After One Play... reviews are a combination of initial impressions based on opening the box for the first time and a single play of the game. All comments in italics are based on the single game session.
Mag-Blast, 3rd Edition from Fantasy Flight is a classic American-style "take that!" card game with comedic sci-fi trappings. It is most similar to Starship Command, both in genre and gameplay, with some significant differences. This is the third edition of the game, with a new look but (as told by a friend) very similar mechanics to the earlier versions.
Each player is dealt a command ship, which represent the various racial factions in the universe. Each command ship has an unique special power. The races are mostly riffs on existing sci-fi properties or common cliches.
We played a five player game. We had some bugs, some cats, some 40k space marines, alien babes and another set of aliens.
In addition to the command ship, each player receives four ships (out of six randomly dealt). The fleet ships protect the command ship by covering four different zones. Up to three fleet ships can be in a zone and the command ship cannot be attacked except through a zone where there are no defending fleet ships. Ships can usually only attack enemy ships in the same zone.
Ships have a speed (0, 1 or 2), hull points and one or more of three different turrets (yellow, green and orange).
There are also action cards. These represent attacks (called blasts), fighters and bombers (collectively called squadrons) and special cards (like Asteroids, Minefields, Direct Hit cards and so on). Some of the action cards have one or two resources, which are used to summon reinforcements.
Blasts are color-coded (the same as the turrets) and do 1, 3 or 5 points of damage.
Explaining the rules took about 5-10 minutes, sample cards were shown and discussed and then we began setup. It took just a few minutes to shuffle the decks and deal. We started about 15 minutes after the game box was opened. One rule that we almost missed: players setup their initial four ships face-down and reveal once all players have done so.
During a players turn, they take the following actions in order:
1. Discard (any number of cards)
2. Draw (to a max of 5 cards in hand)
3. Reinforcements (use resource cards to bring in a new ship)
4. Manuever (fly around and make silly noises)
5. Attack (fire blasts and make even more silly noises)
Once a player is done, play continues clockwise until there is only one player left, who is then crowned the winner.
Unlike Starship Command and others in this style of game, there are few defense cards. Most attacks will hit and do damage. This lends itself towards a more chaotic game with lots of ships blowing up.
It's pretty easy to summon new ships, the player just needs to discard a number of action cards with resources (either three of the same kind, or one of each kind (there are three types of resources)). There is also a special action card that can summon a new ship without spending resources.
Even if this kind of game lends itself to picking on the person who just acted, because he won't be able to act again until everyone else as gone, we played a fairly fair game. There was some bantering about who to attack and pointing out "Mr. Look At Me, I've Got Two Dreadnoughts" but it wasn't as bloodthirsty as it could have been.
Ships can move zones. Each ship can move a number of zones equal to their speed (so the big dreadnoughts cannot move once placed in a zone since they have a speed of 0).
To attack a ship, you must have a ship in the same zone, with the proper blast card in your hand (that matches a turret on your ship). Each ship can only attack once per turn. You also have to make a sound effect when attacking, or your attack card is immediately discarded.
It is also possible to attack with squadrons, but they have to be launched from a carrier. Bombers must attack in the same zone, fighters can attack in any zone. Fighters can also be used defensively to stop incoming bombers or fighters.
Attack cards are placed under the target. When the total damage exceeds the hull, the ship explodes.
Squadrons are returned to your hand at the end your turn (so if they don't blow up the target, their damage is for nought.)
We had trouble with the sound effect rule. Sometimes we remembered, sometimes we didn't -- some more than others. It's silly, but does add to the atmosphere.
If your opponent has no fleet ships in a zone -- his command ship is ripe for the picking. When a command ship is destroyed, that player is out of the game.
Which leads to the only real problem we had with Mag-Blast, 3rd Edition: player elimination. One person was knocked out early and had to read the rules to another game for a while.
The game also took longer than we expected. The box says something like 10-20 minutes, which is a little off based on our one play. With more plays, the time to complete a game will naturally be quicker.
This is light filler. The art is by John Kovalic, it's amusing to look at and doesn't get in the way of the game. The game mechanics are simple but do not lead to simplistic play. There was several good moments, and only a couple rulebook references were required. We can get more plays out of this one, but it will not dominate the gaming table in the weeks and months to come. It's a good value, a good buy and a worthy addition to a game collection if you like these kinds of games.
For what it's worth, Mag Blast is a rather straightforward and light game. It's not the kind of game meant to be overanalyzed because there's so much luck. Players who take their games seriously and must analyze every possible move can slow Mag Blast to a crawl. But that's not the spirit of the game.
Like you said in your review. It's meant to be chaotic and deadly. Mag Blast only becomes a problem when the players start becoming too defensive. In the end, it's blow up your enemies' ships before they blow up yours.
I put Mag Blast in the same category as Guillotine and Fluxx. These are simple card games, easy to transport, easy to learn, quick to play, with elements of strategy and a lot of luck.