No more Mr Nice Guy! In Blue Orange's Bellum Magica, you're an evil warlord out to loot as much treasure as you can by using your growing army of goblins and dragons to attack hapless villagers and to steal from other players!
Designed by Frédéric Guérard, with cute art by Sylvain Aublin, Bellum Magica is at heart a card drafting game. The 2-5 players each start off with a 'castle' board and two starter goblin cards. The castle and cards are all divided into six rows, corresponding to the six faces of a conventional six-sided die. Players decide whether to place each of their goblin cards to the left or right of their castle: cards placed to the left yield resources; those to the right add to the player's attack strength. Each round, one player rolls a d6 and all the players activate that row on their castle. First they all collect the resources shown for that row, then, if they have enough sword icons in the row, they attack one of the available village locations or, if they also have a steal icon, they can instead attack another player.
At the end of each round, players get to spend resources recruiting more goblins, or the more powerful dragons, to add to their resource collection or attack strength on subsequent rounds. The player with the most scroll icons in the activated resource row wins a treasure chest, and attacks on village sites mostly yield one or more treasure chests. So obviously, it's only worth attacking another player if they have a treasure chest to steal. Whether against village sites or other players, attacks only succeed if your swords match or exceed the target's defence value. As you might expect, the defence values of village sites increase as the game progresses, and players too will be adding shields to shore up their castle's defences. There are magic shields too: impenetrable to ordinary swords but susceptible to attack with magic swords...
The game ends when a player finishes an attacking phase with 10 or more treasure chests, tho' that won't necessarily guarantee the win because the chests all have hidden points values: you can peek at those you take but you won't know for sure how many points other players' chests are worth. All you can know for sure is the range for each type of chest: wooden chests are worth 1 or 2 points; metal chests 3 or 4; and gold chests are worth 5 or 6 points.
Tho' gameplay is simple, there are some real choices to be made - for example, over whether and when to bolster resource collection or attack strength. Various tokens give players the ability to demand a re-roll - so you aren't necessarily stuck with activating the row that's rolled. As the game progresses, judicious use of the re-roll tokens can prove critical to success in maximising your own effectiveness and in potentially denying an opponent the benefit of an optimal roll.
But ultimately, Bellum Magica is a fun game rather than a tactical tussle. You're adding chests pretty much every round: you'll be winning chests in an attack most rounds and, most rounds, at least one player will pick up a resource-phase chest for their scrolls, so the treasure chest economy is inflationary and the game length is never likely to run much beyond a filler-length 20 minutes; maybe 30 minutes with a full complement of five players.
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