*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry
Dark Mages is a card-battling game for 2 to 8 players, which immediately drew my attention. As a social butterfly with a wide network of friends who play board games, sometimes it can be difficult to find something that engages every player, or even allows for that many. How often do you see “Suitable for 2-6 players” and have to tell Jimmy that he has to go home because he drew the short straw?
Well now Jimmy can join in on the fireball-slinging, skeleton-summoning, potion-chugging mayhem that comes from being a dark wizard.
At the start of the game every player chooses a wizard, ranging from the classic four elements (Fire Summoner, Water Summoner, etc) to the standard (Wizard, Magician) to the esoteric (Darkness Wizard?). Each one has a number of stats; health, armor class, mastery, and resistance.
You draw a hand of spell and item cards, representing the gamut of fantasy spell casting standards and some fun additions, and you get to casting. Everybody starts with 60 health and the last player standing is the winner.
The game descended into chaos at the beginning when I infected half the board with a poison liable to kill them within three turns, and each of them responded in kind by raining destruction down around my head. Gameplay is simple: play a card, roll a die, deal damage, repeat. Certain cards introduce special abilities or alternate rules, but everything is explained in the game and unless you are a complete newbie to the concept, players should catch on pretty quick.
Dark Mages reminded me of another game with a similar premise, Battle Wizards, but whereas Battle Wizards treats the genre like a comedy, Dark Mages is definitely darker and grittier. I can’t really recommend one over the other, but depending on whether your group likes dour, frowny mages or cartoony, Munchkin-style wizards, either of those would be a good choice for your next party.