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Subject: An epic 5 hour first game... rss

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Mike Beiter
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After weeks and weeks of waiting for Mage Wars to arrive, we finally got a chance to dive in and play a match. We had a great time, but it was a long match due to extremely defensive playing on both peoples parts.

I was the Wizard vs. my opponent as the Priestess. We used the recommended spell books from the manual.

After reflection these two seemed like a bad match up, as the way we played them made the match take nearly 5 hours to play! Now I know this match took way longer than it had to, but we played each of the mages so conservatively that the game just went on and on.
But I will also preface this report with saying we loved almost every minute of it!

I began the game by placing all my mana gaining items into play to get as much channeling as possible.
My opponent summoned several clerics and a temple so he could use two of them to pray at it every round to build extra mana. And this allowed him a nice network of healing.
Seeing this strategy, I was forced to run across the battlefield to close the gap.
I summoned my Gorgon Archer and began whittling his minion’s life away slowly but surely. But unfortunately, by the time my arrows were raining down upon him, he was able to heal almost every point with his 3 clerics. Then he summoned a unicorn that only added to the healing…
Every time I had a minion near death, it would be healed or protected. I tried to focus on the healers for a while by slowly but surely getting my hydra up there to triple strike them out of the game.

This was where we lost sooo much time… I was safely out of his way and I slowly but surely got my hydra and raven and a couple mana leaches running down his armies. But nearly every point of damage I did was healed. I used my Chain lightning spell to finally drop a minion and a mana flower, but this was after a lot of effort. My opponent focused 100% of his effort on nullifying my damage, but wasn’t able to get an offensive force going.

When he finally got his lightning angel into play, it really helped him make a comeback. The turn it was summoned, I killed a creature and gave it a counter. I used my spells to incapacitate it and eventually when I stopped using tricks on it, it had 3 extra attack counters. And bears strength was added to it to make it a vicious fighting force. He dropped nearly every one of my creatures with it, save for my gorgon and basilisk. So I continued to whittle away his other minions while he was killing my mana leaches and hydra.
I deployed every mana draining trick in the book against him so he was channeling only 9 a turn and I was up to 14. The difference really helped. He stopped summoning creatures after a while and instead was focusing on incantations to keep his lightning angel alive. I must have done over 2 dozen points of damage to it before it finally went down.
I was trying to save my direct damage spells for emergencies when I was looking to be overwhelmed. But since my 2 ranged creatures were never directly engaged due to me crippling his attackers, I never felt the pressure to use many of them. I was paranoid that I would zap a minion with a lightning bolt, only to see the damage get healed with a lot less effort.

So due to my cautions use of my heavy spells, and conservative protective playing, I eventually won with barely a scratch on my wizard. There were so many points where we were ignoring the opponent directly and just focused on minions. The raven familiar was an amazing helper. My opponent wasted attack after attack on trying to drop it, and by the time it went down, it managed to do some damage with its beak. But the damage was almost all healed anyway.

Since I kept my opponent’s mana reserves on the lower side, he never mounted a strong offensive army. So my couple minions I had were able to SLOWLY whittle him away.
Since all the wizards heavy hitters have the slow trait. It was very hard to get them into position. I was saving my teleport and push spells to dispose of my opponent’s minions. Another example of how I was playing ultra conservatively and defensively.

So in hindsight, it seems like these two mages with just the out of the box suggestions can make for a very drawn out game. I would like to think the Beastmaster and Warlock would have sped things up a bit. Or maybe we were just over the top ultra conservative…

Like I said, we had fun, and it was really exciting at many points. I loved rolling the dice and hoping for an incapacitating roll or enough damage to drop a minion so it could not be healed.

Looking forward to the next game. But hopefully we can get the 5 hour time length down to 3 hours or less.
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Mike
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5 hours... I believe it...

BTW can someone plz kick me in the face.
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Scott Douglass
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5 hours!?! Wow, that's a long game. I'll be sure to advance and push the pace of the game to make sure that doesn't happen to me. Both of my games were significantly shorter than that, but I played the warlock both games.
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John Fortune
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Posts like these are really dampening my excitement for the game. It is disappointing to see there is not a mechanic in the game that forces it to move forward and finish in a reasonable amount of time. In Summoner wars you run out of cards.

Maybe the spell books and hit points are too big/high?
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David Jackman
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noblejohn wrote:
Posts like these are really dampening my excitement for the game. It is disappointing to see there is not a mechanic in the game that forces it to move forward and finish in a reasonable amount of time. In Summoner wars you run out of cards.

Maybe the spell books and hit points are too big/high?


Having now played 6 games of this, i can say the learning curve is a far bigger reason than anything. My first game took 3.5 hours. The last two games I played were both under 1.5 hours.

EDIT: Also, the starter spellbooks are a bit short in the teeth. Once you make your own spellbook, the game is faster to play for a couple reasons:

1. If you build your spellbook, you have a much better idea of what cards are available to you. The first few turns fly by in a few seconds a piece because you generally build with a particular opening strategy in mind.

2. You will find some killer combos. For example, in the OPs situation, there is an 8 cost zone exclusive card that cancels all healing. THat card would have made OPs game a whole lot shorter, haha. Or, with beastmaster, spamming Foxes and then Using Call of the wild to summon Darkfang (not sure on these names, not in front of me), can end the game very quickly.

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Laszlo Stadler
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noblejohn wrote:
Posts like these are really dampening my excitement for the game. It is disappointing to see there is not a mechanic in the game that forces it to move forward and finish in a reasonable amount of time. In Summoner wars you run out of cards.

Maybe the spell books and hit points are too big/high?


If I experience the same, I will definitely try something like this: http://boardgamegeek.com/article/10132254#10132254
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Remus Rhymus
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My 8 year old son and I played our first game over the weekend. We took breaks and the game spanned two days, but I'd estimate our actual playtime at 5 hours, maybe a little more. I was the Warlock and he was the Beastmaster, both with provided recommended spellbooks.

I attribute the long length to several thigs.

1) First time playing - The Planning phase took pretty long each round. Getting to know the available cards was a big time consumer. Sometimes I would be waiting on my son to finish his planning phase and sometimes he was waiting on me. Between the two of us, there was a ton of extra time during planning. Also, there were plenty of times where we both needed to refer to the Codex and rulebook for clarifications.

2) Building up early instead of going for the throat off the bat - We both put out mana generators and spawnpoints in the beginning. I focused on getting out all the equipment spells early, while he started amassing his army of creatures. Battles didn't start until round 5 or so.

3) Rule errors - We forgot about 1x defenses. We used defenses several times per round instead of only once. Many attacks were avoided that shouldn't have been. There were a few other rules we missed that may have inadvertently added unnecessary length to the game.

I think with more plays, the game time will reduce significantly. We'll get to know the cards and keywords better, get more bold with early attacks and tighten up on the rules. That said, The 5 hours we played never felt long. We were both very engaged in the gameplay and having tons of fun. As I mentioned we did take breaks and it spanned two days. If it was 5 hours in a row, we might have felt differently, but as it was the 5 hours didn't feel long at all.

Great session report - thanks!
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John Fortune
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Thanks for the post. That does make sense and your future games will likely be quicker. But this game is starting to look like it has a weakness that might be hard to overcome.

A game like this should not last 5 hours. You might be able to forgive this if it only occurs on the first play. But if mages decide to turtle with healing, experienced players might end up with long games as well.

I don't know if lower starting health, smaller spell books or missions will help this issue (or what I perceive as an issue for me), but all those house rules would have to be balanced out.

I'm not sure what to think.
 
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John Fortune
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One idea was limit the turns or time limit and see who has the most life at the end of the game. But this could be gamed with a mage using a bunch of healing at the end.

What might work for me is limit the amount of turns and see who has recorded the most damage. This still may not work balance wise since some mages start with more health.
 
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John Guytan
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Game time significantly drops once the players have a little experience with the game mechanics. There are definitely spells that will make players stop turtling. We have area effect spells like Firestorm, Ring of Fire, and Electrify.

Also, Poison Gas is a great one to throw into a zone, especially if it has a living Conjuration in it like Moktari or a Mana Flower. You could bombard your opponent's zones with Poison Gas to get them moving.

Also, use your creatures! They are there to torment the Mages and destroy Conjurations.
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Justin Fitzgerald
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Wizard vs. Beastmaster was pretty quick both games, even with a little healing. We haven't tried Priestess... but the thing about healing... with Wizard I was setting the stage for getting a one-turn burn. I did upwards of 40 damage to the mage between pets and spells. Now maybe the Beastmaster was not using enough defensive stuff, I don't really know, but I intentionally held my major damage sources to achieve this one turn burn and everything in the game was positioning for that critical strike.
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Dan Williams
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The time length has been my experience in the first two games I have played. Until you have internalized the keyword traits, you have to read and parse the wording of the rules for each individual situation. And I like to get it right the first time. Add to that the teaching time required. With some games under my belt the playing time will go quickly.

It seems clear to me that the designers have applied the lessons learned by the designers of M:TG, that complexity in the cards sells. Plain vanilla grizzly bears are boring. The cost for that is the time needed to familiarize yourself with the keywords.

Once you gain that knowledge, the system is internally logical and intuitive, as well as fun fun fun.
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Justin Fitzgerald
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Well and the keywords if you're an old D&D player, or even old RPG of most any kind, will be largely intuitive, like corporeal vs. incorporeal, incapacitated. You look it up but largely just to see the Mage Wars twist on it, then it sticks pretty quickly. The game is surprisingly intuitive for someone who has been around the block for sure.
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G B
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I agree with Justin. It is intuitive to old school games. I had very little learning curve in understanding the game.

Our first game, we quit after 3 hours. It SEEMED like we were playing aggressive, but the time did not back that up. I hope to get my game time near to 1 hour. This game has lots of potential in that case.

The one turn and burn strategy is exactly what I was going to go for next. That will prevent the reactive healing. I will see what happens.
 
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David Jackman
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ghbell wrote:
I agree with Justin. It is intuitive to old school games. I had very little learning curve in understanding the game.

Our first game, we quit after 3 hours. It SEEMED like we were playing aggressive, but the time did not back that up. I hope to get my game time near to 1 hour. This game has lots of potential in that case.

The one turn and burn strategy is exactly what I was going to go for next. That will prevent the reactive healing. I will see what happens.


The painful part of the learning curve for us was not understanding the rules, but what choices were present in our specific spellbooks.

Once you are familiar with what cards are available to you, the learning curve drops drastically. Building custom spellbooks takes some extra time, but drastically reduces the actual playtime. You know your spellbook very well since you individually picked out cards to use.

Also, while you are building out your spellbook, you are generally picking a strategy too, so there is less indecision in the first half of the game.

For us, this is when the game really shined - building spellbooks was really fun, much more so than, say, building a deck for a CCG.
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Justin Robben
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I gotta tell ya...I realize everyone's experience with this game will be different...

But anyone with CCG and/or RPG-type experience shouldn't have all that much trouble getting this down.

It's not nearly as daunting as I've seen posts allude to.

And 5 hours?! Maybe for people completely new to this system, but even my demos and 1st games weren't that long.

A good solid 2 hours is where this game should hit at. 90 minutes to 2 hours...and it's a blast!!!!!

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Mike Beiter
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I definitely feel we lengthened our game due to play style choices as opposed to being new to the game.
We rarely looked at rules, and thanks to the excellent rule book, we found our answers almost instantly.

The length was because of numerous rounds of going back and forth with me spraying his minions with light to moderate damage, then him healing it with priests and a unicorn.
So this went on and on and on and on until I finally rolled well enough on a couple consecutive attacks to finally drop one of his healers. With each successive creature loss, his turtle defense got weaker and weaker. But it still took a while to whittle him away. Had I just charged him and zapped away with my lightning spells, it would have gone a lot quicker, but I choose to stay at a distance and arrow him away since he was not attacking me. Until he became a threat I was fine staying back and whittling. It was the long way to play, but it won me the match in the end.

And the mana drain I did to my opponent really had him on the ropes. He never had enough mana to summon minions late game and keep his summoned ones protected.
He choose instead to devote his mana to protecting his own minions and buff up his angel to be a one woman team. And it almost won him the game. The angel was nearly unstoppable and killed 5 of my 8 creatures. And when it finally came for me, I used my lightning spells I was holding back to zap her to death.

I definitely do not want to discourage people from playing because the game is too long. We were just two players who took 0 risks. And we had so much fun. The second I finally dropped a cleric I practically jumped up and down in excitement.

Another factor that contributed is that the starter builds for these spell books are not ideal. They are great for testing the waters and giving a balanced exposure, but when I had only 8 creatures to summon, I am going to protect them at all costs. And since we knew what each other’s spell books contained, that only added to our conservative approach. Since I knew he had 2 dissolves, and I had 2 wands. I knew he would have dissolved them the second I played them. So this was an immediate thwart of what could have been a powerful combo. Why waste my spells on a wand that I know will be destroyed?
When we start making our own spell books and do not know what the other person has, we will take more risks.
Since I knew he had 5 or more healing spells in his deck; I was constantly aware that every direct damage spell I cast could be nullified if the spell did not drop its intended target. I knew he had the lightning angel and paladin, so I purposely held back all my best spells to deal with them when they showed up.

In the end I feel that the game length is always going to be longer if the players are conservative in their styles. And having 100% knowledge of your opponents spell books only added to this.
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J. Green
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I think if you look at Mage Wars as a *game system* rather than just as a game, you'll do better if you want a short game. In the files section, there is a great .pdf on how to run an "Apprentice" version of the game, i.e., a demo. It uses half the map: a 2x3 grid. It has abbreviated spellbooks for each mage. These are designed to play quickly to get people into the game without overwhelming them. Some of the more complicated spells and conditions are left out of the explanation, but all of the full rules are in effect. In other words, it's not a "dumbed down" version of the game, it's just limited for faster playtime. I think they should have included the .pdf as an appendix to the rulebook, but it's there for you to print and play with right now in the files section of the Mage Wars page here on BGG.

So making the game shorter within the context of a "Customizable" system is definitely possible through simply limiting map size, life and channeling, along with a smaller spell book. Since each spell can only be used once, you could limit the spell book to a certain *number* of spells, which after one mage runs out would end the game. You could also just use a Chess clock, giving each mage 30 minutes of play time, and when one mage reaches his time limit, he may finish his turn, and then the other mage is allowed one more turn and then the game ends, with the mage with the most life, and in the case of a tie, the most mana left. This seems like the most fair way to run tournaments with a reasonable time limit and still give players access to the full spell catalog and the full map. But I think the challenge of running the game with an "Apprentice" size map and a time limit would put a lot of pressure on the players that would eliminate a lot of down time and analysis paralysis.

Further, it seems like if you simply adopted additional win conditions, such as "control 1 of the two center spaces with your mage physically in the space for three consecutive turns (possibly with an additional condition like "without taking damage" or something), the game could go much much faster, and there would be a much shorter beginning game. If all you have to do to win is have your mage in one of the center spaces for 3 rounds, taking damage or not, games could go a lot faster and the whole approach would change. No time for building up a mana fort, no time for summoning a bunch of stuff. Just basically do whatever you can do in the two moves it takes to get to a center space, and then try to turtle up before your opponent comes at you.
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Jason Z
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My first play was today with my 11 year-old son. More of the same that was reported above. Part of that time was constructing the Beastmaster and Wizard spell books. A good chunk was referring to the manual almost every turn for keywords and rules. Part of it was that there was so much (to) check on as far as upkeep when the game was in full swing. Regardless, we both really had fun. After a while, I decided just to start popping out creatures each turn rather than messing with equipment or enchanting up my creatures. I ended up surrounding his Wizard although he did drop that sweet zone attack which was pretty cool and smart of him. Unfortunately, he had pushed out my big gorilla the action before so he came back in and finished off his Wizard even with two weak counters (he still got +2 Melee and +3 Rage).

Even though there are plans for new Mage expansions, I sure home they re-visit the current group with additional spells. Our game probably could have went on longer if I hadn't purposefully left out the "guard" mechanic. I thought that would end up mucking up things, but I may have given myself an advantage by doing so.

I think it will be a quicker match next go around. My son is already excited about building his own spell book when it is time.
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Christian Rehm

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The length of the game is the deal breaker for me. It just takes too long if you're playing competitively.

It's an itch that can be scratched at a fraction of the time with other games.
 
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Juan Carlos Goyes
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Saan wrote:
noblejohn wrote:
Posts like these are really dampening my excitement for the game. It is disappointing to see there is not a mechanic in the game that forces it to move forward and finish in a reasonable amount of time. In Summoner wars you run out of cards.

Maybe the spell books and hit points are too big/high?


Having now played 6 games of this, i can say the learning curve is a far bigger reason than anything. My first game took 3.5 hours. The last two games I played were both under 1.5 hours.

EDIT: Also, the starter spellbooks are a bit short in the teeth. Once you make your own spellbook, the game is faster to play for a couple reasons:

1. If you build your spellbook, you have a much better idea of what cards are available to you. The first few turns fly by in a few seconds a piece because you generally build with a particular opening strategy in mind.

2. You will find some killer combos. For example, in the OPs situation, there is an 8 cost zone exclusive card that cancels all healing. THat card would have made OPs game a whole lot shorter, haha. Or, with beastmaster, spamming Foxes and then Using Call of the wild to summon Darkfang (not sure on these names, not in front of me), can end the game very quickly.



I'm relieved.. I almost panicked when I read that it took 5 hours
 
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Peter Rogneholt
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Thanks for your report!

I am very happy to hear that the game took so long for you to play as there is really few games nowadays that is allowed to take time to play.

I have always wondered how it comes to that if you enjoy boardgames you do not want them to take a long time to play?

Do not gamers want to have fun for too long?`Rather a quick little fun so they can go back to boring chores?

My advice, get another hobby. Try cooking or wash the dishes.
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