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Subject: reviews: Mandrago (Kickstarter preview) rss

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Wesley Fechter
De Goorn
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This review was originally written and posted by me on

The princess is dying and it's up to our adventurers to try and save her. In order to do so, they need to find the main ingrediënt to the only potion capable of saving her, the root of the Mandrago. A theme appealing to Ameritrashers all over the world, but the game is for both kids and adults. Will this work?

Johan Beyens
2-4 players
Red Eyed Rabbit
20-30 minutes
Memory, Set Collecting, Tile Placement
English, Dutch
Language Independend


In a kingdom far away the beloved princess has become ill. Her only salvation? A drink made from the roots of the mandrago, a mysterious plant.

Players will take on the roles of adventurers who will enter the forest to look for the roots of this plant. During their journey they will encounter different characters who can help them on their journey.


The object of the game is to gather as many points as possible through exploring the forest. The person with the most points wins the game. But watch out! When someone gathers the roots in six different colors, they immediately win the game!


All the tiles are shuffled and then divided into five rows of eight facedown stacks per row. If you want to increase the difficulty of the game, you can place the stacks randomnly (instead of beautiful rows). The area with these stacks is called the forest.

The five eyetokens and four fightstokens are placed besides the forest, within reach of all players.

The game is now ready to be played.


The turns in Mandrago follow a fixed pattern. First you count your points and tell the other players how many points you have got. Then you take one of the tiles from the forest. You choose one of the facedown tiles, reveal it and you lay it open in front of you. The other players should be able to see what kind of tile you've taken.

After taking one tile you proceed to investigate the forest. This means that you choose three facedown tiles and you place an eyetoken on these tiles (as a reminder of which three tiles you chose). You take a look at each of these tiles, making sure none of the other players can see what is on the tile. You choose one of these tiles flip it face up to reveal it to the other players. After all players have seen which character (or color root) is on the tile, you flip it back facedown,

After revealing the first tile you may choose a second tile to flip over. This tile remains face open on the stack of tiles. You don't have to choose a second tile and flip it over. This allows you to 'block' certain stacks of tiles, because once a face-up tile is on top of a pile the tiles from that stack cannot be taken or explored.

At the end of your turn you once again count your points and tell your opponents how many points you've got.

The tiles either show a variety of different characters or Mandrago roots (in six different colors). Mandrago roots earn you points. By default, every Mandrago tile is worth 2 points, but with the help of some characters, the roots may be worth more or less then two points. By turning the tile you can upgrade the root to 3 points or downgrade it to 2 points.

The characters that are on the tiles are characters you can encounter in the forest, such as the Faery, the Goblin, the wizard, the knight, the witch, the dragon and the satyr. Most of them have a skill that applies when they are present in the woods (laying face-up on the table) and another skill that serves when the tile is laying in front of you.

The main aspect of the game is to use the right characters in the right way to optimize your own scoring and minimize the points of you opponents. For example, Faeries in the forest will increase the value of the roots in the color of the nymph with a point. The Goblin does the opposite, and decreases the value of roots in a particular color with a point (you rotate the root tiles to indicate the current value).

The wizard gives you more flexibility. If you have a wizard in you connection, you may check an extra tile when exploring the forest (you still only get to reveal one or two tiles). If there is another wizard present in the forest, your wizard is worth 2 points.

This way of scoring (2 points for a character in your supply if there is another copy of that character present in the forest), also applies to the knight, the witch, the dragon and the satyr. Only their skills are different. The knight can be used to repel a night creature from the collection of another player (or from the forest) or to defend a day creature against the dragon. The dragon does the same only it protectie the night creatures and can repel a day creature.

Witches give you an advantage at the end of the game. Usually you end the game if you start your turn with the correct number of points (which depends on the number of players). However if you have a witch in your supply the game ends if you have the necessary points at the end of your round. This way you won't have to wait until the next turn.

The satyr scores you bonus points. With a satyr in your supply each character you have in your supply earns you an extra point.

The game is played in the manner until you reach a total number of points (depending on number of players). It you do so at the end of your round, you tell your fellow players. The other players have the opportunity to use their dragon and / or knight to decrease your total number of points. If they do, then you'll continue to play. If they don't and you have a witch then the game has ended and points are counted. The player which ended the game wins the game.

If you don't have a witch, you'll have to keep on to your points until the beginning of your next turn. If you still have the right ammount of points then, the game will end. The player which ended the game wins the game.

The game can also end because there are no more facedown tiles in forest. At that time, the player with the most points wins the game. If a player collects all six colors roots during the game, the game ends immediately and that player wins (points do not matter anymore).


Ameritrash combined with (young) children, it remains a difficult combination. Due to the length of the game, the theme (zombies can be quite scarry at the age of 6) or because of the fact that the cards contain a lot of (English) text, children are often unable to play these games. With my oldest child (6 years) I usually play Flash Point: Fire Rescue or Ghostbusters. Both coöperative games, basically so I can help hem when necessary.

Mandrago appears to be a game which uses an Ameritrash-like theme and tries to create a game around it which can be played with children as well. Does it succeed in its attempt? Or does it fail as both a childrens game and game for adults?

Lets take a look at the game itself, without taking in account who is playing it. The gameflow works quite well. There is enough synergy between the different tiles/characters and every turn you'll be presented a one or two interesting choices. Which tile will you reveal to your opponents (with the risk they'll grab it a later turn) and will revealing a certain tile give you the edge to win the game.

But who will enjoy this game? I personally think both children and adults can enjoy this game, but both in their own way. The game uses a fun memory element which should appeal to most children. They'll probably even beat us adults when it comes to which tile you saw two turns ago! Using the different characters to optimize your points or to decrease the points of your opponent might prove a big challenge for the (younger) kids. Kids of 6 (and even 7 years old) will probably focus on gaining the six different roots.

However when playing with adults the synergy between the tiles will flourish most. Every turn you'll need to decide which information to give away, which tiles you permanently place in the forest en which tiles you can use. Meanwhile you'll have to watch out for your opponents, because if your opponent already has 4 or 5 different roots the game could be over before you know it.

Obviously luck plays its part in Mandrago, but given the balance between the different characters and the roots, this doesn't bother me. Lets be honest the game is quick enough to play several times in a row.

So basically Mandrago offers a fun game which can be played with both children and adults (as a filler). The theme is probably not very strong, but it gives us to prepare our children for more games which revolve around fairytales or even The Lord of the Rings.

All pictures have been used with permission of the publisher.
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