Thank you for checking review #28 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.
An Overview of Incantris
Incantris is a game designed by Heath and Seth Robinson and is published by RAINN Studios. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 20-60 minute play time.
The Kingdom of Aldramere is in the midst of a long, brutal, and magical war that is threatening to tear the fabric of the world apart. Each side is too proud to concede, but they have agreed to settle the conflict though a battle of champions. The High Council of Aldramere has summoned its most powerful wizards to the ruins of Orleal on the Misty Moorlands to compete for the right to represent their kingdom in the battle.
Incantris is a game of magical combat set in the Kingdom of Aldramere. Each player controls a team of three wizards, each with unique spells and abilities. Rain down fiery meteors with the Sorceress, call upon the bear spirit to unleash destruction with the Shaman, strike from afar with the Shadow Weaver, or pummel foes with the Druid’s tempest. Decide how best to use these abilities to defeat the other players and become the champion of Aldramere.
Incantris is a fast-paced and thought-provoking game that pairs strategy with a beautiful gaming environment. Use the modular board and 3D terrain to create a different battlefield for every game. The game also features 25 different spells and abilities ensuring that each game of Incantris will be a unique experience. Set-up is quick with each player selecting a team of three wizards optimized for a particular play style.
The wizards wield magic from the Spirit, Elemental, and Astral realms. The spellcasting and warding system is intuitive and exciting. To emerge victorious, players will have to outmaneuver their opponents, use their wizards’ strengths, and take advantage of the opposing teams’ weaknesses.
Setup and gameplay for 2 Players
The game board will consist of four full-terrain tiles and two half-terrain tiles. Most gameplays will have two full and a half on each side, kind of like this:
Each player will start on one of the half-tiles with their three wizards situated however they like. 3D terrain can be added as seen fit between the players. I found I enjoyed using two per player, with each player taking turns to place one on the map. Each player takes their three wizard sheets and puts the life marker to their top value, and then the dice are rolled. Whoever rolls the most hits goes first.
With two players, the game moves quickly most of the time. The map is small, so there aren't many places to retreat and hide. Clever use of the terrain obstacles and block line of sight for your foe while allowing you to still attack, but usually this is only an obstacle for a single turn. Many spells have a range of 4-6 hexes, which is much smaller than you think. Especially since most wizards move in that range as well.
There isn't much to this: you activate a wizard, moving up to the number of hexes mentioned on the bottom of their player board, and then cast up to one spell from those listed on their board. Each spell has a range, as well as a number such as 2D+1. That would indicate you roll two dice, and add one extra hit above what you roll. Defending is shown at the bottom of each board, with each wizard having a number of dice they roll depending on the school of magic they are defending. Each ward they roll will cancel a hit from their opponent.
In most instances, play continues until all three wizards on one team are dead. A wizard only activates once each round, regardless of how many your opponent has to activate.
In a two player game, things move extremely fast. There are few things to consider beyond who you want to target, how you want to move into range, and rolling the necessary dice. This makes a simple and fast game, perfect for an evening of unwinding.
Carebears beware, though, as there is no avoiding conflict in this one. You will be attacking your opponent every turn, with almost every wizard you have. There is no avoiding that aspect in this game.
I love the variety among the teams. Each color has three wizards, and not only does each team get a different trio of wizards, but even the shared wizards among them can have different spells. This adds variety in being able to play as all four colors, and also makes it so you can't assume their Druid can do the exact same things as your Druid. I'm a fan of an asymmetrical game, and this scratches that itch with the preconstructed teams.
I enjoy the simplicity within the system of this game. Here are the number of spaces you can move with this character. Everything costs 1 move except moving through water. Here is the range of your spell and the number of dice you roll to hit. Here are the number of dice you roll to defend when the spell belongs to X type. This die result provides a hit. This die result provides a ward (block). Very simple, streamlined system that allows a player to dive in with minimal rules overhead, which makes this a game you could teach to gamers of almost any experience.
Setting the game up is also a nice, simple process. There are full tiles and half tiles to make up the landscape, and the setup is based solely upon player count and the match type being played. There is variability based on which ones you use - some add in a fair amount of water - but nothing complicated to consider. 3D terrain is fairly easy to construct and place throughout the map as well. I tend to use two items per player and it works well, but there is no set system on that. All in all, it takes about 5 minutes to go from box to having this ready on the table.
This box is packed with things that provide value. Not just because it has some nice miniatures, or the 3D terrain, or even the tokens. Those are all nice. This game is one that I can see using long after I am done with Incantris, being able to pull things from here to run through a game like Frostgrave without having to invest in minis and terrain for that game. This isn't likely an intentional purpose behind Incantris, but it is one I am definitely excited about because I've had a Frostgrave book on my shelf, unplayed, for a while now. The point being that there is value in this box beyond the game itself if you have any interest in other skirmish-style games or even D&D campaigns where you have a visual set on the table.
Combat in this game is quick and simple. There are no numbers to crunch, no charts to check, just a dice roll for both parties involved. Any hits done by the attacker in excess of the wards by the defender drops their life value. Did I mention these dice are custom 8-sided dice with the two symbols on them? I like the dice and enjoy rolling them. However, the combat not only heavily favors the attacker, it also can be swingy based on dice rolls. Our most recent game played, I couldn't stop rolling hits and it was a very one-sided affair because of that.
I want to enjoy the 3D terrain. It is fun to see the trees and walls and everything on the hexes during a match. They really add to the game and enhance both the visual and tactical aspects of the game. Sadly, it hasn't taken long for the layers of cardboard to start to bend and peel. This means the lifespan of this terrain is questionable at best, something that is further compounded because you have to take them apart between games. The walls might get by with remaining together, but the trees have no space in the box to be stored unless they are broken down and flat.
The campaign system in this one is a great addition. With a higher player count, this would probably get full marks for the fun factor. However, with just two players there are a few of the matches that don't live up to the full potential. The orb drain was more fun than I had expected, considering all you needed to do was race to the other side and use a single action to win. Easy, right? It wasn't great, but it also wasn't horrible. The race to nab a crystal and leave the board with it was a little more fun but, again, it lacked the fun that playing with more would have provided. So while I enjoyed "leveling up" and purchasing one-time-use tokens, the mode isn't ideal for two players. But it also isn't a bad choice to play through, at least once, to see what the other modes can offer. But I suspect we'll be sticking to just trying to blast each other in the future.
I lament when I get a game that has so much empty space that it felt a waste. I own many such games which could fit into smaller boxes with ease: Splendor, Battle Line, Fields of Green. This game suffers from the opposite problem. I wish it had a larger box. Yes, everything fits. But there is hardly any room to spare, and that room could have allowed the trees and other terrain pieces to remain constructed. While I respect that this game isn't trying to hog an obscene amount of shelf space, I would have gladly settled for a larger box.
I mentioned as a positive that the teams, spells, etc. are all prepared and ready to go right out of the box. That makes for an excellent game to jump into quickly and a great game for nights when you don't have a lot of time. However, that also severely limits the replay value from this box. Sure, there are four teams that are all slightly different, but they'll start to feel similar enough after a while. There can also be teams who have a spell, like Teleport, that make certain matches feel unfair and imbalanced. Because things are pregenerated, there isn't much you can do to fix or avoid these situations.
Overall this is a fast and fun game. My wife enjoyed this game about 300 times more than I ever imagined she would, which was a huge win for me. I wasn't sure how moving around and blasting each other would go for her, but she enjoys dominating me during most of our plays of this game.
As with any dice-dependent combat system, the rolls can lead to swingy matches. However, the game plays fast enough that it is rarely a deterring factor. If this game was doubled in scope and length, then it might present a bit of an issue. But it ends up being right for what this game tries to do. There are no complicated charts to consult, no dense packets of rules explanations to flip through. Everything is simple and streamlined, providing both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness as a game.
This game serves as a fantastic starting point for someone new to skirmish games and looking to test this style of game out. It is ideal because the teams have been constructed, the spells have been selected, the terrain is fast to put together, and the arenas can be built within seconds. So, in addition to someone looking for an introductory point, this also is a great game for anyone looking to have a skirmish game they can set up and start playing in a short amount of time. A match or two can easily be played during an evening, even on a work night or after the kids are in bed.
But this game could be a disappointment to some gamers. If you are a seasoned veteran in the skirmish category of games, this is likely to be too light and preconstructed for your tastes. That type of gamer might want to skip this title, unless they want something that is fast to get going, could be played in under an hour, and light enough to bring others into skirmish games. Or if they are interested in repurposing the contents of this box after a few plays of the game.
Overall, I'm glad we got this game. It is fun on its own, and also serves as a great starting place for us before we take the plunge into something larger. It is perfect for us, because we can set it up and play it during any evening due to the game's quickness. Had we jumped to something more complex, I'm not sure it would have hooked my wife like it did. If you are new to skirmish games and interested at all in a wizard-dueling fantasy theme, this is definitely worth checking out.
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What? You thought I'd have some interesting overtext?
Thank you so much for taking the time to review Incantris. It is always great to get such a thorough review, especially from somone who has played the game so many times. It is very much apprecieated. I am glad you and your wife are enjoying it so much. I hope that I will get to meet you both a con in the not too distant future.