Sit Down, Magic Maze, Strategy Card Game, Ages 8+, 1-8 Players, 15+ Minutes Playing Time
About this deal
Magic Maze, even though it is cooperative, is a game that I enjoy a lot given that it meets both of these criteria. You may lightly place the pawn when you need someone to get to something but not necessarily immediately. The visible confusion as they look back and forth over the characters, wondering what they’ve missed, but unable to ask anyone for help. It’s a pretty neat little game really, it takes next to know time to set up and about 5-10 minutes for a play through.
I can use these actions on any character, so together we have to move the pieces around the mall without talking. The one problem with this game is that the theme is weak and that makes explaining what you are doing in the game quite a bit tougher. It would be a beautiful story of redemption except that the sudden aortic expansion would just bring on a massive and potentially lethal heart attack. The problem ends up being the same thing that I mentioned in our review of Codenames and Codenames Pictures – I’m not a fan of games that replace conversation with intense silences, even if those silences are full of comedy potential.Since the entire game is played silently (with the occasional moment to strategize), you may not feel like you’re playing a game that’s going to be a lot of fun. If you’re having a lot of trouble with it you might just need to be a bit firmer with your group, but honestly, just play the game in the way that lets you have the most fun. I reviewed Escape: The Curse of the Temple (the game that most people think of when they first see Magic Maze) favorably when it was released, but I have since lost interest in it because frequent play resulted in a kind of rote exercise that made the spark of fun from the early forays and failures disappear. You don’t waste an evening because of a crossed wire – if anything you make the game evening better because while Magic Maze does offer a satisfying puzzle it’s really just an engine for making people laugh.
That said, it can be hard to avoid being uh, vigorous with it when you’re trying to get someone’s attention and they don’t quite get what you’re suggesting. Due to the forced lack of communication, all players are instead invited to place the “Do Something” Pawn in front of their comrades when they spot another player could make a move. If you’re unable to help all of the characters get out of the mall before the time runs out, everyone loses. The timer provides another fun wrinkle to the game: players are allowed to talk freely whenever the timer is flipped.You can vary the difficulty with the number of tiles in the maze that you are exploring and during the game the tension is incredible. The best Magic Maze gives you is the comedy of silence – to have an entire table staring at you waiting for you to make the obvious move that you can’t see. So for a games award that rewards family friendly games and laughter this is definitely a good choice. Simply check the number in the bottom corner of each tile, starting with scenario’s 1-7 for the beginners (initiation) campaign, shuffle them and place them face-down. After a few games you’ll be hooked to stealing swords, bows, wizard’s spells and Dwarf’s hammers; just don’t take this new-found love into real life.
For example, I might be in charge of moving all of the characters North, while you are only allowed to move them East. Each player can only perform actions displayed on their Action Tile, however all players can perform actions at any time. Along the way players need to explore to find new tiles, make use of the escalators, deal with security cameras, and all the other day to day tasks that go into an act of petty larceny.Magic Maze is simple and straightforward enough for most audiences, and it’s just plain fun, but it won’t be for everyone. Disclaimer: You don’t actually have to bang the pawn – you’re just supposed to place it in front of someone. One scenario might involve no talking at any point, or might have multiple dimensions to the mall, and so on.
I generally don’t love silent games (this is my main gripe with Splendor), and I think that it hurts some of the social aspect of this game, but I appreciate that it’s silent to avoid any opportunity for quarterbacking and to force players to think through their options. Making the labyrinth is satisfying, and it is a new challenge each time because the tiles come out randomly.Then with one hand turn the cards over, perform the action on the card (if desired) and then place face up in a discard pile. Give each player a tile (I’ll explain what the tiles do later), and have players with tiles with the same symbol sit across the table from each other, rather than adjacent. And a further wrinkle with the timer: whenever the timer is flipped, all players pass their actions to the left. Guard: a Hero and a Guard cannot stand or pass through a Mall tile where the other type of pawn is standing. The game is won when all the pawns have exited using the doors of their color before the timer runs out.