When we first featured Cursed Empire: Heroes of Thargos on Board's Eye View back in the spring of 2021, we little suspected that we were witnessing the birth of an entire board game universe, but that's what SBG Editions have been developing. Released at Spiel Essen 2023, Battle Mages is an entirely standalone game and very distinct from Heroes of Thargos but it carries the same Cursed Empire imprint and its set in the same 'World of Thargos'. Art is by Ryan Verhagen and Martin Paz Romero.
In Zak Louka's Battle Mages, the players represent wizards casting spells on each other. Players all start off with a set number of 'life points'; between 14-20, depending on the number of players. You have a hand of two spell cards and you begin your turn by drawing another, either the face-up 'Centre Card' or a card from the top of the face-down draw deck. You then play a card to cast a spell to attack another player so that they lose a life point. The twist here tho' is that the player on the receiving end can play a card of the same colour but with a different 'major spell' image (ie: with a different central illustration on the card), they can merge it with the attack spell. This then shields them from the spell's damage and instead directs the damage - enhanced by your merged spell - to the next player round the table.
Around three quarters of the spells are 'common spells' in one of six colours but there are also 'rare spell' cards that have special effects as set out in the text on the card. Some of the rare spell cards have effects that cannot be countered.
The net result is a light but entertaining 'pass the parcel' type game where the potential damage mounts the more the spell is diverted. Of course, there's inevitably a high luck factor over whether or not a player has the card they need to divert a spell, so Battle Mages isn't a game of deep strategy but the important thing is that it's a fun filler: our games at Board's Eye View have mostly run to around 20 minutes. The winner is the last mage standing, so this is a game with player elimination but it's a short enough game that that shouldn't be a major concern. The rules include variants that allow for a two-player game and, bizarrely a solo version but, given the nature of the game, Battle Mages is really intended for 3-6 players. We've enjoyed it most with at least four players.
And tho' Battle Mages is a standalone game, it includes as a bonus 10 more cards that you can add to your Heroes of Thargos deck...