As a powerful Mageling you are called upon to rid the swamps of a dangerous cult as you fight through different landscapes and learn spells. With the new expansion Rise of the Ancients, there is an additional threat, a sorcerer draped in black following you on your journey. In Mageling you will control one of the mages, each focusing on a different playstyle. There are magic scrolls to acquire, monsters to vanquish, spells to learn, treasures to find, potions to use, enchantments to utilize and power orbs to control. At its heart Mageling is a dice placement game, however, your mage and dice are only as good as the tableau you create from the cards you acquire in the nexus. By the end of the game (if you created a successful dice manipulation engine, you will have 2-4 minute long combos, it’s very satisfying to say the least.
Each mage begins with a spirit crystal, equipped with basic dice placement spots, 4 mana and 5 rune dice. On the spirit crystal you are able to gather by placing a matching pair of dice for 1 mana (able to be used on later turns) or two difference dice to gain one energy (used during the current turn). You are also able to focus dice by placing sets of the same school of magic icon to gain energy at a rate of one energy per dice placed. There are 5 schools of magic and one finesse (hand) symbol on every dice. The finesse symbol can act as a wild school of magic in the focus area of the spirit orb. They can also be used in the animate area of the spirit orb to do one of three things 1) discard a card from the nexus 2) re-roll any dice 3) trigger an ability on a spirit orb or card.
Each turn you spend acquired energy after placing dice, plus mana you have accumulated from the current or past rounds to gain scrolls from the nexus (cards). at the end of every turn your energy is set to zero, so it’s best to make sure you can spend it or find a way to get mana instead. To win a scenario you have to advance through 4-5 locations each costing a certain amount. You need to play some risk/reward choosing the right time to advance vs grabbing a tasty looking card in the Nexus. Depending on the game type/expansion you are playing there is a doom phase where…bad stuff happens. Think Arkham Horror LCG bad, possible game ending things if you aren’t progressing fast enough.
Yes, you roll dice, so there is a certain amount of luck involved but I have never seen dice manipulation used so well in a game. When I say towards the end of a game, a combo will take 2-4 minutes to finish, I wasn’t exaggerating. Based on the school of magic you chose to focus on, your tableau should provide multiple different opportunities to manipulate your dice. Cards will let you change one side of a die, reroll all your dice and activate cards of a certain school in your tableau, the nexus, or the discard pile.
The New Stuff
The new expansion is called Rise of the Ancients, there are ancients awakening! Oh no! This expansion adds enchantments, new arcane dice, monsters, a new campaign, a rondel giving you access to powerful…power cards, potions and an updated doom phase. I know the expansion is called Rise of the Ancients, but my favorite parts of this expansion are the enchantments and arcane dice by far. As you progress through locations, many locations have opportunities to gain enchantments to put on cards in your tableau, letting you manipulate your cards to let you…manipulate your dice further! Arcane dice are one-shot dice, once you acquire them, you may roll them/ use them only one time. You acquire them from power cards (more on that later) and new card types.
This biggest gameplay change comes from the power orb. It’s an additional dice placement spot given to all mages. The counter goes around the rondel one time for every dice placed in that area. Once it goes back to the third position you can acquire a power card, which can later be activated by going back to the power orb location, giving you different abilities depending on your mage, but usually, they give you energy/gems and possibly another special ability. Because this is a great alternative to gathering, (the spot you usually go to when you can’t do anything else with your dice) Potions were added to locations, you now find a potion whenever you gather, for a powerful one-time effect.
Art, Writing and Graphic Design
The writing is top-notch, I enjoyed reading all of the campaign prologues and the post scenario reading after each win. I only recently started reading the flavor text on all the cards, but it is all great and some are wonderfully dark. The art is hit or miss for me. I adore all of the location card art and most of the scroll card art. There are some cards that I just don’t like, usually about 1 in every 5 cards in the nexus. I know art is subjective, but the art that I don’t like stands out because of how much I like the art on most cards. The graphic design is solid, the symbols are all easy to read and make sense, the core rulebook had me confused after reading it, but I did not have trouble with the expansion rulebook even though it’s still undergoing editing.
Solo Thoughts I think
Mageling and the Expansion both play perfectly solo. It is a co-op game, after all, no rules are changed and there is no AI, you just have to survive to win. Setup is very quick and easy, so is the teardown – my busy dad life approves. I have loved Mageling as a small box game for over a year now and I am very excited to finally see an expansion for it, turning it into a big box game. I welcome all of the new gameplay additions and found reasons to explore all of them. I mentioned my favorite modules are enchantments and arcane dice, but I found myself using everything, including the power orb and potions regularly for different reasons. For complete clarity, I was given a prototype version of the expansion, but bought the core game and will be backing the expansion, just to have non-prototype components.
Playthrough by yours truly