Roll some dice and strike down swathes of monsters as a trio of powerful spell casters.
I have enjoyed playing board games. Lots of board games. I have been a part of the desperate race against time in Arkham Horror, made fragile alliances in Settlers of Catan, and of course experienced the soul-draining time vampire known as Monopoly. However, my board gaming has been severely limited as schedules between friends have begun to clash. Once digital board games came to mobile devices, I was a much happier gamer. Now I can enjoy a lot of my favorite board games on the go without worrying about losing any tokens in transport. There are plenty of classic games available, but there are also plenty of board games that are created for the mobile market from the beginning.
Arcane Magic is one of the latter games. As a new entry in the Warhammer series, fans of this venerable fantasy setting will be pleased to see this game delivers a proper fusion of tabletop and mobile gameplay ideas. This particular game setting takes the player into the very nexus of a powerful storm of chaotic magic that is causing earth and creature alike to mutate horribly.
This game gives the player a single flame-themed wizard (Known in the Warhammer series as a “Bright Wizard”) and explains that the objective is to activate a set number of Arcane Fulcrums and then exit the map alive. These Fulcrums are a series of special spaces that are placed in intervals throughout each game map. With each activated Fulcrum, the wizard’s available magical energy increases and allows for greater (ahem) firepower. As the game progresses, the player will be able to recruit other magic users like a Celestial Wizard that controls wind and lightning or a Dark Elf Sorceress that conjures delicious crepes and other delicate pastries. Just kidding, she harnesses the power of darkness for her spells.
You will need to quickly learn the advantages and disadvantages of each type of magic since nearly each Fulcrum is guarded by groups of monsters that only grow stronger and nastier as each level is completed. Combat is turn based and relies on proper planning and placement of your wizards to maximize the effectiveness of spells with different ranges and blast radii. When spells are cast, certain stats such as Toughness and Willpower are compared versus a base attack score per spell and then a die is rolled to add modifiers to each attack. Damage is usually dealt with plenty of generosity and one-hit kills are common in the beginning of the game.
Thankfully, whether the heroes are ambushed by a swarm of Harpies or are unfortunate enough to meet up with a hulking Ghorgon (or worse!), each of monsters have just as many strengths and weaknesses as the player characters. A little careful analysis of any new combatant will pay off in the long run. For example, I have found the Bright Wizard can play full offense very well since he can cast lots of blast radius attacks with heavy attack power (with heavy cost, of course.) The Celestial Wizard is a decent damage dealer that can also use winds to throw an enemy to the other side of the map or hinder their movement. The Dark Elf works as nice mix of offense and defense by shielding party members and casting large Terror effects in the same turn.
As a board game, Arcane Magic has gets its hooks in deep, right from the beginning. The gathering of gold during combat in order to unlock newer spells between levels feels satisfying and suitably empowering. Outside of combat, treasure chests known as Plunder Packs are scattered generously throughout each map and grants the player extra one-shot spell scrolls and healing crystals known as Warpstones (More on those in a moment.) By searching for these chests, most players should be able to keep plenty of equipment between levels.
While the combat is a ton of fun, I would like to see the die rolls, modifiers, and results to be logged into a separate Battle Log or perhaps just see a pre-roll break down of the various reasons why a die result of four now is not the same as a die result of four made earlier in the game. Also, line of sight is important to some spells, but not others. Similarly, some large monsters will block line of sight, some will not. A few extra prompts or UI glows will help first-timers through the earlier fights.
About those Warpstones: Player death in Arcane Magic is frequent but only an inconvenience as long as there are available Warpstones to use for the revival spell. These stones can even be used to turn an enemy to your own side, temporarily. Warpstones are the game’s premium currency which allows me to bring in my opinion of the mobile side of the game.
As a mobile title, this game still fares pretty well. Leaving the game mid-mission is handled gracefully since the game saves between nearly every turn. The two currencies of Gold and Warpstones are available as in-app purchases, but the game is perfectly playable without turning to the dark side. As a premium app (a $9.99 one, at that), there are blessedly no ads and the game never brings up any garish reminders to spend more money during the game. Along the same line, there are several additional characters that can be purchased separately, but the game is content to simply list them alongside the other characters in the Team Setup screen without shoving them into a popup or video reminder.
Controlling the action is handled well with the expected pinch-to-zoom, twisting the map to rotate around an object, and tapping on virtual buttons and map tiles. Some of the text can get pretty darn small on a phone, though, even on my 6 Plus. Since the game pauses when looking at a character or monster stat card, it might as well fill the screen, in my opinion.
Still, after everything is considered and another monster vanished into smoking cinders, I counted my time with Arcane Magic as time well spent. I had a great time taking down groups of monsters with a critical die result while using Smoldering Fire Cape and loved envisioning my trio of wizards rolling up their sleeves and take battle stances as a shield of pure shadow suffused them just in time to absorb the fury of a charging Cygor.
Oh, and Turbo Tape Games? More, please! I would love to see more missions, and perhaps a random “skirmish” or “horde” mode.
(Post-review note: I want to take an extra second and call out the game’s narrator. The credits list the voice actor as David Shaw Parker and he does a great job of taking game text that is laced with fantasy hyperbole and giving it a voice that is both languid and sinister. In my opinion, having a good “Dungeon Master Voice” really helps sell this as a digital board game, so well done, devs!)
For more information, visit http://arcanemagicgame.com.