Theme and What is it?
Magic rules the world and the most powerful users are called Planeswalkers. These rare few wander the world drawing power from the land and use it to power their greatest spells and artifacts. You take the role of one of these planeswalkers. Can you master the forces of nature to control the world around you? Who will be the greatest among you?
Magic the Gathering: Heroes of Dominaria is a resource management game where players move about the board gathering Mana and spending it on different abilities. The abilities in the game all give access to more mana, power, quests, artifacts, and most importantly, points.
On your turn you can move a number of spaces based on how many Champions you’ve recruited, collect all the mana from one space, and use your five abilities as many times as you can afford. There are five types of mana in the game: red, blue, green, white, and black. While in the card game these all represent specific things in Heroes they are more or less interchangeable.
Your abilities are all fueled by mana. Each of the abilities requires one of a specific type of mana plus a number of other mana of any color. For example, building a leyline requires one green and two of any color. This can be two of the same color or a mix of two different colors.
Each ability gives you different bonuses. You’re normally only allowed to gather mana from the space one of your champions is in. Leylines connect spaces allowing you to gather from any space in the network. You can build up to five Manaliths that will give you a free mana of a specific color at the start of your turn. You can recruit a new champion giving you access to more of the board and the ability to move farther.
Other abilities allow you to collect things. You can gain access to artifacts that give you powerful special abilities. These can range from giving you additional mana or allowing extra actions and moves. Additionally you can battle members of the cabal. These enemies appear randomly on the board and block everyone’s ability to gather mana from a space. This can make them particularly annoying if you allow them to spread.
You are also able to complete quests. These come from a deck of cards that require you to perform certain actions, have met certain standards, or gained specific things. Each completed quest comes with a number of rewards and points to be allocated when gathered.
The game lasts for a number of rounds based on player count. At the end there some end game scoring. Most points wins.
I played Magic the Gathering back in the day when base game cards had black borders. I’ve always liked the game but fell out because the collectable nature became too much to keep up with. That said, I’ve always been fascinated with the world created in Magic and would have loved to come back to it. Because of that, I was looking forward to this game. I wanted to play it and I thought it could be a lot of fun. I understood that it wasn’t going to be the, “I summon a Mesa Pegasus and fly it over your Wall of Thornes”. Still, I was intrigued by this.
Once I opened the box and saw the components and read the rules I was a little trepidations. The components were fine but I had questions about the rules. I’ll get into later in the review.
Game Build Quality
I think the components are fine. Most of the pieces are wood and fairly sturdy. They are just shapes in the colors of the different players and as such represent things fairly well but aren’t anything to write home about. Serviceable is a pretty good word here. Everything’s great for clarity purposes but nothing stands out as particularly great.
Card quality is nice. They feel sturdy and are clear to read. I don’t think you’ll need to sleeve them but some folks might still want to.
My game came with painted miniatures and they did a nice job on the figures. Everything holds up well but nothing wowed me.
The rules in this game are a problem. Some things are defined in one place without explaining the things that go around them. I also think the rules are written in the wrong order. They describe how to do each individual action before explaining the steps of the game. Turn sequence is the last thing they teach you. I prefer it the other way around. The rule books not long so it really doesn’t upset much. An FAQ would help. At the writing of this I couldn’t find one.
Additionally, there was one other thing that I don’t want to call a complaint, but it was an issue. There were extra leylines in my set and it threw us off. We weren’t sure what they were for or how we should use them. I think they’re just there for extras in case you lose or break something.
The art is fine. Everything is clear and easy to understand. It feels like the same art from the card game and is of the same quality. I liked it but it didn’t stand out in any way.
This is a resource management game. You’re going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what resources you need to do the things you want. More likely what you can do with the resources you can get. That said this is all about building an engine that lets you complete as much of your player board and quests as possible. If you want to go after artifacts you’ll need movement and blue mana. This means you’ll need to find a way to get consistent boosts to both of these.
Age Range & Weight
The box says 14+ and I think that’s a good call. I don’t feel the rules are over complicated and the steps are pretty easy to follow. Everyone should have a pretty easy time figuring out what to do.
I think the game sits at the higher end of middle weight. It require some planning and forethought but never gets bogged down in it. Later in the game you’ll have enough options that not getting to do the one thing you want will still leave you with multiple actions.
You could get bogged down with analysis paralysis from the options, but since the later game turns allow you to do multiple things you’ll often never have to choose between one thing and another instead being able to do most.
I like this game. I will say the box says 2-4 players; I don’t think it works at 2. You need three and four players to build up available resources on the board. With two players resources don’t build up fast enough and it feels like you aren’t accomplishing anything for entire turns in the early third of the game. I also agree with others I’ve seen online that say you should use the variant that puts out two mana on a space at the beginning of the game instead of one.
I like the process of building your engine in this game. It feels good to go for your manaliths or drop leylines as often as possible. It’s also nice that the longer the game goes the more you can do on your turn. Building leylines makes building more leylines easier. The same goes for Manaliths and fighting the cabal. The other benefit is that everything you do also makes everything else easier too.
This does mean the early game feels a little slow. You will have a turn where all you do is move and collect mana. It’s also why I think you need the variant set up. The rulebook warns the variant may make the game longer and I think it’s negligible how much time it adds to play.
It is possible to accuse the game of being a multi-player solitaire. It’s easy to play an entire session and never cross paths with other players in a meaningful way. Even if you want to mess up someone else all you can really do is collect the mana from the space you think they’re headed towards. Even that doesn’t really stop them. There are some public quests that give everyone a group set of group goals to chase down. It is possible to shoot past someone and claim a public quest first denying them the points. However, there’s a second place for each quest that rewards slightly less points.
In the end, I had a good time. I like this game and think it’s going to end up in my collection. I recommend giving it a try if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. I didn’t quite scratch that Magic the Gathering itch I’ve had but it’s a nice time with some good decisions and multiple paths to victory. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good trick.