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REALM of WONDER:  Mindwarrior Games.  A Strategy game designed by Max Wikström

     

Realms of Wonder utilises various mechanics from other games such as a revolving board (it has two parts that revolve), landing on spaces containing face-down event tiles, turning these over and reacting accordingly (collecting a card or item, fighting a monster etc), or getting to the centre of the board with the correct resources. Seeing as it is getting more and more difficult to come up with a new, exciting and interesting mechanic, using previous ideas is not such a bad thing - in fact I am seeing more and more "new" games with "old" game mechanisms.

The rules are printed on just 4 (A4) pages, complete with colour illustrations and card descriptions; little in the way of examples as the rules are clear enough so not as to require them. There are 9 sets of rules in the box, one for each represented country - the UK, Nederlands, Denmark, Poland, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland, these same countries also each have four story pages in the game's Story Book - a booklet that tells the "Once Upon A Time Tale...." and describes the 5 possible game scenarios/Quests plus there is the adventurer's road to victory (as in there are 6 separate ways to win). The King's Quest can be chosen by the players, generally done after playing the game a few times and deciding which Quest you like playing best, or, to begin with, randomly selected from the available Quests as shown in the Story Book.

Having gone so far as to create so much paperwork it is understandable, but regrettable, that player reference sheets haven't been made available as they would be so much help, for experienced gamers as well as non experienced players. Agreed, all reference material is available in the Rules booklet but it would just be handy not to have to be continually passing the booklet around amongst the players - this is probably the only component that will suffer from long term playing.

    

Components:
Game board with rotating rings.
6 Player character cards - Cyclops, Wizard, Yeti, Golem, Gnome and Troll
9 Rules book (9 translated booklets)
1 Story book (translated into 9 languages)
6 Player character pieces - to match the cards in name and feature.
50 Magic cards
50 Movement cards
36 Towers
60 Castle pieces
6 Home castles - 1 per player
Counters/tokens
All components are of very high quality card for the cards and the board, regular wooden counters, a well designed board that turns easily and some amusing durable plastic moulded miniatures that have been created for long term use, in fact the complete game is designed for playability.

  

Once the Quest scenario has been selected the game is played in rounds of four phases each. The Phases must be played iin the same order:
Magic Points Payoff - this is where the game board gets turned, Magic Wells are fortified, Movement points and Magic cards are bought.
Movement Cards are Played - players select one of their three Movement cards. The character showing the highest value movement, as shown on the played card, will move first but the player with the lowest movement will cast Magic first.
Spells are Cast - this is where playing the lowest Movement card is an advantage, or at least it can be. The luck of the deal and the draw (of Magic cards) plus the current situation on the board determines whether to cast spells or not, especially as Magic cards are all one-use and then discarded.
Moving - the number on the played card determines the number of Movement points available. It takes only one point to move to an "easy" space and two points to move to a "harder" space, this being one with a white border. Walls and water generally are impervious to movement. Characters landing on the same space as another character or a monster must elect to fight each other. Combat is undertaken by comparing Battle Points and these are gained through Muscle, Spells, Battle Die etc as well as being determined by the characters in battle. You should remember that even if you wish to "play nice" that combat is a necessary and essential part of the game.

     

Before play begins Tower tiles are placed around the board on designated spaces. Players who land on the space occupied by a Tower Tile can spend a Magic point to flip the tile and enjoy (or not) the consequences. There may be a Monster lurking there, an Eye Monster with its additional Battle Strength, or maybe a Vampire which is even stronger, or perhaps, the dreadful but awesome Dragon will appear and force a Battle Royal. If you defeat the monster your fame spreads and you are on your way to a non-Quest victory, if you lose then no-one will say anything as that is expected. You just sneak back to your House to restore yourself or to your nearest Stronghold so you can try again when you are ready. The other Tower Tiles are in your favour - Knights, Teleports and Magic by way of Orbs, Potions, Chests or Cards. You need luck to locate the tiles that are best for you but luck favours the bold so it's better to flip these tiles than bypass them.

All Quests end the game at the King's Castle. When a player or players complete the required Quest they are given a Victory Disc which they must be the first to take to the King's Castle. It is also possible to win without a Victory Disc by carrying three Monster Tiles (having defeated these previously) or having located and obtained three Magic Orbs. You still have to enter the King's Castle first. 

The game play should flow fairly well as players devise their own strategies and use their abilities and powers/spells to complete the King's Quest. But because of the need to read the references for each Card, Tile and Disc, at least until you know them all by heart - which I confess not to even after several plays - the game slows while players pass the rules, read their cards and decide on their turn, rather than pre-plan, what their actions will be this turn.

  

The board has three distinct areas, two of which can be rotated so that new lands are created and destroyed regularly. Within these three areas there are six regions, differentiated by colour and appearance, and these regions are furthermore spread into pathways (movement spaces) some of which are harder to traverse than others (marked with white borders). Within the regions the character's houses can be found, the spaces on which these sit being the starting area for the characters and also their indestructable Fortress. Other players can fly over these spaces using Hot Air Balloons but may never pass through them on the ground nor can they attack and conquer them. 

There are many Places of Magic, such as Towers and Wells that the players can utilise to their advantage plus Forts that can be built as "foreign" outposts. Once a Fort has been strengthened with 3 Discs it becomes a Stronghold; players losing a battle can return to a Stronghold instead of their House which may save several turns of movement if the Strongholds have been built in advantageous positions. 

This is another strategy game where you can plan all you want but can only do some of what is available to you, thus you need to plan and prepare prior to your turn even if, as I have noted, your plans cannot be guaranteed because of other player's actions and the need to reference the cards and all other elements that are part of your conceived idea. This leads, of course, to frustration and in turn to the need of greater and better planning, and to having the knowledge of all things needing of reference. The quicker you learn all the reference points the faster and more fluent the game will play and the more enjoyable it will get. Of course the turning of the board can always upset your plans, so it is useful to have contingencies in your armoury of thought.

As I said earlier, REALM of WONDER is an amalgamation of mechanics and rules from different games, either consciously or subconbsciously designed as such, but it isn't a mish-mash, it is a  game of luck and skill that has been carefully and cleverly constructed into an enjoyable and entertaining set of challenges.  

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015