Game Review:  Mage Wars

Mage Wars is the best simulation of one on one combat between two spellcasters!

A deck builder game, but there are no decks.

A figurine battle game, but there are no figures.

With just the right amount of chance built into spell damage, it is truly a tactical battlefield game for casters of every kind!

Game Review: Mage Wars

What is Mage Wars?

Mage Wars is a game that pits one caster against another.  All of the casters are called Mages, but the base set has four classes you can choose from:
  1. Beastmaster
  2. Priestess
  3. Warlock
  4. Wizard

Expansions add these additional classes:

  1. Druid
  2. Necromancer
  3. Warlock variant
  4. Warlord
  5. Priest variant
  6. Beastmaster variant
  7. Paladin
  8. Siren
  9. Forcemaster

In addition to Mage classes, there are:

Six Primary Schools of Magic:

  1. Dark (think demons, undead, evil magic)
  2. Mind (illusions, telepathy)
  3. Holy (healing, cleansing)
  4. Arcane (direct mana manipulation)
  5. Nature (animals, plants)
  6. War (physical combat oriented)

…and the Four Elemental Schools of Magic.

Combat is accomplished with spells and the game has hundreds of different cards which are all spells.  They break down into the following types:

  • Equipment (summoning): enhance Mage abilities
  • Attacks:  direct damage or effects like pushing enemies
  • Incantations:  temporary effects like healing
  • Creatures:  summon monsters or allies
  • Conjurations:  bring objects into game such as walls
  • Enchantments: can buff or debuff friend or enemies

Each Mage has a certain amount of life, mana, and channeling.  When your life is gone, you are dead.  You can directly target a mage or the mage’s creatures.  Mana is the magical energy needed to cast spells.  Channeling is how much mana you add to your pool each round.  

Spells have a casting range, and you battle in an arena that is divided into zones.  Line of sight is required and can be blocked by walls, mist, etc.  There are rules for hindrance, flying, speed of movement, and more that make this into a tactical board game, rather than just a card spell game.

Quick Cast & Creature Markers

How do you build a spellbook in Mage Wars?

  • Each Mage has a set number of points to work with
  • Some spells are restricted to that Mage class or school of magic only
  • Each spell has a level and you use up an equal amount of points to put it in your book
  • If a spell is not from your school of magic it doubles the cost
  • Some spells have one or more elemental schools in addition to the primary schools
  • Epic spells are so difficult, you can only have one of each in your spellbook
  • Normal spells are limited to four per spellbook
  • Novice spells are so simple that any mage can have them in a spellbook for only 1 point

How difficult is it to learn and play Mage Wars and how long are the battles?

  • Game mechanics are easy to learn, especially if you’ve played other card-based combat games.
  • If you use a standard spell deck build it takes five minutes to set up.
  • If you customize a deck, that can be a game in itself and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours!
  • Battles are supposed to last two hours or less, but if you are unfamiliar with the hundreds of traits, abilities, conditions, etc in the codex, then you have to look it up as you go.
Warlock spells prepped and ready to nuke zones with fire!

Why should you play Mage Wars?

Mage Wars is how I imagined that caster battles should be!  You really control your fate from choosing your class to building your spell book to selecting the spells each round.  You have control over how much mana you use and saving it allows you more options the next round.  By using artifacts and spawn points, it is possible to cast more than the normal two spells per round.  You could even cast five or more if you have the mana!  

No two games are the same, and even though there is an element of luck (you roll damage dice), overall the winner is usually strategy!  Mage Wars is great because as soon as you lose, you are thinking about how to better tune your spellbook, or which spell would have made a difference.  Did you refuse to put a big heal spell in your book because it was not in your class or school of magic?  When you lost did you have a ton of spells still in your book, unused…so you could have traded something for a heal?

Second-guessing your choices is what makes the next game fun.  The more you play, the faster the games go, and the more you want to try other classes and schools and ultimately, new spell combinations.

If you have ever wanted to be a mage, wizard, sorcerer, etc. you should try Mage Wars!

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. What is your favorite deck based game?
  2. What is your favorite game for two people?
  3. Have you ever played Mage Wars and if so, what was your favorite Class?

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