Preview Review of Madstone Chronicles

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Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Madstone Chronicles is a game by Don Riddle and Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be commanding fantastical creatures and allying themselves with various races as they raise armies and control magical forces beyond all comprehension. The player that can grab the most glory will be declared the winner.

To begin, the starting player is chosen. Each player will then choose a Commander to lead their forces in reverse turn order. The Commander card is placed face up in front of the player. The remaining Commander cards are placed back in the box. The game board is placed in the middle of the play area. The cards are shuffled and each player is dealt 5 cards. If a player is dealt a Darkness Falls card, it is placed back in the deck and a new card is dealt to them. The deck is then reshuffled and placed face down next to the board. Each player chooses 3 of the 5 to keep and places the other 2 on the board in turn order. Each card is placed on the space that matches the colored faction of the card. Cards with no color (gray artifacts) are placed in whichever pile a player chooses. The red and gold crystals are placed in the crystal area of the board. Each player will then take 5 red crystals. The poison tokens are placed on their proper place on the board. Play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will follow 2 steps. The first step is that they will perform any special actions that are present on the bottom of the cards that are in their army. Each card has abilities that are one of 3 general types; constant, triggered or global. Constant abilities are always active as long as the card is in a player’s army. Triggered abilities are those that must either have the condition met or paid to take the action that is shown. Some triggered abilities can be used anytime and any number of times as long as the player can pay for the ability. Global abilities effect all players. Only one global ability can be active at a time. If a new global ability enters a player’s army, it negates any previous abilities.

The second step is that each player will perform 2 basic actions. Their Commander card provides them with 3 basic actions of which they are allowed to perform 2 of them. The first basic action is to attack. I’ll discuss this action in greater detail a little bit later. The second action is to place a card from their hand onto the corresponding space on the board. This allows the player to gain a number of red crystals equal to the number of red crystals shown on the card. The player is not allowed to gain more crystals than their army’s power total. This is based on the total of all numbers in the green circle at the top of each card in their army, including their Commander. The third and final action is that the player is allowed to draw cards up to their hand limit of 3 cards. Once a player has taken their 2 actions, play passes to the next player.

Now then, let me explain the attack action. Earlier I mentioned the player’s army’s power total. This total is used to attack and kill or command other cards in the player’s hand, on the board or in another player’s army. To attack and kill a particular card, the player must spend crystals of either red or gold equal to the health of the target card. This number is shown inside the heart. The killed card is then placed in the player’s spoils pile. To command another card, the player pays crystals equal to the number inside the circle next to the health heart. The card is then placed face up beside the player’s Commander and is now considered a part of their army. It’s green number is added to the player’s army’s power total for future attacks and command actions. Any new cards added to the player’s army will not be able to use the card’s special actions until the beginning of the player’s next turn. A player is not allowed to kill or command a card that they placed in the field on the same turn. Also, a player may only command cards in their hand. They can not kill them. Players are allowed to kill or command cards that have higher point totals than their power. However for each point higher than the player’s power, they must spend double the number of crystals. For example if a player has 3 power and they attack a card that has a health of 5. They must spend 7 crystals; 3 for the power they have and 2 for each point over.

It should be noted that a player is only allowed to attack cards in another player’s army if a “Darkness Falls” card has been played or the global ability has taken effect. To kill a card in another player’s army, the player uses the blue shield as the target number instead of the health heart. Commanding another player’s card uses the number in the white circle beside the shield instead of the number beside the heart. Another player’s Commander can never be targeted. Another effect of the Darkness Falls is that cards in the field are 2 points higher to attack or command. The Darkness Falls cards can be removed by the player with the lowest power total. This may be done at any point during the player’s turn.

Just a couple more things, some cards have specific energy icons that give a player additional benefits if they have certain cards in their army. Also, some cards use poison tokens to damage other cards. Any cards with poison counters on them lowers the kill number of the card by the number of tokens present on it. The card must still be attacked to kill it. It can’t die simply due to poison tokens.

The game continues until the last card in the deck has been drawn. Players will then get one additional turn each. Once this is done, players add up their victory points. Victory Points come from the yellow numbers in the hearts of cards in the player’s spoils pile. They also gain points for their total power as well as the number of yellow crystals that they have. Player’s also gain points for any special victory point conditions on the bottom of a cards in a player’s army. Each player adds up their points and the player with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of really great pieces included inside. There’s a good sized board which has some nice looking artwork on it and some brightly colored spaces for the different aspects of the game. There are red and gold crystals that are made of plastic and remind me a lot of the Honor tokens in the various Ascension games. There are poison tokens that are thick cardboard and have a skull and crossbones symbol on them. Lastly there are lots of nice looking cards. I really like the look and feel of the cards. They’re that plastic like feel that I’ve come to expect from Joe Magic Games. I really like the fantasy look and feel of them. Each one has some great looking artwork on it. The iconography is big but not so big that it gets in the way. The only complaint that I might have is that the text on them is fairly small. This text explains what the icons on the bottom of the card mean. With the text being so small it’s a bit hard on the eyes. Thankfully I haven’t got any problems in that area so it’s not that big of a deal. Just something to be aware of for those with glasses or other eye problems. Unfortunately there is no reference guide or player aid for all the icons in the game. I think that would have been a nice addition to help with the text issue. Other than that, the game looks great. I’m really impressed with the new look and feel to the game.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is pretty nice. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. The book has this kind of glossy type finish to it that I can’t figure out. It makes the book look quite nice. The design is pretty cool too. Each page looks like a piece of parchment with the rules placed on top. It adds to the thematic feel of the game quite nicely. The rules are fairly easy to understand. They do seem a little bit unorganized but it’s not a problem and not difficult to figure out how to play the game or what the basics of the game are. Overall there are no major problems or faults to speak of. Pretty much it’s easy to read through and won’t take long either. I can’t complain.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really fun game that improves on the design that was established in Madstone. Simply build up your army, kill creatures, attack your opponents and take their stuff. The game has a great take that feel with some really nice engine building thrown in. There’s a fairly good amount of player interaction included as well. You really have to pay attention to what your opponents are doing as they can seriously mess up your army fairly quickly. I really like that there are different energy types in the game. If you add a bunch of creatures to your army from the same energy type as your commander, you can really amp up your abilities. I love that aspect of the game. I really like how when darkness falls, the weakest player is the one that can shut it down and stop the other players from attacking their creatures and commanding them to their armies. I also like that lots of different types of cards can be in the field at one time. That allows the player to add the cards to their army that they feel will help them out the most. The game takes a fairly average amount of time to play. Most games sessions last about an hour or so. I really enjoyed this one. It scratches my Magic the Gathering itch pretty well without making me read a lot of card text. I’d call that a win.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Madstone Chronicles is a light weight card game of fantasy army building with a take that feel to it. The game isn’t overly complicated or time consuming. Most game sessions take about an hour or so to play. The artwork is really nice and conveys the theme really well. I really like the look and feel of the game. The game has some really great player interaction that works quite well. I really like the mechanics and design of the game. This is a game that fans of Magic the Gathering should find intriguing and fun without the added cost of buying lots of packs of cards. It’s not difficult but the small card text might cause some eye crossing for those players with sight problems. Of course once you’re familiar with the different icons in the game, it shouldn’t be a problem. I still wish that there was a player aid or reference guide to help out. Still, the game is solid and packed full of fun. I would recommend giving this game a try. Better yet, keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign when it goes live and back it. I really think you’ll enjoy it.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Joe Magic Games at their site.

http://www.joemagicgames.com/

Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter link coming soon.

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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