Reviewed by: Herb Levy
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(R & R Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, 25 minutes; $19.95)
Did you ever wonder how rival Mages settle their disputes? Well, it’s not by sharing their feelings. In Spellcaster, a new game designed by Aaron Weissblum and Norman Woods, we discover that such disagreements are settled the only way they could be: through magical combat
In Spellcaster, each player is a powerful magic user and begins with 10 yellow energy crystals and 2 blue Sorcery Sapphires. Rather than a board, four “placards”, one each in blue, green, red and yellow (to match the card suits in the game) are placed between the players. The spell card deck is mixed and each player dealt a starting hand of 3.
Card colors indicate the type of effects each colored spell can do. Red spells are combat cards which will deplete the energy of your rival. Yellow cards have healing properties so you can reclaim energy lost. Blue cards get you more Sorcery Sapphires while Green cards can alter card effects, bending the rules in your favor.
Turns alternate and, on a turn, a player draws a card and can then take TWO actions. You may A) draw another card, B) play a card from your hand onto the display so that it is facing you and/or C) activate a card on one of the placards that is FACING you. Some cards (marked by a red “enchantment” symbol) do not require an action; they activate automatically each turn. When/if a new card of a color is played, it is placed ON TOP of the previous card. In this way, potential powers and control of the colors can shift.
Play continues until either one Mage has lost ALL his yellow crystals (and is defeated) or a Mage has amassed 15 Sorcery Sapphires (and wins). Alternatively, if a Mage cannot draw a card to start his turn, the game ends immediately and the Mage with the most Sapphires is crowned victor! (Tie? Then the Mage with the most yellow crystals wins!)
Although listed as for 2 to 4 players, Spellcaster casts a more powerful spell when played in two player mode. You are trying to create mini “engines of destruction” against your opponents. With two, you can exert more control and get caught up in the back and forth barrages of spells, all of which makes for a more entertaining experience. And the game plays quickly, another plus.
In many of his past designs, Aaron Weissblum has focused on lighter fare and here, with co-designer Norman Woods, he follows the same path. The difficulty level of Spellcaster is on a par with games such as Lost Cities (reviewed last issue) with simple rules and the ability to make interesting card combinations. Although the card stock quality is only adequate, give points to graphic designer Jenn Vargas, art director Kerem Beyit and card artist Suleyman Temiz for appealing art, for the use of easily differentiated colors and LARGE type on the cards for reading what the spells can do, proof positive that you CAN have quality artwork with readable type without sacrificing looks or play. And, speaking of points, the low price point on this game makes it an excellent buy too.
Spellcaster is a quality choice for a game night opener, game night closer or as a quick to play, enjoyable, game for a lunch time break. Sit back and let the game cast its spell upon you.
Summer 2015 GA Report Articles
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