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Game review: Mage Wars Academy: A tale of two wizards
You have reached the climax of you studies as a Mage in training and now stand ready to face off against other students, those of an entirely different school and ideology! How will your battles turn out? Your actions will determine who is the victor and who tastes bitter defeat! - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
There's something just plain cool about wizards. Their magic abilities, spells, wisdom and great knowledge are dazzling. But when two wizards duel each other, the action is even better. In 2013, I reviewed the game Mage Wars Arena, the older brother of a new game called Mage Wars Academy, a simpler more refined game about dueling wizards by Arcane Wonders.

In this 30-minute two-player game, players will get cards, spell books, dice and counters for two different wizards, the Beastmaster and the Wizard. Each player decides who to play and takes the appropriate materials.

The Beastmaster uses nature and enchantments to summon powerful animal creatures to fight for him. He has heavier armor than the wizard and can perform powerful hand to hand attacks. His power grows round after round and his spells enhance the power of his creatures.

The wizard is a master of arcane magic and is known as a trickster. He can steal mana from other wizards and hamper their own spells by stealing and redirecting them. The creatures he can summon are mythological monsters with great powers of their own. He starts out a little slower but is more powerful the longer he can stay alive.

The first thing experienced players will notice is the absence of a board. All of the action in Mage Wars Academy takes place in a single zone. Wizards start out face to face from the start. This speeds up the game and gets to the action quicker.

A cool aspect to this game is the nature of the spellbook. A sturdy plastic binder with customized artwork for each wizard comes in the box. Each player can load the spellbooks with a suggested repertoire of spells unique to that wizard. But there is also a larger deck of spells included in the game that allows for customization.

Compared to other popular games in this genre, Mage Wars Academy is different because a player can choose any spell at any time from his or her spellbook. Gamers don't have to wait to draw the right card. They can use strategy to decide when and where to cast any spell they want.

Life points track the power of a mage, and when they run out, the mage is defeated. The goal of the game is to reduce the life points of an oppontent to zero. As soon as that occurs, the game is over and the survivor wins.

The rulebook teases the fact that more spellbooks and cards for different wizards will be released in upcoming expansion packs. It also describes several schools of magic that are not featured in this base game.

The negative things I mentioned in my previous review of Mage Wars Arena have been solved in Mage Wars Academy. This is a much simpler game, has a smaller rulebook and gets to the action quickly. Some of the artwork from Arena was not family friendly, and I saw no problems in this version.

If this review sounds interesting, Mage Wars Academy is definitely worth looking at. It was super fun to play and actually felt like being in the boots of a grand wizard dueling for life. It's a game I plan on keeping for a while. More information can be summoned at the Arcane Wonders website.
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