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Subject: BoardGame Generations — Magic Maze rss

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Kenton White
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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Magic Maze

Me and my sons can get a little loud when we play games. In our excitement, we start talking over each other, becoming louder and louder until, without knowing it, we are nearly shouting. At least that is what my wife tells us. She would prefer if we keep our volume just above a whisper, waiting until the other has finished speaking before starting.

Enter Magic Maze. This game requires that all players are quiet while playing. No talking allowed. We must silently work together, moving 4 characters through a fantasy mall, stealing magic potions, enchanted battle axes, dead-eye bows, and stealthy daggers. Each of us can perform different actions, like moving a pawn north / south / east / west, or revealing a new tile. We also need one player to go up and down escalators and another to teleport our adventurers around. Once we have found our loot, we must all make it safely to the exit. While doing this, a sand timer is quickly draining. There are spaces on the board where we can flip the timer, gaining more time. When this happens we can get a few seconds to discuss our plans, figuring out our next goals before re-entering the cone of silence.

(We love how the tiles connect.)

The irony of Magic Maze, at least for me, is that my wife, who relishes quiet, was the nosiest player in the group! Once we began, she had a hard time resisting the urge to direct everyone around the board. You need to move west and then you need to move north and then you need to go up the escalator and so on. Admittedly, the urge to direct everyone is strong. As our family's resident alpha gamer it is very difficult for me to hold my peace. Fighting this natural inclination makes Magic Maze less a co-operative experience and more an exercise in extreme self control!

The only communication that is allowed is a large red pawn you can place in front of a player to let them know they there is something that needs doing. This pawn is very controversial in our family. My son really likes to tap-tap-tap it in front of his younger brother, who becomes increasingly frustrated that he can't see what to do. And my wife becomes frustrated with our son as he tap-tap-taps the pawn. But I think we have found a nice house rule for the red pawn. We allow each other to place the pawn on the board near what people have to do. So if someone needs to move the green player west, we'll place the pawn to the left of the green piece; or if we need to flip the timer, we'll place the pawn on the timer space. This still preserves the challenge of silently communicating while making it easier for our kids to keep up.

(Components are bright and colourful; big and chunky.)

We've played Magic Maze up to 5 people (it can play 8 — if you've tried it at that player count, please let me know how it was in the comments). It's just as enjoyable with the whole family as when its just me and my son. There are even solo rules and while the single player game is challenging, I wouldn't recommend it. That variant has you turning tiles over until uncovering the move you need. The randomness of the stack is a pale substitute for the (mis)communication among actual players.

Magic Maze is pure simple fun. I enjoy the silent communication. Its a real pleasure having my children spot a move that Dad has missed. The challenge is just right — its neither too hard nor too easy for us. This is a great little game!

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Jim Bolland
United States
Apple Valley
Minnesota
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I really like your house rule! I may be suggesting it next time our group plays.
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Stephanie Patrick
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I was able to play this a few times over my winter break, always with either 7 or 8 people. While it does get a bit hectic, we all had a blast. The only downside with that many people is that there's always someone else that can move the pawns in the same direction as you. One of the duplicates also gets to do some other action, but if one of you is a alpha gamer, it can be difficult for the other to feel necessary. I think the best part was the collective cheer when we finally succeeded.
 
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Yargh Yargh
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Could you restrict each person to only 2 of the pawns when there are duplicate directions?
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Kenton White
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Stephosaurus wrote:
The only downside with that many people is that there's always someone else that can move the pawns in the same direction as you. One of the duplicates also gets to do some other action, but if one of you is a alpha gamer, it can be difficult for the other to feel necessary.


We've had a few plays with duplicate moves. It's helpful to stack the tiles so that a weaker player is paired with a slightly stronger player.
 
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