We led a group of adventures through a mall on a trip of larceny and mayhem in Magic Maze, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
Basic Info: Magic Maze
Time: 15 Minutes
Designers: Kasper Lapp
Publisher: Dude Games
In Magic Maze, players work together to guide a group of marauding adventurers through a mall to steal a magic item and escape before getting caught by mall security. It is a real-time cooperative game, and if all of the adventurers get out, the players win.
The game is set up with the start tile in the middle of the table, the four adventurer pawns placed at random in the center spaces of the tile. The remaining tiles — the exact ones chosen based on the given scenario — are shuffled and placed face down. Each player choses an action tile, with the ones available changing based on the player count. The reminder tile, “x” markers, timer and red “do something” pawn are all placed near the play area.
The unique thing about this game is that players don’t control a specific pawn. Instead, they have actions they can take with any of the pawns. In our 2-player game, one of us could move the pawns north and east and could use the warps. The other player could move pawns south and west, could explore new tiles, and could move pawns on the escalators.
To start the game, someone turns the timer over and players can talk until someone touches a pawn, then they can’t talk again until the timer is turned over again. Players can only communicate by either staring meaningfully at each other, or placing the “do something” pawn on the table.
Players can move pawns around the maze and perform actions, according to their action tile. The player with the explore action can turn over new tiles, but only when a pawn is on a matching-color door space (indicated with a magnifying glass on the board). The player with the warp capability can pull any pawn to a warp icon of that pawn’s color (indicated by a swirly icon on the board).
The goal is to get each of the pawns to the store matching their color. Once all pawns are on those stores *at the same time*, the warps are shut down, and the pawns must make it to the exit. In the most basic version of the game, they all need to get to the same exit. In the second level and higher, each pawn has their own exit.
Any player can move a pawn onto a timer spot, but only if they can move the pawn in the correct direction. The moment the pawn moves onto a timer spot, the timer is turned over — which could be bad if it is less than half gone! Then an “x” placed on the spot, and players can talk and strategize. However, they have to stop talking again as soon as someone takes an action.
The game ends once all the adventurers reach their exits — and all the players win. OR if the timer ever runs out, then all players lose.
We first tried this one at our local board game cafe a couple of years ago. We decided to pick it up shortly after that first play.
The game is very stressful, but only for a few minutes at a time. In fact, I was playing this with a group at our latest game night, and the other room commented how we got super-quiet, and then would suddenly burst into cheers or laughter. And every game goes like that. It is short enough that if you lose, you don’t feel bad…and usually just set it back up and try again.
There are a number of scenarios, with different elements added in each. For example, one of them allows players to talk when the green pawn explores a new tile — same rules as the timer, you can talk until someone takes an action — but adds a little more communication.
This doesn’t come out super often, but it’s the right game when you want something quick guaranteed to make you laugh.
How is it as a 2-player game? This works great for 2-players. The actions are divvied up differently for each player count, so you feel busy and useful no matter how many players. I haven’t gone above 4 players, but it can accommodate up to 8…it would likely be a madhouse at that point, but I’d love to try it.
How about the art and component quality? The art is charming, though it’s hard to appreciate it during the game! All of the pictures I took were either before or after the game because I couldn’t stop for even a few seconds to snap one. The iconography is clear, and the pieces are decent quality.
Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. I’ve finally gotten up to full rules, but I’d love to try it a few more times and at different player counts.