There are times you find a game that surprises you in just how enjoyable it is.
That was certainly the case with Dark Mages.
This was a game I had been attracted to based on two factors, the first being that it is from a Canadian company (Bleem Divertissements Inc.) That is always a bonus for me, a chance to review and promote a game from a Canadian designer, in this case Eric Bleney.
The second element of attraction was the art, which is absolutely outstanding as far as fantasy artwork is concerned. It is simply a pleasure to look at each card here. It is generally better than say Magic: The Gathering, a game noted for its generally solid art.
I also mention MtG because there is a definite nod to that classic collectable card game with Dark Mages.
Dark Mages is not collectable. You buy the game and play, (although there is an expansion which does add cards).
However, in Dark Mages you are a mage, much like MtG.
“In Dark Mages, you play one of eight powerful magicians who compete in a merciless battle on the plains of Thärin. Using your power and magic item, hex, scroll, or spell cards, you must defeat your enemies on the battlefield. Alone or in teams, the goal is to defeat all opponents to become the legendary magician of the continent of Northland,” details the game’s website.
Again, like MtG, your mage starts with life points, 60 in the case of Dark Mages.
At the same time Dark Mages definitely draws from Dungeons & Dragons the roleplaying game too.
Granted there is no roleplaying here, but there are mechanics in play which remind of the classic D&D.
Players draw cards from a central deck which acts much like a D&D module. You find weapons, spells, magic items, allies and even reveal roving enemies you must deal with.
The drawing of cards mimics opening a door, or old wooden trunk in a musty dungeon.
Mages also start out with a base arcane level of one, which allows them to cast all sorts of magic spells with the number one, which again reminds of a starting mage in D&D. To increase your arcane level, you have to possess a ring of arcane. The game has two available rings of arcane ring of arcane +1 and ring of arcane +2, which you find drawing cards.
Again as in D&D mages have an armour class, which represents how much difficulty adversaries will have inflicting damage on your character. It represents the final number your enemy has to achieve to inflict damage.
As in D&D you role dice to hit opponents, and if successful then role more dice to see how much damage you do.
The combined elements of D&D and MtG really make Dark Mages enjoyable, at least for a fan of the two classic games. As a result Dark Mages fills a niche as a quick game that is just a fun fantasy excursion.
To win, you must survive! Only one magician can prevail. The player that can reduce their opponents’ hit points to zero wins.
The game can be played solo mode, where the last magician alive wins the game, or in alliance mode where players team up with other magicians and the last team alive wins.
This is a complete win for me, solid mechanics, straightforward rules, fun, interactive play, and outstanding art. A definite must own in my books. Check it out at www.darkmages.com
-- This review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper