Tag Archives: tower defence

Battleflag – Mage Tower review

Mage Tower COVER

Tower defense games, hey? They’ve been about for bloomin’ ages in the world of videogames, but seeing them in an analogue space is something of a rarity. If you’ve not heard of them, they have a simple premise: protect your stuff from an oncoming horde of enemies for longer than your opponent is able to. Some can be asymmetrical in a ‘good guys vs bad guys’ style, others are more about players facing a single common enemy, often controlled by the computer.

Now we’ve got a card based version of this rather popular game format that attempts to capture the spirit (and near constant panic) of the genre – Mage Tower from the unassumingly named Super Mega Games. Ostensibly for two players, it also has rules for up to four as well as co-op play and a solo mode – we’ll mainly be focusing on the game for two today.

Despite being a card game that initially looks like Magic: The Gathering‘s first cousin, there’s no need to fork out for boosters or anything – everything you need to play the full game is in the box. Opening it up will reveal a bunch of plastic gold, a very healthy pile of six-sided dice (fear not, those who despise randomness in their games, they’re merely in there to track damage) and over three hundred cards of various types.

The main two that you’ll be dealing with are the green and red ones, representing ways in which you can defend yourself and the monsters you’ll be facing. Before you start, each player is given deck of thirteen cards that can either be randomly generated or set up through a quick draft. They also receive a deck filled with twenty four monsters, comprising of four each of six types. Piles of Prizes, Demonspawn and Confusion cards are stacked to the side of the play area. Players then grab dice representing twenty life points and couple of cards from their draw deck, and you’re ready to roll.

M-m-m-m-monster! Demons are pretty hefty, so be sure to take them down as quickly as possible.

M-m-m-m-monster! Demons are pretty hefty, so be sure to take them down as quickly as possible.

As mentioned before, you’re trying to survive longer than the opposition by defeating monsters. Any that have been flipped (denoting that they’re angry) will attack you and then get discarded. Any calm (right way up) monsters will rotate, hyping themselves up to attack on the next turn – assuming they live that long. The final part of this phase is the drawing of new monsters, each of whom is given a numeric value – you’ll draw between ten and twelve points worth, then finally get the chance to fight back.

This bit is called the Casting Phase; you’re allowed to play cards from your hand that will attack the oncoming forces or buy and play Prizes that you may have picked up, spending the gold that you gain every turn. Again, cards have a numerical value and you’re limited to a maximum total of seven energy you can spend. Some cards will only attack the monster closest to you, while others (marked with an arrow) carries leftover damage on the the next victim in the queue. Very polite, these beasts, lining up perfectly to get battered…

You also get to put Defenders and Permanents in play. Rather than just getting to use them as a one-off for your current turn, these are a bit more hardcore and get to stay in play until they get wiped out by the hordes. Like monsters, Defenders also have values showing their life and the amount of damage they can do while Permanents are more about giving the rules a bit of a tweak in your favour. The order you decide to use them is entirely up to you, so you’ll be looking to build up strategies and chains so you can make the most of what you’ve got at the time.

Not sure I'd trust a skeleton to protect me, but it seems to work in Mage Tower.

Not sure I’d trust a skeleton to protect me, but it seems to work in Mage Tower.

If you fancy being a bit of an arse, you can also start chucking some monsters across the way an into your opponent’s path. Of course, all the while they’ll be planning on doing the exact same thing to you, so be sure that you’ve got enough to cover yourself on that next turn. Once your Casting Phase is complete, play passes over – there’s no holding over of energy or anything, you’ll simply start with a fresh slate on your next go. Get them down to zero health or have the most life when one player’s been through their monster deck twice and you’ll win!

Mage Tower came to me from out of nowhere and I’m delighted to say I’ve had some great fun with it. When I cracked open the box my first though was that I was dealing with another MTG clone, but thankfully it’s got a bit more about it than just copying another game wholesale. Yes, it looks very similar to the daddy of all CCGs but Mage Tower plays in a totally different way – it’s fast and furious, probably closer to something like Dominion than Magic. Interaction between players can be somewhat limited but that all comes down to the cards that come into play; some games will be all about smashing each other into pieces, others will be more focused on just surviving. This makes for a decent level of replayability, bolstered by the fact that you can get a full game under your belt in less than thirty minutes.

Negatives? Perhaps there are a couple. As previously stated, it all comes across a bit generic, but beneath the lookalike nature of the cards there’s a very interesting game. The rulebook isn’t the easiest thing to deal with either, but there’s an excellent tutorial video available that runs you through how turns work, as long as you can deal with the shakycam-induced nausea… I’m not entirely blown away by the single player variant, much preferring the conflict you get when facing a second player, and I’m yet to try out the co-op rules or face off against three or four players, but as an experience for two, Mage Tower gets the Little Metal Dog Seal of Approval. Or it would do if we had such a thing… Maybe we should get one?

Mage Tower is a 2013 release from Super Mega Games. Designed by Brett Brimmer, between two and four can play; rules are also included for co-operative and solo games too. Copies are available from the Game Salute store right now for the princely sum of US$35. Enjoy!




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To The End – Castle Panic guest review

James Rowlinson is back to offer his thoughts on another game! This time he’s looking at Castle Panic from Fireside Games, a co-op with a twist.

Castle Panic is a team based tower defence game that is, in my opinion, a great way to get non-gamers into the fold with its quick to learn rules and a shared open style of game play.  It was designed by Justin De Witt published by Fireside Games and has won a number of awards since its original release in 2009.

The game sees all players working together to protect the castle walls that have been placed in the centre of the board. All manner of nasty goblins, orcs and trolls advance from the outer edges with the sole aim of pulling down your castle, and if all the inner castle walls fall everyone loses. However, if you defeat all the attacking monsters you all win but there’s always the chance that you’ll win more than your team mates…

The board is made up of rings working from the centre out: Castle ring first, then swordsmen, knights, archers and finally the forest ring. The board is also defined by three colours; red, green and blue. It is this simple colour and ring system combined with the cards that makes the game really easy to pick up even for younger players. For example, if you hold a blue knight card you can hit a monster in the blue knight section.

Primed and ready for some three-player castle defending!

At the start of the game each player is given a hand of cards, which is dependent on number of players involved. The castle walls are all in place as well as a surrounding wall to help fend of the attack, and located towards the edge of the board are the first wave of monsters, all waiting to make advance.

Each players turn is quick and easy and keeps all players in the game involved. You begin by drawing up to your hand limit, possibly do some trading, then play cards from your hand. After that it’s time to move monsters, then finally draw two new ones.

It is the limited trade card element that really brings out the planning and strategy element of this seemingly simple game. Each player knows where the Monsters that are already on the board will be for the next turn (or at least that’s the theory), for when you draw two new Monster tokens things can get a little messy. That well planned set of three upcoming turns ends up flying out the window pretty quickly…

Fending off the attacking horde is handled by playing the aforementioned cards in your hand that get replenished each turn. Along with the basic swordsmen, knights and archers in red, green, blue, some cards will let you rebuild the outer walls or fortify them. Other cards allow you to unleash a Barbarian who can slay any monster. When attacking a Monster most cards deal one point of damage; if this slays the Monster you keep the token, but  if it only wounds them you spin the token around so everyone knows how many damage points they have remaining.

Moving Monsters is easy enough; they simply all move closer to the castle, and if they’re at the walls already they try to break the wall down whilst taking one hit of damage to themselves in the process. If you have a monster in the castle ring it will start to move around the castle tearing it down wall by wall, which is particularly bad news as there’s a limited number of cards that can deal with monsters in the castle ring and those inner walls cannot be rebuilt.

When everything is done, new monsters appear, done by taking two tokens from the pile and resolving which area of the forest ring they enter by rolling a dice. All tokens need to all be dealt with to win the game; there are forty-nine in total but they’re not all monsters… and that’s when plans can go wrong. For example, you could draw a token that moves the Monsters on the board clockwise making that blue swordsman you desperately traded for to slay the troll useless, and that’s far from the worst token you could draw in the game.

That’s quite the arty close-up.

Play continues in this quick format until you have no castle left in which case you’ve all lost, so then you get to set it all up again – you don’t want to put it away having lost, right? You actually win when there are no more Monster tokens left on the board or in the draw pile – in that case whoever was the most successful player (ie: had the most Victory Points) takes home the title of Master Slayer. As you’d expect, some monsters are worth more points than others, so will you help the team or keep that card and go for glory?

In summary this is a great game with really nice components. It even has alternate rulesets that are easy to implement that will make things a little easier or a lot harder (if you need it). Should you want even more, there’s also the Wizards Tower expansion that will add even more panic to the game.

You can pick up Castle Panic right now from Gameslore for £22.99! Between one and six can play with games normally taking around an hour. Thanks to James for his write-up, and remember that you can follow him on Twitter where he’s @jrowlinson – cheers James!

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