THE MAGNIFICENT

Reviewed by Robert Marti

THE MAGNIFICENT (Aporta Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, 60-90 minutes; $60)

 

Last time we explored Trickerion, a heavy Euro-style game where you compete to become the greatest magician in the City of Magoria.  This issue we will look at another Euro-style game built around the theme of magic.  In The Magnificent, designed by Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby, players travel across the land to gather resources and build out their camps, so they can recruit the greatest magicians and illusionists to perform.  And the player who attracts the biggest crowds (sells the most tickets) is the winner.  If this sounds like Trickerion, you are correct.  From an end goal perspective, these games sound very similar, but they are very different games, and there may be room on your shelves for both.

How does it play? 

The Magnificent is played over three rounds with each player taking four turns per round.  On their turn, each player will draft a die from a pool of dice that are rolled at the beginning of each round.  The number of dice available depends on the number of players, and the dice come in three colors (orange, purple, and green) with one wild die (clear) that can act as any color.  The drafted dice are played onto one of four Master Cards and enable the players to activate the card bonus and take one of the following three core actions: 

  1. Travel – allows you to gather resources (gems) and tents. Gems can be used to “power up” your dice to make your actions more powerful.  Gems are also needed to complete some shows, and can be used to fill in gaps on your board at the end of the game.  Tents are needed to perform shows.  Each player board contains one default tent, but if you want to perform multiple shows in one turn you will need additional tents.  Traveling will get you those tents. 
  2. Build – allows you to place camp tiles on your player board. Each player board has empty “camp” space, which is divided up into nine sections on an 8×11 grid.  Camp tiles are polyomino pieces, and are needed to perform shows.  As the tiles are laid out on the board, they can cover squares that give you additional bonuses.  But beware – after you place the first tile, each subsequent tile must be touching another tile when it is laid. 
  3. Perform – allows you to perform a show. At the beginning of the game, each player is given one “starter” performer poster.  To perform this show, you must place this poster on a tent, and you must also have the required camp tiles and gems for that performer.  If you want to perform multiple shows, you need multiple posters, multiple tents, and enough tiles/gems for each show (Note: once a tile is used for one show, it cannot be reused for another show during the same performance).  Performing shows will gain you tickets, which are the equivalent to victory points in The Magnificent. 

Actions are governed by the strength of the die that was drafter; the higher the die, the more that you can do with each action (that is, the farther you can travel, the more tiles you can place, the more shows you can perform).  Dice can be powered up through various mechanisms, including bonuses on the Master Cards and/or Trainer Tiles and gems.  Additionally, on subsequent turns if you draft the same color dice, their pips can be combined to give you even more powerful turns.  But beware, at the end of the round, you must pay coins equal to the combined strength of your highest colored dice plus any clear dice you drafted.

Performing is a major way to earn tickets (points); Master Cards is another.  At the start of the game, each player gains four Master Cards.  For beginners they recommend four starter Master Cards for each different player board.  As you gain experience with the game, they recommend a drafting strategy (you are dealt five cards and pick four to keep).  Each Master Card has an immediate effect (bonus) that is activated when a drafted dice is placed on it.  Additionally, each Master Card has an end-of-round bonus based on specific criteria.  For example, one Master Card gives 3 tickets (points) for each coin you have up to a maximum of 7 coins, so if you have 7 coins after paying for your dice, you would score 21 tickets.  Therefore, drafting and selecting Master Cards is one of the key strategies to winning the game.  There is, of course, a caveat.  Once you score a Master Card, it is removed from the game.  To replace the card that is lost, at the end of each round, players select a new Master Card from a display on the main board.  You will know which Master Cards are available each round, so you can build a strategy around one of the cards on display instead of the ones in your hand because you will not pick the Master Card to score until you have drafted your fifth card.  How do you pick these cards?  The order of selection is based on who moved highest on the performance track.  If no one performs in the round, then the last player in turn order gets first pick of the four new Master Cards.  NOTE:  There have been games where a Master Card in the display was easier for me to achieve than one in my hand, so I made sure I performed enough shows to grab this card, and then scored this card at the end of the round.  At the end of the game, you will score one Master Card normally, and then you will score the remaining four cards in your hand and receive half their value – so, even though you are building your strategy to score one card each turn, you also want to maximize your points for every card in your hand.

The final place where players can score lots of points is within their camps.  As mentioned above, each player board provides a camp grid that is broken up into nine sections, and for every section that is completely covered by camp tiles (or filled in with gems that were left over at the end of the game), you will score 4 points – so, if you completely fill in your camp, it will be worth 36 points at the end of the game. 

There is one additional set of components that we should mention:  the Trainers and Trainer Tiles.  At the start of the game, each player is given a trainer (a worker) and a Trainer Tile (actually, you select one from a choice of two).  During the game, there are multiple ways to acquire additional trainers, and you will also get a new Trainer Tile when you select your Master Card at the end of the round (they come as a matched set).  Trainer Tiles allow you to modify an action, such as perform one more show than what your power allows, place a camp tile of a different color than your chosen die, travel in a different direction on the travel wheel, etc.  By placing one or more Trainers on a Training Tile, you can activate these modifiers, and because you only have 12 turns, you really need every advantage to “power” up your actions as you can get. 

Components:

The Magnificent has an art deco feel with dark main and player boards and vibrant colored dice and tiles.  It is probably not for everyone, but I love its look and feel.  The main board is broken into six main areas:

  1. Main Display – this area displays the Master Cards and Trainer Tiles that will be available for selection at the end of the round.
  2. Travel Area – this area displays the three travel circles (one for each color: orange, purple, and green) and three wagons. Players can move the wagons to collect gems and tents. 
  3. Performance Track – this area displays the turn order and the number of shows you can perform for a given turn. The higher you move up the track, the more shows you can perform.  Your height on the performance track will also determine when you get to pick a new Master Card and Trainer Tile at the end of the round. 
  4. Main Tent – this area displays the dice that can be drafted during the round. It is also where you will store your Trainers after they have been used.  After you have used a Trainer, they are moved from the Trainer Tile and placed here until the end of the round.  This ensures that the common Trainer Tiles are free to every player, or that you can reuse the same Trainer Tile multiple times during a round (if you have enough Trainers). 
  5. Poster Display – this area displays the magicians available to be recruited. There are four posters available each round, and as one gets selected, you immediately replace it with a new one. 
  6. Trainer Tiles – this area provides five trainer tiles that can be used by any player.

The player boards contain three primary areas:  the camp grid where you place your cmp tiles, the slots for your personal Trainer Tiles, and the storage area for your gems.  You can only hold four gems of each color, and any additional gems you should get are converted into money. 

The game also provide a nice storage solution for holding all of the camp tiles, gems, and coins.  But, be careful storing this game vertically.  I have opened mine several times to find gems, tiles, and coins scattered within the storage area as the lid would not stay snapped shut. 

Setup:

At the beginning of the game, there is a recommended setup for beginners and I would recommend using this setup until you become more familiar with the game.  But as you learn how the Master Cards work, you will want to move to the drafting option as it allows you to build a better end of game scoring strategy.  Also, the player boards have two sides:  A and B.  The A sides are all symmetrical (sort of). Each player will have the same starting resources and the bonuses on the camp grid are the same (although they are not in the same places).  On the B side, the camp bonuses are the same but the starting resources are very different, so as your group gets more and more familiar with the game, this will give you a good way to shake things up! 

On the main board, you will shuffle and build the Master Card, Trainer Tile, and Performance Poster stacks, as well as shuffle and place the tent tiles on the travel circle.  These will offer a lot of variability to the game.  Tents offer additional coin and/or ticket bonuses for shows performed on them, so where these get placed may alter your traveling plans.  If you need a tent that offer a 7 ticket bonus, it may only be available on the orange circle.  But overall, this game sets up very quickly, and for groups who like to play multiple games in a row, resetting this one is also very quick. 

Direct comparison to Trickerion:

So, how does this one compare to Trickerion?  Which would I recommend that you get?  That is difficult for me to answer as both games are in my Top 5, so rather than try to sway you one way or the other, I thought it might be better to just compare the two and let each of you make up your own decisions based on what you like and look for in a game.

Category

Trickerion

The Magnificent

BGG Weight

4.21

3.17

Time to Play

60-180 minute

60-90 minutes

Setup Time

Can be long

Fairly quick

Player Count

2-4 (solo with expansion)

1-4 (solo built in)

Theme

Dripping with theme

It is kind of pasted on

Game Play

This will melt your brain

Thinky, but fun and fast

Interaction

Can be intense/cutthroat

Minimal/more MP solo

Primary Mechanism

Worker Placement

Dice Drafting

Components

Amazing

Very good too

Expansions

Several

None yet

Size

Huge

Average

Both games are super Euro-style games.  Trickerion is the bigger, heavier game, but The Magnificent offers a lot of tough choices and plays much faster.  At higher player counts, I can see Trickerion being a 3 hour or more game, whereas I think The Magnificent would play in half that time.  And that is probably the most critical differentiator – what type of game are you looking for?  A long, very heavy game, or something just a bit lighter (but not too light) that plays faster and “may” be easier to teach.  Trickerion does require some investment to learn, and not all players/groups want to put in that kind of time.  If I am honest, Trickerion is probably my number one game in my collection, but I can easily see myself playing The Magnificent more times as it is so much easier and faster to play. 

Summary: 

The Magnificent came out of nowhere for me.  My wife asked me for a list of games I wanted for Christmas, and so I provided her one.  It had 6 games on it:  Barrage, Black Angel, Brass Birmingham, Expedition to Newdale, Newton, and Trisgmegistus.  Then one Christmas morning, she handed me a package and said, “I found you a game all on my own, and it plays solo.”  I smiled and thought to myself, I hope she has not bought me a game I already have, but no, it was The Magnificent.  I knew nothing about this game, and being so new to the hobby, I was unfamiliar with the designers.  But after one play, I was completely blown away with this one.  I quickly played five games and had to force myself to put it away so I could make time for the other new games I received as presents. – – – – – – – – – Robert Marti


Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

 

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