Friday, February 7, 2014

Let's Play Magic Realm (Week 1)

I recently waxed nostalgic over one of my favorite board games, Magic Realm, and subsequently decided it might be fun to do a play through. Though I usually play with tons of optional rules and the expansion tiles and spells, for purposes of teaching people the basics of the game, I will stick with the base rules and use a fighter to keep things simple. I am not even going to worry about victory conditions this game -- we will just get used to the game, play for a few weeks and see how we fare!

I chose the Amazon to run this play through:

The Amazon is a medium fighter, favoring speed and her armor over hitting power. She is an awesome explorer due to her STAMINA advantage which allows her to record an extra move phase each day. However, in spite of her martial appearance, her combat options are limited by her starting weapon (the lowly short sword) and her lack of heavy FIGHT chits (she has only one), which means even if she upgrades her weapon, she will have trouble dealing enough damage to defeat the toughest enemies in the game. On the other hand, if she can find a bow (not easy, but possible), her AIM advantage will make her a very deadly combatant. In the meantime, discretion and valor go hand in hand in Magic Realm.

Note: Personally, I feel the Amazon does much better using some of the optional combat rules where her fast medium FIGHT chits can make more of a difference, but that is a discussion for another day.

So, let's take a quick look at the map:

Day 1

The Amazon starts, like most characters, at the Inn (circled on the right side of the map). In MR, tiles with six clearings have the possibility for adventure and more importantly, treasure sites. At first glance, I can see the Borderland, the Crag and the Ledges are all within striking distance. I will head to the Borderland first, because it is only a day's travel. Before that though, I will spend a day trading at the Inn to prepare for my trek into the wilderness.

Trading isn't necessarily a safe bet for the Amazon. She is neutral with the Rogues which means they could insult her (- to her fame or notoriety, which she would need to meet victory conditions), or worse, turn on her and attack. Also, there is the possibility for other groups to appear at the Inn. Namely the Patrol (good because we are friends with them), or the notorious mercenary Company (bad because we don't like them).

How do we know who can appear where? For that information, we look to the game's setup card.

Here it is. What you are seeing is that each dwelling in the game, as well as treasure locations, and sound and warning chits are cross-referenced with the result of a random die roll. Each day, after we record what we want to do that turn, we roll a die. When someone ends their turn, we check all of the dwellings and chits on the tile, and see if they line up with our die roll. If they do, something shows up... usually to eat us. You can see on the chart that if we end our day at the Inn, a roll of "1" will bring the Company and a roll of "3" will cause the Patrol to arrive.

We will take our chances for the ability to see what treasures the Rogues have to sell, as well as the opportunity to hire one of them to assist us with the journey ahead. If the Patrol appears, all the better. If the Company decides to crash the party, we will get out of Dodge... and head to the Borderland.

With that plan in mind, I record my move -- HIDE, TRADE, HIRE, HIRE. We hide to hedge our bets and minimize the damage done by poor rolls on the trading tables. The trade is recorded because I want to see what items the Rogues have for sale. The two hires are there to maybe score the Amazon a loyal henchman. We could also record a MOVE (because the Amazon has the Stamina advantage), but we will not do so today.

Ugh... for my HIDE phase, I roll a "6,4". In MR, most actions are resolved by rolling two dice and taking the higher of the two. High numbers are usually bad and so, in this case, I got the worst possible result, a "6", the only result that makes you fail to hide... so I am exposed for the day.

On the other hand, those Quick Boots are nice. They give you an extra MOVE chit. In this case, the boots are better than any MOVE chit the Amazon has. They are as strong and fast as her chits, but without the nasty fatigue asterisk... which we will talk about when we have to fight. Unfortunately, at a base cost of 8, I will never be able to buy them from the neutral Rogues without some cash, or treasures in hand. So, we will make a quick note of it and see if we can hire someone.

Jeez... so the Rogues not only refused to lend me some muscle for my journey, they challenged and insulted my honor, forcing me to lose points, or be blocked and battled. I am not ready for such a confrontation, and so I took the point loss... the Amazon will sleep in the stable tonight and hope tomorrow is a better day.

Day 2

I seriously considered staying at the Inn one more day in hopes of hiring a rogue or two, but I decided against it. The rogues I can hire won't make a difference as to what I can fight. They would just act as a meat shield to protect me in a battle, or allow me to flee. Useful... but a rogue or two won't allow me to take on giants and dragons. I figure, let's just head out on the road and see what happens!!

I record four MOVE phases to take me to Borderland 2 and a HIDE (typically, you hide first, but in a solo game, I have no fear of other players getting in my way). Let's hope I am stealthier today than yesterday. Here is my travel path:

And when I end my turn in the Borderland, we reveal the chits, consult the setup card and see what creatures appear.

Interesting! The Lair appears and because the monster roll today is a "1", the Tremendous Dragon comes with it. The "Bones C" chit draws no monsters.

Day 3

So, I am intrigued by the Lair. There is no way I can fight the Tremendous Dragon. Damage and vulnerability in MR go on a simple scale:

Negligible (--)
Light (L)
Medium (M)
Heavy (H)
Tremendous (T)

My short sword is an L* weapon. The L means it does "Light" damage, and because the Amazon has medium FIGHT chits, she can over-strength her light weapon, making her weapon's base damage medium. The star means it is a sharp weapon, which ups the damage by an additional level. So, the Amazon's final melee damage would be M* or heavy. However, armored opponents (which the dragon most certainly is), ignore one sharpness star, which drops my damage back to a mere medium level... and I need tremendous damage to kill this foe.

Having said that, the dragon is big and slow. The number in the blue circle is "6" which means he moves super-slowly (lower is faster). My MOVE chits, in contrast, are 4s and 3s, which means I can easily run away from this beast if needed.

So, my plan is to hide, head into the clearing with the Lair and see if I cannot locate and loot it. If I screw up hiding, I will be blocked by the dragon and forced into combat, but I can easily flee and try again. The only way this goes bad, is if other creatures are summoned to the tile -- the Bones C chit means trolls can appear. Heck, I can escape them too, so we might be in luck. Let's see what happens!

I record HIDE, SEARCH, SEARCH, SEARCH and enter my turn.

Success!!! Excellent. I avoided the dragon, and found his Lair. Now, with one more lucky day, I can loot the site and get some treasures.

Day 4

Today is easy. I record, HIDE, SEARCH, SEARCH, SEARCH to loot the Lair. It all hinges on not rolling a "6" while trying to hide. The reason is blocking, which is a pretty important concept in Magic Realm. If you end any one of your phases (actions) unhidden in a clearing with enemies, those enemies will block you, ending your turn immediately.

So, we are starting our day in a clearing with a Tremendous Dragon. If I started my day with a SEARCH action (instead of HIDE), I would complete my search, but the dragon would then block me and the rest of my actions for that day would be lost. Thus, I am going to start my day with HIDE. If I succeed, great! I can get three searches in before my turn ends. On the other hand, if I fail my hide, I will end a phase unhidden, and thus be blocked and my turn will be short and fruitless.

I roll double ones for my hide and manage to avoid the dragon for another day. I loot three times and collect three treasures from the Lair. Let's take a quick look at what I have plundered.

Eh... the Scroll of Nature is useless to me as a fighter with no MAGIC chits, but it is worth 10 gold (the bold number in the lower right hand corner of the card) if I sell it to the Rogues. The Lost Keys are useful if I find any of the sites listed on the card. They require Tremendous strength to open and so the Keys are the only means for me to access those treasures. The Cloak of Mist is the best item I got, as it gives me an additional HIDE phase each day.

I feel a bit of greed coming on, and so I think I will repeat my looting on day 5.

Day 5

I recorded a HIDE and then SEARCHes to loot the Lair. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed. The reason for that is that looting, like most other tasks in the game is resolved with the "roll 2 dice, take the highest (worst)" method. In the case of looting, the treasures in the site are piled up, and your roll determines which treasure in the pile you take. So, if you roll a "5", you take the 5th treasure card from the pile. However, if the pile has only 4 treasures, you get nothing on a "5" or "6". Thus, as you loot treasures from a site, your chances of getting more treasures decreases.

The Lair starts with 7 treasures -- 4 small and 3 large treasures. These are piled up with the small treasures on the bottom (and thus easier to get), and the large ones on top. Since I have already acquired 3 of the 7 treasures, that leaves only 4 on the pile. Rolls of "5" or "6" on loot phases get me nothing.

Day 6

I think I will spend another day or so at the Lair, trying to loot it. If more creatures show up, or I can drag one more treasure out of there, then I will move on. My Cloak of Mist gives me an additional HIDE each day, and so I am recording HIDE, SEARCHx4 from here on.

And... we blow the HIDE roll and are blocked on day 6. Now, I am in combat with the Tremendous Dragon.

We will get into combat at a later time... when I actually have to fight. This battle isn't going to happen because before a blow is struck, the Amazon is going to flee for her life. All I have to do is play a MOVE chit lower than the dragon's horrible score of 6 and I am out of the clearing. I play an MOVE 4 and get out of there.

Day 7

So, after an awesome start, we stalled out a bit, and as day 7 starts, we are stranded between clearings in the Borderland. When you flee, you end up on the road in between two clearings and your first phase has to be a MOVE into one or the other spaces.

Now, if I were worried about victory conditions, I would be a little concerned because I have wasted several days trying to scrape more treasures from this site. Most victory point games last only one month and I am 25% of the way through. But... I don't care this game, and so I can procrastinate a but and thus, I am going to give the Lair one more shot to end the week and then I am heading north to the Ledges.

I record a MOVE into clearing 2, then a HIDE, a MOVE back to the Lair, and three SEARCH phases. I feel lucky today!!!

And... I fail to hide and I am blocked again and forced to flee. It is an omen. Time to go.