ManaSurge is a refreshing game in a sea of increasingly complicated, increasingly expensive projects. It’s Uno with Wizards! The art pops! The gameplay is solid and only takes 30 minutes. You can play it with your whole family! And, it’s $16-20 (before getting to tiers where you start adding your likeness to the game).
What? You need more convincing? Fine.
In ManaSurge everyone gets a hand of five cards made up of five possible suits, numbered from 1-8. There are also wildcards in the form of the MetaMagic suit that casters use to tweak gameplay or add damage. After the first caster sets the suit for the round, each other caster lays down cards in turn, either matching or going higher than the number rank of the original spell. If you match the suit of the original spell, you get to put a shard on it (12 shards win you the game). If you match the number rank, you get to reverse play. Casters continue taking turns until someone can’t place a valid card. Once that happens, they’re hit by the spell and take damage (determined by the number of shards in play, plus any card effects). Those undamaged casters get to collect their shards. If the damaged player has over 5 damage, measured in ManaSurge by cards, they lose a shard and the cards in their hand, then take all of their damage cards as their new hand. A new round begins.
Casters who play all of their cards in a round are rewarded with a ManaSurge. This nets them two shards instantly and a whole new hand of cards. If a caster prefers to play it safe, they can also chose to draw up to a full five-card hand between rounds.
It might not sound like the deepest game, but there’s a lot more strategy than you’d expect. Each suit has its own special gameplay tweak. Lightning lets you play more cards. Frost Wave allows you to give your undesirable cards to other players. Quake will damage the entire board unless the caster gets hit with their own spell. Fireball delivers extra damage at the end of the round. And Blades force number rank progression to go down instead of up. Additionally, once you get comfortable with the suits and all the special MetaMagic spells, you can add Wizard cards into the mix. Consider these your character for the game, each one with a special, powerful limited-use ability.
What’s in the Box?
- 72 Spell Cards – 12 cards per suit, plus 12 unique MetaMagics
- 6 Wizard Role Cards
- 40 Shard Tokens
- 10 5-Shard Tokens
- 1 Caster Token
The art is gorgeous and the prototype cards I received were pleasantly thick. The art matches the fiction of the game perfectly and thankfully eschews fantasy cheesecake.
How’s it Play?
ManaSurge is easy to teach, easy to pick up, plays fast, and is just plain fun. There are lots of opportunities to try to outwit your fellow players and ferret out their ultimate strategy. And there’s lots of room for backstabbing. The Kickstarter page says it’s for ages 14 and up; but I think early grade schoolers could easily pick up the mechanics. It’s enough fun that you might finally be able to convince your game-allergic spouse to join in for a few rounds.
So far, the Kickstarter stretch goals are refreshingly realistic, the most ambitious being an additional suit. Upgraded shard components are also on the table and would be a welcome addition. Everything about ManaSurge feels polished and put together by professionals. Daily Magic Games has already done a lot of the pre-production, with manufacturers in place to print the final game (standard Kickstarter caveats apply). They have a hit on their hands and the low-cost of entry (only $8 if you go the Print & Play route) will hopefully help ensure that as many people get to play ManaSurge as possible.