Game Review: Magnum Opus

Magnum OpusMagnum Opus
Game Salute, 2014

In Magnum Opus, you are an alchemist building a deck of material components, transmuting them to reveal resources and the three key components that you will need transmute into the philosopher’s stone.

The setup for this game is a little tricky, and the rules aren’t as clear as they could be. We watched a gameplay video online, had a few “ah-ha” moments, and then were very pleased to find that this is a pretty good game. There is a fair amount of luck involved in the gameplay, but by careful deck building, you can offset the luck factor somewhat.

You start the game with 3 “Prepare Herbs” and 6 “Attempt Transmutation” cards. This is the base deck. The “Prepare Herbs” cards will allow you to collect coins or draw cards from your deck. You may purchase or draw various alchemical reagents during your turn, which, when acquired go into your discard pile. The “board” is set up as a grid with blue reagents (lead, vitriol, aqua regia, and quicksilver) on one side, and green reagents (angel feather, dragon’s blood, serpent scale, and vilethorn), forming a 4x4 grid. Each space in the grid contains a secret research card, and a discovery card. As you draw cards from your deck, you are able to place them on your “table” and use your transmute cards to reveal a card on the grid. You obtain the research card into your hand. This is usually beneficial to you, helping you with future transmutations, or storing of items. The discovery card is a type of “event” card which have many different effects. Three of these cards are the Magnum Opus stones that you need to find, in order to obtain your list of ingredients to create the philosopher’s stone. Once a Magnum Opus card is revealed, any player may transmute those reagents to obtain that effect or stone. Upon discovering one of the three stones (Albedo, Rubedo, and Putrefactio) you will receive a card of that type. Your card will have a reagent listed. Each card is different, so each player will have a different set of reagents needed to win). Once the three Magnum Opus stone cards have been revealed, and you have transmuted the correct reagents to receive your Magnum Opus cards, you then need to get your three reagents onto your table, and successfully transmute them for the win.

This sounds fairly complicated, but in fact, once you get the concept down, is fairly easy to understand. The game can be played in an hour or less, but will probably take you longer the first time you play.

The toy value of the game isn’t high, it is all cards, but the artwork is very nice, and the game has a good thematic feel to it. Our gameplay has been quite frustrating for me however. You see, dice hate me. It’s true. The green dice included with our game has a particularly evil streak. I can consistently roll one less than I need to transmute. Even with special cards and experience points that give you plusses to die rolls, I still roll one less than I need. I believe that if I need roll a 1 to transmute, that the die would somehow find a way to pull up a negative die face.  So if you are like me, and dice hate you, prepare for a very frustrating game. Each successful transmutation hinges on the die roll and getting the right cards into your hand at the right time. There are ways to give yourself better odds in your hand, but if you don’t get your dice roll, you won’t get the special cards, you won’t be able to transmute to obtain your Magnum Opus cards, and you can’t win. A LOT hinges on those evil, evil dice.

But it is a good game. If you like deck building games, or are a fan of chemistry or alchemy, pick this one up. Good fun to be had, and it comes with enough cards to make gameplay a little different each time.

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Game Review: Dominion

Rio Grande Games, 2008

So, we got asked to teach Dominion at a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) tonight. Even though this game has been around for over 6 years and winning many awards, there are still lots of people who don’t know it. We had 4 of us who were “old hands” at the game, and had an equal number of newbies. What was really interesting is the one Magic player, who at first said he didn’t want to play because “I don’t play board games.” We countered with “It’s not a board game, it’s a card game. So he came over to give it a look, and reluctantly agreed to play. By the end of the night, he had won a couple of games, and said “You know, the other Magic players would really like this game.” He’s hooked, as were most of the other players.

So what makes Dominion such a good game? Several things: First, replay. There are tons of possibilities to play. Each game uses base victory and treasure cards, and a selection of 10 kingdom cards. The base set comes with the victory and treasure cards as well as a couple other optional base cards (curses, for example). The base set comes with 24 kingdom cards, giving you a ton of combinations right from the start. An additional 8 expansion sets, multiple promo cards and even some fan expansions, make this game almost limitless in different playing fields.

Secondly, it’s an easy game to learn, but not as easy to master. Different card combinations create the need for different winning strategies. But the basic gameplay doesn’t change, so once you get the basic, easy to learn, rules down, you’re good to go. By the second to third round of the game, you’ll have basic gameplay mastered. It is as simple as this. Draw five cards, play everything you can using 1 action and 1 buy, plus whatever your cards let you do. Buy everything you can with the money you have acquired, discard everything and draw five new cards. The object? Be the one with the most victory points at the end of the game. Simple.

Third: It’s well play tested. I just can’t say enough about this. The cards work together nicely. Not every card is going to suit your play style, but every card (even Saboteur) is playable.  It’s well balanced and the cards are easy to understand. Side note: I HATE playing with Saboteur. In fact, I usually refuse a game that includes it. Not because it is a bad card for gameplay, it just makes the game a style that I don’t like to play, so I don’t play with it. And having bought all the sets, I never need to use it.

Fourth: It has a great thematic feel. It is a Renaissanc-y quest for power. Pesants, nobles, villages, Barons, Duchys. Nothing seems out of place to the theme. Expansions include Alchemy, Pirates, Dark Ages, and more, and the cards really fit the themes giving a great thematic experience as well as great gameplay.

In short, this is a great game. Play it often. It plays two to four players  all equally well, but is especially fun with four. It plays quickly (can play in 30 minutes to an hour). This game will remain a classic and should be in every gamers’ library.

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Game Review: Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It

Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It
TPBetyouknowitHasbro, 2010


Have you had a “Trivial Pursuit” moment? Got a friend who knows all the answers? Feel inadequate amongst your friends? Then “Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It” is the version for you.

Included with this game is a 4 card holder. Each card, when placed in the holder, shows the category of the card. On your turn you may choose from the four categories to answer your question. Then the other players bet (with poker type chips), on whether or not you will get your question correct. Then the question is read and you answer. Correct bets will double, incorrect will lose their chips. You can then use your chips to purchase wedges, or save them till the endgame to choose your final category or question.

I am not the best at trivia, but have found this version of “Trivial Pursuit” to have somewhat easier questions, and the betting aspect really seems to balance out the gameplay. We were able to play with a pre-teen and adults and still had a balanced game.

Think you know your friends abilities? Bet high and get more chips then buy your way to a win! But watch out, because they will do the same to you. And you might just surprise them by what you do know!

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August 2014 Minutes

  1. Treasurer's report: MB and all three conventions doing good
  2. AnimeIowa Report
    1. Discussion about staff/exec relations and ways to improve function and flexibility
    2. Numbers 3702 Reg + 194 Dealers = 3896 Attendees
  3. ICON Report
    1. Halloween weekend bad for several dealers and attendees
    2. T-shirts are available for pre-order on web site.
  4. Gamicon report: web site should be up sometime in September
  5. Game Library Read More »
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