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White Wedding – Love Letter review

So, last weekend it was my fifth wedding anniversary, celebrated with friends and cake – the best way, of course. In addition, a few games were played that included Love Letter, but not the one that’s on general release. No, this one is the one that AEG reserve for weddings, a special edition to celebrate lovely things, complete with the Princess in her white gown and custom white Love Letter bag. I begged and pleaded and the lovely folks at AEG eventually gave in. However, while playing it struck me that we’d never had The Judge’s take on the game – so I asked him what he thought.

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Love Letter has been heralded as the game that truly popularised the ‘micro-game’ – that being a fully functioning, ‘gamerly’ game with very few components. I think those plaudits are fair – Love Letter, with its 16 cards and a small handful of red cubes, has indeed raised awareness of this blossoming genre and has, for many people, made them think about how much fun you can cram into a clean and simple game, exploiting a single, simple mechanism.

Many other reviews have attempted to put Love Letter in an historical context – examining its place in the gaming world and examining the ripples it has caused since launching to widespread acclaim in 2012. I’m not going to do that however. I will examine Love Letter in a vacuum and give you my opinion as to how good the game actually is. So with that lengthy preamble…

Love is in the air! The princess is dealing with depression resulting from her mother being imprisoned. What could lift her mood? How about a love letter from a potential suitor? Well that’s where this game begins.

This storyline comes from the AEG Tempest universe – an overarching narrative that provides a theme for several very mechanically different designs. The idea of linking these titles together is a good one – hoping to create a sense of investment in the world and the characters that carries over from game to game. Ultimately, though, and despite an honest try I don’t think the project has worked. In fact, the lukewarm reaction to many of the first wave of titles has actually made me less interested in future games in the series. Nevertheless, Love Letter has become an enormous successful with a particularly unusual theme.

The overall goal is to deliver a perfumed note to a member of the royal family – certainly somewhat unique in a world dominated by fantasy / sci-fi / zombie games. To do this you will employ Guards, Handmaidens, the King and even the Princess herself to deliver your note and discard those of the other players. Except that the whole theme is poppycock and doesn’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny – very much the epitome of ‘pasted on’. It’s a good job, then, that the mechanisms are pretty robust.

Players begin with a hand of one card, which represents one of the members of the court. On their turn, they draw a second card, then play one. The special rule triggered by this character will affect one or more of the other players – perhaps forcing them to reveal their hand, or letting you guess the card of an opponent to eliminate them. Once the draw pile is empty the player with the highest value card in their hand will win. [Or last person standing! – Michael]

The entire deck of 16 contains only 8 different characters, so as cards are used and discarded, the players around the table can deduce what is left and the likelihood that they have the highest ranked card – and will perhaps try to play the deck out. If not, they must try to eliminate the other players to become the winner.

Simple rules. Very easy to teach. Very quick running time. BUT… is their enough game to bother with? YES! But only just.

Love Letter is a very simple deduction game with a huge slice of luck. Knowing what your opponents have in their hand and trying to work this out whilst bluffing and disguising what you may be holding is the core mechanism and 90% of the fun of the game – and this remains good fun for about ten minutes – which is almost exactly the running time for a single game. Unlike purer deduction games, luck does plays a major part in the game flow. The swings and arrows of a player making a fluke guess and eliminating you from the round IS frustrating, and like receiving a knife-edged chop across the chest (only the wrestlers amongst us will understand this reference, but sod the rest of you) it stings, but only for a few seconds. [More Ric Flair references please – Michael]

I will happily play a round or two of Love Letter between larger portions of ‘proper’ games. If that sounds elitist or snobbish, then so be it, but you’re reading this to hear my opinion, and this is a micro game, with a micro running time, and a micro amount of fun. But sometimes, that is just enough.

Love Letter was designed by Seiji Kanai and is currently available from AEG in several different editions, the latest being the Legend of the Five Rings. There’s also an upcoming Munchkin one, due for release later in the year. Between two and four people can play with games taking no more than ten to fifteen minutes. Oh, and should you want to get a copy of the Wedding version, click this link! Oh, and don’t forget to follow everyone’s favourite games writer / wrestler on Twitter: @Judge1979

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Shifting Sands – Valley of the Kings review

VotK Box

Since the arrival of Dominion and the ensuing wave of deckbuilders, the genre has quickly become one of the most popular around. They boast a longevity that many other game types just can’t match – even a base set of Dominion will last the average group of gamers a lifetime thanks to the impressive amount of combinations that you can make from the different card groups. The expansions for games Thunderstone increase the amount of layouts to a ridiculous degree, as well as making the boxes even heavier. I defy anyone to lift my Thunderstone Advance set without ruining their back (in fact, that may be one of the contributing factors to my current spinal problems…) so wouldn’t it be lovely to have a quality deckbuilder that you could fit in your pocket? A propos of nothing, what’s this I find upon my desk? Why, it’s a copy of Valley of the Kings from AEG! How very fortuitous!

Another release in AEG’s small box line, Valley of the Kings aims to do the whole deckbuilding thing in one-hundred (ish) cards while still providing a quality gameplay experience – and I’m delighted to say that it does incredibly well. As you’d expect from the title it’s set in Ancient Egypt, and though theme is never really the strongest part of any game in this genre there’s a few things in VotK that play up to this world of tombs and mummies. The idea behind the game is that you and your opposition are Egyptian nobles who seemingly have one foot in the grave, so they need to be looking to make their afterlives as comfortable as possible. To do so you’ll need to pack out your tomb with as many luxuries as possible by collecting sets of artifacts, with larger sets scoring more points. As is so often the way, the highest scorer will be victorious.

For the uninitiated, here’s deckbuilding for beginners: Starting with a hand of trash cards (called Level I cards here), you’ll draw from an ever recycling deck in order to get gold. This will be spent to pull in new cards that are ‘better’ – worth more gold, generally. Some cards may have special abilities on them which can be used to affect your actions rather than be used for their gold value, so decisions will need to be made. Every time your turn is over, the cards you’ve used and bought go to your discard pile. When you need to draw from your deck and done have enough cards, you shuffle your discards and make a new draw pile. Some cards will allow you to get rid of others, thinning out your deck and ensuring that your stronger, more valuable cards come around more often. It’s a beautiful engine for a game, and it’s done very well here.

Valley of the Kings does simplify the genre a little, but not to its detriment. Rather than having stacks and stacks of different cards, you only get to select from a line of three when your turn comes around. You’ll find a really interesting and unique method of laying out the cards in VotK – they’re placed in a pyramid formation with the available three on the bottom line, two above them and one on the top – and players actually have an element of control over getting the cards into that lower level. Called the ‘Crumbling Pyramid’ in the instructions, cards drop down a level when one is bought or moved out of the way; so if you want the card thats on the right on the middle level, you’ll need to buy either the middle or right cards on the lower level first, allowing the one you want to drop into that space immediately. It’s a really interesting method of working out your forward planning, though with a higher player count you won’t often have the same line-up of cards available by the time the game gets back around to you.

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So, if the Middle Sarcophagus in the bottom row is bought (for 4 Gold), either the Book or Statue drop into it’s place, with the Amulet then falling into the middle row and a new card taking its place. If the Ka Figurine is bought, the Book of Gates would fall, followed by the Amulet. Simple once you get it!

 

At the end of your turn, you get to ‘Entomb’ a card – in other words, set it aside for scoring when the game ends. Doing so is an important decision… do you stash a powerful card away in order to protect it, or do you leave it out to use during future rounds with the possibility of you not getting the chance to put it in the tomb before the game ends? With only Entombed cards counting towards your score, it’s a tough call!

As mentioned, you’re looking to collect unique sets of items in order to score points – having the same items (a pair of ‘Statues of Anubis’, for example) don’t count towards your end total. Each set is colour coded and the higher the amount you have, the larger your score will be – the numbers go up in squares, so having two unique cards of the same colour brings in 4 points while seven (making up an entire set) is a huge 49, though any game where that happens will be a rare one indeed. Some cards also have a small points value that should be added to get your final total. It’s a simple scoring system that means you can total up your points pretty swiftly once the game’s over and you’ve laid out your sets. In fact, it feels like everything in Valley of the Kings has been done to make your life easy – apart from when you’re playing, of course. Despite coming in a small box, this is a game that’s a spiteful as it is quick to play. Stealing cards from the pyramid, moving them around to put them out of reach of your fellow nobles… screwing with your opponents through manipulation of the pyramid is encouraged, which is surprising in a game from a genre that is often accused of having its fair share multiplayer solitaire efforts.

In short, Valley of the Kings is a wonderful little thing. It manages to present the whole deckbuilding thing to you with a tiny table footprint and a small box, but would it replace the copies of Dominion, Thunderstone Advance or (ahem) Tanto Cuore that sit in my collection? No, but it certainly deserves a place on the shelf as a fantastic accompaniment. AEG are doing some great stuff with this new small box line, and I hope that they continue to do so in future. Designer Tom Cleaver has shown that you don’t need a huge box to present a game that has a big feel to it and he’s done an excellent job within the constraints presented to him. I look forward to seeing what he and other designers come up with for future releases in this line.

Valley of the Kings was released in 2014 by AEG. Designed by Tom Cleaver with art by Banu Andaru, between two and four players can indulge in being Ancient Egyptians through the medium of cards. Games will take you around thirty minutes (including setup and breakdown) and a copy will set you back around £15 from the folks at Gameslore. Get yourself a copy today and keep it in your gaming travel bag!

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Storytellers – Romance of the Nine Empires and Tales of the Arabian Nights reviews

Emma returns with a two-fer, kicking ass and taking notes on AEG’s Romance of the Nine Empires and Tales of the Arabian Nights from Z-Man Games. One comes out really well! The other… less so.

RNE Cover

It’s funny how synchronicity creeps up in you sometimes. In the past few weeks, I’ve played two games involving lots of words and slightly ambiguous mechanics that see you thrust into a sprawling fantasy world of dense backstory and frequent anachronism, where you must not only fight your friends, but seek glory and adventure in order to win. The main difference is, one of them was good.

First up, Romance of the Nine Empires (R9E from here on out, since that is a surprisingly long name to type) is the new (ish) CCG-but-not from AEG, and clearly takes a lot from their other foray into the CCG market, Legend of the Five Rings (hereafter L5R, or “you know, the one that isn’t Magic”). “Newish, Emma?” you say, “It clearly says ‘15th Anniversary Edition’ on the box!” You’re right, but stop talking to my reviews. It’s weird. The truth is, this is a game based on a game in a film based on a game based on L5R, and comes bundled with all the fictional backstory it got in the film, a long-running tale of tournaments and aliens and time-displaced soldiers that lets the first edition of the physical game simultaneously be the 15th anniversary. Now, if you think this sounds needlessly convoluted and confusing, you’re basically right – the game’s (enormous) rulebook sticks to the made-up history throughout apart from one small paragraph, making any sane player wonder if there’s an older, entry-level version of the game available.

While this conceit isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker in itself (I play Risk Legacy, I love alternate history), it starts to really grate when it gets in the way of the rules – for example, in the tiny paragraph explaining ability keywords (a vital piece of information hinted at nowhere else), it states that while most keywords have no in-game meaning (fair enough), some have game-changing effects not mentioned on the cards (sigh) and some are only included to ensure compatibility with the Second Edition of the game (an edition which, I hasten to remind you, does not exist). Around this point, you start to wonder if the designers were just deliberately messing with their players, and that impression grows as you start trying to learn the game. As I touched upon earlier, the rulebook is unhelpfully written at best, but the game also comes with a simplified ‘Read This First!” booklet, designed to get you set up and playing in minutes. Allegedly. It swiftly becomes clear that this actually means ‘play a dozen fractions of an actual game over the next few days of your life while you slowly wonder why you ever decided to play this game’. And I’m not exaggerating (much): not only does the quickstart booklet contain frequent references back to the rulebook, its official stance on learning the game is that players should play five training games in a row, introducing new cards and new rules each time. And I tried to do this, I really did.

And you know how far I got? Half a game.

We started playing with the best will in the world, but the rulebook was beginning to put us off within the first turn. And then we got to the combat rules, and after a solid half-hour of staring at the rulebook, willing it to reform into actual sentences and explain what the hell “declaring immunity” actually meant, the seven decks of cards, two rulebooks at 83 billion tiny tokens were back in the box and on a train headed for Siberia. (We really need to find a new way to dispose of bad games, this is getting expensive.)

TAN Cover

The other game was…well, it wasn’t R9E, which is a massive advantage to begin with. Instead, it was the 2nd edition of Z-Man’s polarising Tales of the Arabian Nights, and, as you can probably guess if you read my introduction and can count to two, I liked it. In fact, I would go further than that – it’s easily one of my top 10 games ever. In Arabian Nights, you play characters from the titular collection of stories, ranging from the well-known (Aladdin, Sinbad) to the well-known-but-not-in-a-cartoon (Ali Baba, Scheherazade) to the ‘who?’ (Zumurrud, Ma’aruf), who travel around a beautifully-illustrated map of Asia, Africa and Europe, getting into scrapes and hoping to be the first to collect their target of Story and Destiny points (earned by getting into scrapier scrapes) before returning to Baghdad. On your turn, you move somewhere according to your wealth, draw an Encounter card to see what you’ve met, roll a dice to tell something else about it, choose what you’re going to do to/with/for/around/in response to it (hint: Drink is always the correct answer), and the person on your right with the massive set of cross-referencing tables will translate all of this into a number, which he passes to the person on your left, who reads the corresponding story segment from the Book of Tales, usually describing why what you just did was a terrible idea and giving you a range of statuses and effects, from ‘Blessed’ and ‘Magic Lamp’ to ‘Accursed’, ‘Sex-Changed’ or ‘Imprisoned’ (the latter set being far more likely). Then the next person takes their go.

If you’re thinking this sounds massively simplistic, lacking in agency, and generally a lot like old-school Choose Your Own Adventure books, you’re pretty much right on all counts. However, all of these seeming flaws are converted into fantastic qualities by the crux of the game, the Book of Tales. You start to get an idea of the book’s main attributes when you pick up the game box and are reminded that paper is actually slightly more dense than wood (seriously, that thing weighs a ton), and then you open it and are confronted by a book roughly the size of your house, but containing a lot more adventure and personality. In this edition, there are over 2600 (!) entries, ensuring a different game experience every time, and that’s definitely the right word for them – experiences. I would lay a decent amount of money that, with any game you enjoy, every counter and token has been imbued with backstory and personality by the end, and Arabian Nights takes that idea and runs with it from the start. For example, in my last game, my very first move included me throwing a man into a fire on board a ship and spending the rest of the game trying to evade the law in Adrianople (a state of affairs oddly similar to getting married in this game). Sure, you just run around the board watching weird stuff happen to you, with comparatively little effect on the outcome (largely because you chose completely the wrong skills at the start – no matter what you chose, they were wrong), and that’s simultaneously the game’s greatest flaw as a ‘game’ and its biggest feature as an experience. Hardcore gamers might balk, but if the idea of getting a few friends together to go on surprising adventures and laugh/weep/swear at your horrible, horrible luck appeals to you, you need to play this game.

Like seriously.

Romance of the Nine Empires was designed by Mark Wooton and released by AEG in 2013 (not 1998). A new expansion, Arcane Fire, has just been released. Meanwhile, Z-Man Games’ Tales of the Arabian Nights is an Anthony J. Gallela (amongst others) design which was first put out in 2009. We leave it to you to decide which one you’d prefer!

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Begin Again – Thunderstone Advance Starter Set review

Thunderstone COVER

If you look back through the LMDS archives, you’ll see that we’ve talked about Thunderstone quite often. From the original version and its expansions through to the rebooted Advance products, we’ve always been rather positive about AEG’s deckbuilder. Having received the recently released Starter Set, I figured I’d see if we could get a fresh voice in to discuss it, so I passed it on to my friend Simon (who is also the guy who does all our laser cut stuff for FrogFlip!). Here’s what he reckoned.

“I have never played Thunderstone by AEG before and its been on my to get list for quite awhile, but for one reason or another it unfortunately stayed on the list. So when a very good friend [Hi! – Michael] gave me a copy of the new starter set I dived straight in with a lot of enthusiasms and excitement. I wished I had swum in the dungeon-y goodness of Thunderstone sooner. So far I have played six separate times with different friends in a little over a week, and at the moment I cannot get rid of the need to play more of it.

This is a new reincarnation of the starter set, but this time it’s the turn of Thunderstone Advance to get the entry level treatment. This starter is not just a recompiled set of old cards, but a mix some old and quite a few new ones that have been finely tuned into one hell of a hero hiring, equipment buying, monster bashing, dungeon adventuring deck building game. Not only have the card decks been finely tuned, the rulebook is now easy to read and understand pages. To go from a Thunderstone virgin to a player that is able to teach the game to other people within one game was so very surprising and simple. The longest bit for the first game was undoing all the wrapping and the initial card setup, basically sorting the cards into their groups and placing them with their dividers into the provided plastic card tidy while trying not to get caught up in reading the text on the cards and ruining the suspense of the first game. I sat with a friend and read the play setup and the rules which took ten minutes maximum and we went straight into our first game; it was that simple. No reading the rules the night before in bed while trying to remember them as your wife asks day to day questions as you’re hoping to remember enough of the rules that you don’t feel a failure when you finally sit down to play.

Let me talk about the components to the Starter Set. You get over 250 cards and dividers of Heroes, Monsters, Equipment, Specials and Randomisers plus the previously mentioned rulebook. The cards are heavy, good quality stock, and feel plastic coated to allow a good amount of wear and tear at a gaming table. Artwork is great and nicely presented, not cartoony at all, and all text is in a large, clear font that is easy to read for us older players! The balance between art and rules on the cards is very good and neither detracts from the other, with the sections for the game mechanics easy to view at a glance. I also noticed that the cards where not so glossy so they’d be to hard to read when they are laid down in the Village or Dungeon locations when playing in a brightly lit room. It’s all stored in a smaller than usual box, and the great surprise inside was the strong and simple card tidy; now my cards can be kept in an easy to access way without them being damaged whilst in transit. AEG also supply two pieces of foam to help hold the cards upright – one comment on the foam (mainly for AEG if they’re reading this) is that a little bit larger piece of foam would have made all the difference, as in the end I added a bit more myself to help keep the cards firmly in place. I wish they’d included some tokens or counters to represent experience in the game and more selection of cards to help with replayability [But remember, it *is* a Starter Set- Michael].

Some of the cards you'll find in the Starter Set. There's plenty of exclusives in there too, so even Thunderstone veterans will find it appealing.

Some of the cards you’ll find in the Starter Set. There’s plenty of exclusives in there too, so even Thunderstone veterans will find it appealing.

The game mechanics are very simple, allowing players to engage one another in friendly banter and conversation whilst enjoying the game. This I found was one of the joys of Thunderstone; conversation did not distract from the game play and the game did not get in the way of being sociable. This may not sound like a big plus to some people, but for me where I am limited on both social time and game time, I feel that the ability to enjoy both makes for a better experience. The game is designed around building a powerful deck of cards from a basic starting selection that will allow you to gain the most victory points. Each time it’s your turn you draw six cards, then decide what you are going to do with your hand by using your hand to do one of the following:

– Going to the Village to buy Equipment or hire some help. You can also level up a Hero if you have enough Experience.

– Enter the Dungeon, fight a monster and possibly gain rewards. You can go and purposely lose the fight too, just to change the monsters line-up!

– Prepare, where you to put any useful cards back on top of your draw deck in a bid to get a better hand next time.

– Rest, which allows you to get rid of cards from your deck by destroying one card from your hand. Useful to get rid of weaker cards that are gumming up your deck.

Then your turn is over and on to the next player. There are many strategies within Thunderstone – do you aim to make a small but powerful deck or go for a build that has a bit of everything where you could possibly cope with any monster you might face. Whatever you choose, just remember that the Victory Points are what you’re looking for in the end, and any strategy is potentially legitimate.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened the Thunderstone Advance Starter Set box I was not so sure as nothing is given away with any content shots on the box! I have played a number of other deck building games by different companies that have been around for as long as Thunderstone with a similar number of expansions, but I and many of my gaming friends have suffered with learning the rule systems and getting to grip with correct meaning of a rule in the manual or even on a card. I’ve had to trawl through the rulebook (many, many times), go to a FAQ or even ask a question on the game’s forum. In the end I always feel like I was missing something or more to the point the other games where missing something that stopped me from enjoying the game. The end result is me leaving the other games on the shelf and me reaching now for Thunderstone. This is a game that can be learnt, played and enjoyed so quickly and easily and I wish more companies would learn from AEG and their Thunderstone Advance Starter Set.

So, the positivity continues! The Thunderstone Advance Starter Set can be picked up at most decent game stores, and the good folks at Gameslore have it in for £20.49. The set caters for between two and five players and games will normally take around an hour. Thunderstone Advance is designed by Mike Elliot and published by AEG, who were lovely enough to provide a copy of the Starter Set for this review. Thanks to Simon for the write up!

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Spellbound – Cheaty Mages! review

Cheaty Mages COVER

Seiji Kanai is one talented guy. Not content with being responsible for the breakout hit of last Essen – Love Letter – he’s now returned with what I hope will be seen as the next step for gamers looking for something accessible but a little meatier to play. Released at Spiel this year through AEG, Cheaty Mages! promises to be another quality release from this partnership, despite the very silly name.

Now, while the name might be silly, it’s actually a perfect description of what the game’s about. You and your fellow players are mages, betting on which of five mythical creatures are going to win in a free-for-all battle. However, with magic comes great responsibility – or in your case, the ability to try and skew things how you want, turning the tide in favour of your selected fighters and making things difficult for the others. In other words, being cheaty, which is the best non-word of 2013. Forget selfies, it’s all about being cheaty, folks.

Before the battle begins – and you’ll play through three during the game – you must do a few things. First of all, see which of the fighters takes your fancy; each one has a Power number, essentially showing their strength, and whoever has the highest at the end of the round will be declared the winner. Second, look at the cards in your hand and see what abilities you have. Generally, you’ll be playing spell cards on the fighters that will have a positive or negative effect on their Power, but each card also comes with a Mana Cost – more on that in a moment. Finally, take your Betting Cards and decide who will receive your support.

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The more powerful the fighter is at the start of the round, the less money they’ll earn you if they end up as a winner.

Now, this is a big decision and you can either play it safe or go all in. You’re not actually betting any money in Cheaty Mages!, just putting yourself behind who you think will win. Your selected Betting Card (or cards) will go face down in front of you, and should you have made the right decision you’ll receive a certain amount of cash that is shown on each fighter. You can bet on more than one fighter, but doing so reduces the amount of money you’ll potentially get. Should you only select one and they end up victorious, you get double their prize value. Choosing two gets you the amount stated, and three cards brings in half the stated amount – basically, spreading your bets around brings in a lot less money, and in a game where there are only three rounds it’s tough to make your way back if you take an early bath.

So you’re looking to balance your chosen fighters against the spells you have in your hand. When your turn rolls around, you get the chance to add a card to the line next to any fighter you like, play an instant that may do anything from ruin the chances of a player to knocking one of the fighters out of play, or pass (in which case you’ll take no further part in that round). Oh, and there’s also the judges who need to be taken care of.

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Only one Judge presides over each round but they have a major effect on the way the game is played.

Did I not mention them? At the start of the round, a single Judge card is flipped that will have a major effect on how the Mages will play. Some outright ban the use of some spell types, meaning that you could potentially be boned for a round unless you do some clever manipulation of what you have in your hand. Others are a bit more relaxed, allowing for some crazy plays which can result in some excellent battles. Many of them also decree a Mana Limit, meaning that if any of the fighters have spells by them that equal or exceed this amount, they’ll either have the spells removed, returning them to their base number, or be exiled from the fight totally.

The mana limit is a brilliant idea as many of the spells you and the other players add to the table will be placed face down. You may discard a card on your turn to check out all face down cards next to one of the fighters, but you’ll find that keeping track of everything that’s going on can be something of a challenge. For what on first look seems to be a simple card game, there’s actually a lot of moving parts to take care of, so winning is far from easy.

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That number in the top right, the Mana value, is vital. Keep track of the totals or you’ll find your bets quickly become worthless!

The huge amount of configurations offers much replayability; combinations of different fighters and Judges along with what you hold in your hand brings to mind the cliche that no two games will be same, but in the case of Cheaty Mages! this actually rings true. Add in the fact that a full game, even with a maximum of six people, takes half an hour at most and you’ll find yourself setting up for another game the moment one comes to a close.

As you’d expect from an AEG game, the production quality is high – they’ve really made an effort in recent years to ensure their products are well made, and this is one that shines. Sure, it’s difficult to screw up a card game, but there are plenty of companies out there who have done so. Mercifully, Cheaty Mages! comes on a decent cardstock and the money tokens are on a sturdy punchboard. The art of the original Kanai Factory release has been largely kept, lending the game a really unique look and style that brings out plenty of discussion. The groups I’ve played it with have been largely positive about how the game looks, and I’m sure that it’ll win over plenty of fans when it becomes more widely available.

In short, this is another winner from AEG. Yes, it’s a small box card game that many people may overlook but seriously, if you see someone playing a copy, ask them for a quick demo. Sit in for a round and you’ll be hooked immediately. I’ve found that many people work their way through that first round, then have a moment of revelation where they discover there’s so many options at their disposal that their brain has a bit of a shudder. Then, once round two starts, everything gets cut-throat in the very best way, and everyone will want a copy of their own.

Cheaty Mages, designed by Seiji Kanai, was originally released through Kanai Factory back in 2008. Japon Brand brought it to Essen in 2012 and the AEG version was released there this year. Between three and six players can get involved, with games taking thirty minutes at most. If you’re in the market for a quick, nasty and charming little game that can go anywhere with you, I can’t recommend this one highly enough!

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