I played a real game!

This Monday I played a game that was stuck on my shelf for some about three months. It was patiently waiting while I was working on Portal Games prototypes and had no time for playing for fun (how stupid it sounds, heh?!). Finally I said: ‘I am sick of prototypes. I want to play a real game!’

So I played. It was a very strange experience. In my opinion this game is a box full of mistakes. Guys who designed it broke so many design rules that I basically just couldn’t believe it. Really.

#1: Cards
OK, I know, this might not be a general design rule. This is my personal taste. I believe that cards should be in hand or stay on the table. That’s it. Cards are not pawns. Cards are not counters. Cards are not good for moving them on the table, putting them one under the other and all that kind of stuff.

That is why I don’t play Summoner wars (do I see rocks incoming?), that is why I don’t play Innovation (more rocks?), that is why I don’t play Glory to Rome (please, stop it, guys!).

I say – keep your cards in hand or put them on the table and DON’T TOUCH IT. Keep them that way!

On Monday I had to move my cards, I had to put some cards on my cards, and some cards under my cards, and even some cards next to my cards and then I had to move all of my cards, except this one card that is unmovable…

You must be kidding, me…

#2: Keywords
You put keywords into games to underline some of the most important rules or traits. They are used mostly in CCG games. You might played with Skirmish in LotR CCG, Deadly in GoT or Hero in Invasion… You know them. Keywords.

If you put into your game two hundred and twenty four keywords these are no longer keywords. These are painwords.

What was the Frozen? Man, I don’t know. Can you check this Taunted again? And Elusive. And, ah, no, no, Fast I do remember. Fast was +1 movement. But in that case… What the hell is a Charge?!

Each card in this game has few keywords! And there is four or more pages in rulebook with list of all keywords in the game. Madness. Have you guys heard about making games player friendly? How you can explain the game to the new player? How you can start play the game without torture?

Flying. Natural. Regeneration. Burning…

#3: Downtime
I mean, lot’s of words have been said about making games fast, efficient, making turns or rounds as quick as possible. Every designer wants his game to work smooth and quick.

In this game player – in his turn – chooses 2 cards from his whole deck. He literally have 50 or so cards in hand and he chooses 2 of them.

I could not believe it is real. But it was.

#4: Conclusion
I could probably go on and talk about 9 or 6 tokens, short action and long action problems, huge grey board, and small cubes for mana points… There is lots of things here that are against all modern design rules.

I say it – if authors of this game came to me at the stage of prototype, I would kick their ass and I would show them door. There is no way I would publish this game.

The problem is, I would be wrong. Because Mage Wars is an amazing game.

I had great time this Monday. It turned out that I can stand moving cards. It turned out that I can learn all these bloody keywords. It turned out I can even get used to this sad grey board.

I can do this because even with breaking all those designing games rules, and even being extremely player unfriendly, Mage Wars in its roots is basically a pure fun.

That’s exactly what I expect from games. So here is my message to designers – Fuck design rules. Bring pure fun. Just as Mage Wars did this Monday.

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