Dale Yu: First Impressions of Five Seals of Magic

 

Five Seals of Magic

  • Designer: Thorsten Reichwein
  • Publisher: Igrology/Hobby World
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 60 minutes

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In Five Seals of Magic, players are exploring the dungeon of the Arcana Tower which contains powerful scrolls.  Using the power of mighty colored dice (matching the different types of magic) as well as powers found on these scrolls, players vie for power in the dungeon.  Each player represents a strong mage and starts the game with a familiar.

The game board is constructed from a number of different modular pieces, and players simply match up the numbers on the sides of the pieces to ensure that the correct arrangement is created for the number of players.  There will also be a deck of 50 scroll cards in each game – the same set of 25 basic cards are always used, and players will choose one of four 25-card decks.  The spaces on the board is seeded with scroll cards of matching value to the spaces on the board.  Additionally, seal tokens are placed on denoted areas of the board as well.

The Familiars

The Familiars

The game is played over a number of rounds.  At the start of each round, all players roll their dice at the same time and put them in front of themselves.  Then, players take turns clockwise around the board.  At the start of each of your turns, you have the option of playing any or all of your scrolls that you have previously collected.  Each scroll can only be used once a game round.  Next, you look at the board to see if you can break a seal or not (either on the board itself or on a scroll card).  If you cannot – you simply discard your dice, and you take no further action in the round.

The empty board

The empty board

If you can break a seal, then you MUST do so.  First, you must be able to reach the seal – that is, you have an unobstructed path to the seal (no other players, familiars, walls or other seals in the way).  You place dice (possibly multiple) of matching color onto the seal so that the pips at least equal the number on the seal.  (Exception: Purple seals can be broken with any color die.)  If you still have dice in front of you, you remain in the round and play continues around the board.  If you have used all of your dice, then your participation in the round ends at that point. Whenever you pass out of a round, you reset your scrolls and then choose any three dice from the supply to use in the next turn.  Your familiar also comes off the board once you duck out of the round.

At the end of each round, you check to see if the game end is triggered.  You simply count the number of level 6 scrolls left on the board.  If there are 4 or fewer left on the board, the game ends.  Otherwise, the start player marker is passed and another round is undertaken.

Scoring at the end of the game is simple – you add up the sum of the your collected scroll cards as well as any bonus points for synergy scroll cards (generally give you 1 extra point for each scroll of a specific color collected).

My thoughts on the game

The game promises an interesting game with some element of deck building (or at least special power collection) – as you travel through the dungeon, you’ll pick up different scrolls, each of which give you some special abilities to use on later turns.  Further, as there are 5 different sets of scrolls – only 2 of which you use in any given game – there should be plenty of variability in the setup and the interaction of scroll powers.

Examples of the scrolls

Examples of the scrolls

Setup takes a bit of time as you have to separate out the scrolls and seals and then place them on the right spaces on the board.  In our two games, it’s taken about 10 minutes to set up from when we unpack the box to when we start rolling dice.

The game itself if pretty straightforward – roll your dice, modify them if possible and then go out and explore the dungeon trying to get more seals/scrolls.  Once you have managed to collect some scrolls, you actually have a fair number of choices to get you to where you want to go.  The board is wide open – perhaps even too wide open as many of the initial rooms have multiple doors – so you can’t necessarily block someone from cutting in front of you in the initial stages.  This is a fairly good thing – as all players can open up the board to allow everyone to move around and get places.

Early on, you don’t have any special powers, and you simply have to rely upon what Lady Luck gives you.  Unfortunately, there is no recourse to rolling poorly.  To move forward in the game, you simply need to roll high (and in the correct colors).  The players generally have control over which color dice they choose each turn, but there still isn’t a lot you can do if you roll 1-1-1-2-2.  Having two poor rolls is a row really puts you behind the 8-ball as you will then be behind everyone else.  Players who roll well on the first turn or two should be able to reach a scroll – which then gives them more ability to modify future bad rolls.  Until you get those scrolls, you’re pretty much screwed with a bad roll.  Thus, the poor get poorer in this game, and that’s an unsatisfying way to start a game knowing that you really can’t catch up.  In both of the games that I’ve played so far, at least one person was unlucky enough to have two (or three!) bad rolls to start the game.  That slow starter never competed in the game.

We’ve thus far only played with the first two sets of scrolls – as recommended by the rules for starting players.  The powers on those scrolls are fairly basic and easy to understand – mostly adding value to dice, allowing for re-rolling of dice, or sometimes adding extra dice to your pool.  Once you get a bunch of scrolls, an individual turn can take awhile as the active player has to figure out how to best use his scroll powers to maximize his turn.  I’ve looked through the other sets of scrolls, and each has a specific theme to them.  At least one of them has a very take-that set of powers – which allow you to modify or remove dice from other players or teleport a player to a different location.

As I mentioned earlier, the board at first is wide open and players can move all over the place.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of one-way dead-end paths near the periphery of the board, and it becomes fairly easy for a player to block off an entire section of the board with his player and prevent any other player from exploring that entire section of the board.  In both of our games, near the very end, there has been at least one turn where the active player really didn’t have anywhere to go because all the remaining scrolls were behind the roadblocks of the other players.  (This problem would have been alleviated if we had scrolls that allowed movement through other players or allowed you to move other players – but these actions are not in the first two sets).

Note how the numbers get larger as you hit the periphery and the bottlenecks that can occur

Note how the numbers get larger as you hit the periphery and the bottlenecks that can occur

The game seems to have promise, and I like both the exploration mechanism as well as the buildup of special powers.  If I can get the game back to the table, I’d like to see how some of the other scroll sets work and see if they improve on at least the roadblock issue.  Sadly, there seems to be no solution for this with the recommended starting set of scrolls, and that has led to the somewhat lukewarm reception the game has received in our first games.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y., Craig V.
  • Not for me…

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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