Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Mana-Mana, Doo-doo do-doo-do:- Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Game: Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Publisher: AEG

Designer: John D. Clair

Year: 2017

Mystic Vale is a card crafting game which we previously reviewed in January this year. As a quick refresher, Mystic Vale is a deck building game with a twist, you start with a full deck of sleeved cards. Instead of buying cards for your deck, you buy clear plastic advancements, which slide inside the sleeves adding their powers to the base card. Each card can support up to three advancements, creating an incredibly vast number of unique combinations. I finished my Mystic Vale review by saying that one day the card crafting system would produce a great game, but Mystic Vale wasn't that game.

So, does the Mana Storm expansion change that? Mana Storm brings with it 48 new advancements and 18 new Vale cards for you to play with, but most importantly it introduces leaders and amulets. The new advancements have a strong tendency to be more powerful than the advancements found in the base game, but to balance this out a large number of them have caveats to their function, some require you to collect enough guardian symbols on the card by adding other enhancements before it starts to work, while others simply cost you victory points at the end of the game to balance out their power. It's wonderful to see the guardian symbols being introduced in greater number, making collecting them far more meaningful. The base game didn't really use this mechanic to the fullest, but now you can create a few cards that start neutered, but gain power exponentially as you add more symbols.

A game of Mystic Vale set up with Mana Storm cards, the setup is almost identical, there is no harm in introducing new players straight to the expansion.

Leaders are a brand new concept to Mana Storm, and one I'm particularly fond of. At the start of the game each player drafts a leader and an amulet, leaders take the place of one of your blank cards in your deck, while amulets replace your mana token from the base game. The leaders mean that everyone has a unique card to start with, which really helps add some spice to the early game. Leaders are powerful cards, often rivaling the power of a fully upgraded card. In addition each leader can be flipped over during the game, typically functioning as a one-time upgrade increasing their power and victory point value, though there are a few exceptions which behave in some interesting ways.

Amulets are the final new addition, which again provide some variety from the very start. Most of these are noticably more powerful than the basic mana crystal, but function in a similar way, they are powerless until you spoil and waste your turn. After that they become active and you may freely use their power at the cost of making them inactive again. All of them have interesting abilities that help dictate your play style, but the more powerful ones do come at a victory point cost at the end of the game.

The leader cards from the expansion all help give you a unique play style and keep the game's replay-ability high

Overall I think Mana Storm is a fantastic expansion, it has brought Mystic Vale far up in my estimations. The drafting of leaders and amulets means that I'm making an important decision from the moment that I sit at the table, while the new advancements and vale cards allow for more meaningful deck building with larger risk-reward factors to consider. There's some things that simply aren't going to be fixed, the game is still largely themeless, and the way turns work can be pretty clunky at times, with some painful wait times when you spoil. The best way to evaluate an expansion is to decide if you would ever play without it again, in Mana Storm's case I can definatively say no. Mana Storm goes a long way towards making Mystic Vale the great game it should have been, though I'm still looking forward to a more refined card crafting game in the future.


Mystic Vale: Mana Storm was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is be available for an RRP of £29.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

No comments:

Post a Comment