UK Distribution David Westnedge Ltd
Designed by Paolo Mori
Fantastic artwork by Biboun, Paul Mafayon, Camille Chaussy, Jérémie, Mathieu Leyssenne, Régis Torres, Djib
Via MAGICA, a mainly card, game uses a well known/well used game mechanic known as the 'BINGO' system. It is a very simple but also very enjoyable family game that is superbly augmented by the 'already noted' fantastic artwork.
Currently under 'Board Games' on GGO you can find a revisited review of another HURRICAN game 'AUGUSTUS' which was also designed by Paolo Mori, and from which Via MAGICA draws upon for much of its gameplay, in particular the 'Bingo' aspect and the Bonus card scoring.
In Via MAGICA there are two rows of five Bonus score cards that give VPs ascending in 2s from 2 - 10. These cards are laid out in two rows, the first row is for the number of Portals opened (explained below) and the second row is for collecting 3 same-colour Portal cards (Blue, Green, Yellow and Violet) plus one for having one Portal in each colour.
At the exact moment a player reaches the required number of Portals they may claim the associated reward. However, this is a two-edged sword because players may only claim ONE Bonus card from each row; thus if you collect 2 Portals and claim the 2VP card from the first row, then you cannot claim another card from that row even if you later reach 5 or 6 portals that yield much higher VP rewards. It is a case of deciding whether to claim the reward or not, but there is no going back either way.
So how do you collect portals?
Each player has 3 Magic Portal cards in front of them, face up. These show various numbers of a variety of icons for Earth (brown), Water (blue), Forest (green), Life (white), Fire (red), Shadow (black) and Wildcard (any colour) all of which can be found on Animus tokens that reside in a draw-string bag.
One player takes the mantle of Start Player and draws a token from the bag. They show this token to all players who then place one of their crystal pieces (blue gems) onto one of the icons on a card in front of them; if they have more than one icon on their cards they can choose which one to place onto or they can move a crystal from one card to another (usually you would only do this if your supply of crystals is depleted). If they have no icons of the same type as drawn then they do not place a crystal.
When a Magic Portal card has all of its icons covered with crystals (like a Bingo card with its numbers all marked) then the Portal is activated. What happens on activation depends on the portal's colour, all bar the Purple portal have an effect. Yellow effects are immediate, Blue effects are continuous throughout play, and Green effects affect the end-of-game scoring; all portals have VPs that count at end-of-game scoring.
When you complete a Portal you put it to one side and draw another from the on table display of five, the choice is yours and there is no fee for any card you take, other than having to complete all of its icons for it to be of use to you - the higher the VP value or powerful effect, the more icons there are. Cards with the Shadow (black) icon usually have the highest VP value as there is only one Shadow token in the bag; it should be remembered that there are two Wild tokens also so the odds are not as bad as you originally think.
The Token drawing continues with the same player drawing them from the bag until a Wild is pulled out. This token is used as normal and then all tokens are placed back in the bag, given a good shake and the next player clockwise starts to draw tokens.
When a Portal card is completed the player/s call out INCANTATUM with the player who called first, in case of a tie, going first and thus getting the pick of the current display of 5 Magic Portal cards. This can be good, if there is a card there you particularly want, but remember once a card is removed from the display it is immediately replaced from the deck. Being the first to claim a Portal in a tie may also give you the opportunity to select one of the Bonus cards if your collection now matches the requirements.
There is little player interaction except the shouting out of INCANTATUM at the completion of a Portal (I have to be honest here and say that we cannot help ourselves and call out BINGO instead). There is a strategy (of sorts) whereby you can see that someone else is going to call BINGO as a token is drawn and it might be beneficial for you to let them call first - this takes timing, plus you also have to quickly determine whether letting another player claim the portal first will also let them gain a scoring card before you.
When playing two player it gets to be a cat and mouse type game when it comes to the bonus cards. The two and three, possibly also the four, need not be placed in the display as neither player will want them. The decision is whether to grab the 5 at the moment you reach a collection of five portals or wait for the 6. If you take the 5 you have 5 VPs and the 6 card is left there for your opponent, if you don't take the 5 then you have to go for the 6, you cannot revert your decision.
It is often possible to score more than one portal in quick succession - one card effect lets you immediately complete a second portal - thus if you pass on the 5 it could happen that your opponent goes from 4 to 6 in one turn and then you lose out .
If you collect three portals of the same colour and are first to collect three portals as well, then you can claim the 3 VP card and the Yellow bonus card, but then you cannot claim any more Bonus cards and have to depend on your portal effects and values to enhance your final score; thus collecting should be thought through rather than just because you can.
In the turn where one or more players claim their 7th Portal the game ends and players count up their VPs, the player with highest total being proclaimed the winner.
Priced around £20.00 it is playable by 2-6 players in about 30 minutes.