What Is Mystic Vale: Mana Storm?
Mystic Vale: Mana Storm is an expansion to Mystic Vale, for 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 45 minutes to play. It retails for $29.99 and is available in game stores, directly from AEG, or from Amazon. You must have the base game to play. Although the age rating says 14 and up, I’ve played Mystic Vale and its various expansions with my 11-year-old daughter, who enjoys it; I think kids who have some experience with deck-building games will be able to handle it just fine.
Mystic Vale: Mana Storm Components
- 48 Advancements
- 18 Vale cards
- 8 Amulets
- 8 Leader cards
The advancements and vales will be familiar to you already from the base game, though of course there are new types with new abilities. Leader cards were first introduced in Vale of the Wild—each one is double-sided, with an unlock cost to flip it over.
The amulets are new to Mana Storm and replace the mana token that you flip over when your field spoils. Each one has special abilities or effects, and a point value.
The component quality is the same as previous Mystic Vale titles, and the expansion comes in a small box. You’re intended to mix the components into your base game box.
How to Play Mystic Vale: Mana Storm
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
Since Mana Storm is an expansion, I’ll refer you to my original review of Mystic Vale for how the base game works, and just explain what’s new in this expansion.
Everyone begins with a leader card; deal two to each player and let them choose one to use. It is sleeved over one of your blank starting cards, with the cost showing at the top right. Leader cards may provide icons when played—mana, curses, and spirit symbols—and also have a point value.
Everyone also starts with an amulet; it should be placed so the side that says “Spoil” is face-up.
If desired, you can draft leaders and amulets instead: each player in turn order chooses an amulet or a leader; then, in reverse turn order, each player chooses the other item they didn’t take yet.
Your leader card has some combination of symbols and powers on it—when the leader card is in your field during Harvest, you may use its powers and symbols. You may not sleeve any advancements over your leader card.
During harvest, you may pay the cost shown at the top right to flip your leader card to its upgraded side, which may make it more powerful and change its point value. For instance, Silverwing the Skyguard (above) starts with one wild spirit symbol and is worth 4 points at the end of the game. If you pay 8 mana to upgrade it, Silverwing provides 1 mana in addition to the spirit symbol. It also gains a harvest power that allows you to gain 2 points for each vale you buy on that turn, and is now worth 6 points at the end of the game.
Your amulet replaces your mana token. Whenever your field spoils, you flip over your token, just like before. However, instead of providing 1 mana to spend on a future turn, you now gain an ability that may be activated by evoking the amulet (and flipping it back to the Spoil side). Each amulet has different abilities and states during what phases the ability may be used. For instance, the Deepriver Crystal amulet, shown above, will let you place a card in your field at the bottom of your deck when you evoke it, giving you access to it sooner.
Amulets have different point values, which will be added to (or subtracted from) your score at the end of the game.
The new advancements and vales have new effects, though most of the effect types have been seen before in previous expansions. Eclipse cards (new in Vale of the Wild) may be sleeved over, unlike most advancements. “When bought” effects trigger immediately when you buy the card. “While on-deck” abilities are active as long as the card is your on-deck card, but are inactive once you plant them into your field.
There are also abilities that refer to “evoking” your token, which will apply whether you’re using the amulet tokens or the regular mana tokens—”evoking” simply means using it and flipping it back down.
Why You Should Play Mystic Vale: Mana Storm
I’ll be honest with you: I’m a bit of a Mystic Vale junkie at this point. I was on the fence when I reviewed the first game—my two primary complaints were that the cards could be hard to read (particularly the cost) and that there was very little direct player interaction. But with subsequent plays, the game really grew on me, and I’ve been enjoying the tweaks and changes that the expansions add to the game.
The leader cards (added in Vale of the Wild) give each player a slightly different starting deck, because now each player has a single card that does something different right from the start. It’s not enough to make it a totally asymmetric game, but that leader can affect your approach. There’s a fun mix of abilities in this set of leaders. A couple don’t provide any benefits at all on the starting side, but are very powerful when upgraded. Xanos the Cold Heart provides 3 growth when flipped—but is also worth -40 points, and then flips back to the starting side at the end of your turn, so it’s a gamble based on how long you think you have before the game ends. Old Barkarb the Crafter lets you put advancements into a pile called “Barkarb’s Workshop,” and then another power lets you put those all onto a card. There are also leaders that will reward you for having blank cards in your deck.
The amulets, new to this expansion, are another fun way to differentiate players right from the start, and change the bonus you get for spoiling, which in turn can encourage players to take more risks. One, the Darksoul Ember, forces you to push at least once if it’s on its starting side, but then you can evoke it to use an advancement on the same turn you buy it. The Harvest amulet is for the lucky player: it provides 1 mana when you evoke it, but then you get to flip it in the air and keep it on whichever side it lands on.
In many cases, I’ve been playing these expansions combined with the equinox setup from the Conclave expansion, which I enjoy because it accommodates more players and speeds up the game. However, the equinox expansion also can make it harder to plan moves because you switch between the two markets every turn, so the gameplay does feel a little different. I think in some cases you get a better sense of the expansion sets if you play with 4 players maximum rather than stretching it to 6.
Mana Storm introduces some fun new elements to the game, but it still doesn’t add much in the way of direct player interaction, nor does it change the user interface (which is pretty much locked in at this point), so if those things bothered you before, they will probably still bother you now. But if you enjoy the game, crafting cards and building your engine, each expansion changes up the flavor of the game slightly and gives you new ways to mix and match features.
Look for Mystic Vale: Mana Storm at your local game store, or order online.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.