. This proves how simple the game is to play. However, much like chess itís not the simplicity of the rules that make it a good game itís the strategy when playing it. Out of all the collectable card games I have played (many), Magi-Nation ranks among the best when it comes to tactical challenge and strategic depth. As a player you are constantly looking for the best way to have your cards interact. Magi-Nation is a game of combos if I ever saw one.
Energy efficiency is crucial to winning the game. Often times you have enough energy to play several cards but playing cards for the sake of having more creatures on the board is not always a winning strategy. Spells that discard your opponentsí creatures are common and everyone plays them. In addition many creatures perform better in concert with other creatures making them a true force to be reckoned with once in play.
Relics can and do play a key role in many decks. The fact that they are often free to play (0 energy cost) and very powerful only adds to their appeal. At the same time stacking your deck with relics will leave you susceptible to relic destruction cards not to mention fatten you deck beyond the required minimum of 40 cards.
Most decks try to stay as close to 40 cards as possible. Even though you can recycle your discards into a new deck, this happens only about once a game. Some extremely tuned decks (like the recent world champion deck played at Gen Con) are designed to cycle through for specific cards. The most I saw that happen was 3 times during one game.
As I mentioned before card synergy plays a big part in every Magi-Nation game. In every game Iíve played there have been decision about how best to proceed during each turn. The best way to proceed only becomes obvious with experience. Most creatures have Powers than can help you use your energy more efficiently. As precious as a resource as it is, energy cannot be wasted on just playing the biggest creature to the board. Often the small creature can be quite a titan all on itís own if it has enough energy to use itís powers. In addition there are many spells, relics, powers and effects that transfer energy from one creature to another. This can be a very important to consider as the small one point creature your opponent just played can, with a simple power and/or effect become a five or ten point behemoth in less than a turn.
Magi selection is important. The magi dictates your basic region, starting energy, energize rate, starting hand as well as the effects and powers printed on the magi card. The sequence in which you play your magi is also important as it often sets the tone of your deck. For example some like to start off strong, and then try to maintain their momentum throughout the rest of the game. On the other hand the deck that won the world championship had its first two Magi die on the first and second turn. They were used solely to set up the third Magi.
Itís important to note how clever the designers are to require three Magi per deck. First of all, it guarantees that there wonít be any first turn wins in the game. At the very least a game will run for three turns per player. Second, once a Magi and his creatures are eliminated that player starts the next turn with a new fully energized Magi and possibly a starting set of cards. This keeps the game interesting in that rarely will a person be run over by the opposite player from beginning to end. Both sides have at least 3 chances during the game to start fresh.
The designers are acutely aware of power cards and their affects on the tournament environment. In fact each new set of cards introduces new strategies and changes existing ones.
The base set and the first two expansions (Awakening and Dreamís End) include a total of 8 regions: Cald (fire), Arderial (air), Orothe (water), Naroom (forests), Underneath (earth), Core (evil), Kybarís Teeth, (mountains) and Weave (grasslands). Each plays differently. Very differently. Itís not uncommon to find competitive decks using cards from two or even three different regions. This keeps the game interesting and challenging. More expansions are, of course, planned for the future with the next regions being Bograth (swamp) and Paradwyn (jungle).
The designers have kept card collectors in mind. About one in five boosters contain a foil and every card is labeled for rarity. Foil cards are found in a common slot of a booster so in essence one in five boosters contain two rares! The foils are copies of the same cards in the set thus avoiding the mistake of other games wherein they may be slightly more powerful or just exclusively foil cards.
The artwork is fantastic. Perfectly suited to the game and remarkably consistent throughout. From what I understand most of the art is done by the same 3 or 4 people all of which have great vision for where to take the game. All of the art has a feel of pseudo-Manga blended with cute fuzzy creatures. For examples, I encourage you to go to the web site where they have scans of all the cards.
The game has active support, a great web site (www.magi-nation.com), an active discussion list and great storyline tournaments. Top prize at Gen Con was about $2,500.00.
On the downside, like many other card games, Magi-Nation is not cheap. I bought at least one starter of each region and over two booster boxes of the base set and didnít complete the set. With Awakenings and Dreamís End, the first and second expansions respectively, I didnít fare much better after a box of boosters and a couple starters. I did get most of the cards for all the sets but not all. The smart thing to do is to trade for the cards you want. Some people concentrate on two or three specific regions and trade all their other cards. This allows them to decrease costs and become very proficient with their selected regions.
On the whole there are too many rares per set making it a challenge to find a couple of highly sought after cards. Fortunately there arenít too many hot rare cards. Sufficient to make you want to buy another pack but not so many so as to discourage you from buying into the game, certainly not enough to prevent one from creating a competitive deck.
In a market that is saturated with card games, Magi-Nation has done a good job of making a name for itself. Although it can be difficult to find a person to play against, I expect its popularity only to grow.
Magi-Nation is a fun game with solid rules and tremendous strategic depth. Easy to learn and quick to play, the game is perfect for people just starting out in the hobby as well as challenging enough for the most experienced of card gamers. The cards look great and are highly collectable. With a variety of strategies and a minimum of power cards there is little to dislike about the game. If youíre a card player and the cost of card games hasnít bothered you yet, you should give it a try. You wonít be disappointed.