Meg Previews Manaforge by Mystic Tiger Games


Magic in the Making

The elements swirl freely around the shop, winding through the rows of my displayed wares. I wield the elements to settle on the forge and they seem to dance sprightly, waiting for me to shape them. I stoke the fire, filling the room with a thick heat. I grab my tongs and ready the metal. I melt it down, and watch it become a beautiful, sun-golden liquid. I call down the elements from their post, and as each one dives into the glowing pool, the room fills with brilliant light. The brightness settles, the room is once more lit only by the glowing fire. The once golden liquid now reflects light like a prism. I can feel the power of the arcane radiating through it, and as I stare at the prismatic pool, I think, “This will be my finest weapon yet.”

The Manaforge

manapicThe Basics
  • 2-4 Players
  • 60-90 Minutes
  • Age 13+

In Manaforge players take on the roll of wizards specialized in the creation of magical items and weaponry, and the goal is to have the most prestigious magical forge at the end of the game. The game is played over a series of nine rounds, broken up into three rounds each of Dawn, Noon, and Dusk. As the game progresses through the day, the level of item you can make becomes more challenging. For example, during the Dawn rounds, you will find more mana producing items, whereas there will be none in the Dusk rounds. Each player also has two special talents that are drafted at the beginning of the game. These talents can give special abilities to help you during your turns, or give you a boost in the beginning of the game. Players gain mana using a combination of dice and cards. There are four types of mana available: earth, fire, water and air. Most items are forged from a single type of mana or some combo thereof. There are also items considered Arcane, which generally use at least one of each element for mana.

Harnessing the Elements

The Setup

Setting up for a game of Manaforge is simple.

Place the game board in the center of the table then supply each person with their player mat. All players should also receive:

  • Four dice–one of each basic element (Earth, fire, wind and water)
  • One player aid card
  • Score marker that matches the colour of their player mat

17548765_10154434513694646_2013478450_oNext, separate the item decks into Dawn, Noon, and Dusk. Shuffle them and take 18 cards from each deck, stacking them face down in a single pile—Dusk cards on the bottom, Noon in the middle, and Dawn on top. Place this pile on the board in the Item Deck slot.

Once you set the Item Deck, shuffle the Talent cards and deal four cards face down to each player. Draft these talents by choosing one of the cards you receive, placing it face down in front you, and passing the rest of your hand to the next player. This continues until everyone has drafted four times. Players then choose two talents they will use during the game, discarding the rest. Chosen talents remain hidden until it is time to receive extra dice from the dice pool.

Choose the first player in any way you see fit. He/she receives the first player marker and two Mana Prism tokens; each other player receives three Mana Prism tokens. Have everyone place their coloured player marker at zero on the score track, located on the game board.

17499809_10154434742524646_1316279504_o2All players then reveal their Talent cards. Located in the bottom right corner of each card will be a symbol indicating a specific kind of die. Players add one of that type of die to their personal pool. Some Talent cards show a pink die (displayed left). These are Arcane dice, which have a combination of mana symbols on any face. When rolled, players are able to choose which type of mana—of the two shown— they wish to use. After each player takes their extra dice, resolve any “beginning of game” benefits on the Talent cards.

Last, fill each open item slot on the board with a face-up card from the item deck. You are now ready to play Manaforge

Manipulating the Arcane

How to Play

The Game is played over a series of nine rounds, three during each time of day. At the start of each round, deal six cards from the item deck to the board face up, and players recharge all their exhausted workshop cards. Everyone then rolls all their dice. The results of the roll will be the pool of mana each player has to work with for that round. However, regardless of how many dice available in their personal pool, players are only allowed to use four dice on their turn.


The following actions can be taken during a turn:

  • Spend a die (up to four times per turn)
    • Gain the benefits of the chosen die.
    • Dice cannot be used twice.
  • Build an item or gain a Mana Prism (once per turn)
    • Build an item: Select an item card from the game board, pay its cost, and build it wherever indicated on the card (workshop or store).
    • Gain a Mana Prism: If you choose not to build an item, gain one Mana Prism token. These can be exchanged on your turn for any Mana Gem.
  • Activate an item card
    • Choose a charged (upright) item card in your workshop, exhaust it (turn it sideways) and gain the available benefit of your choosing.
  • Upgrade an item card
    • Choose an item card that can accept Mana Gems, add any number of gems that match its requirements up to its capacity. Item cards are upgraded in order from top to bottom but can be upgraded all at once if the player has the gems available.
  • Activate a Talent Card
    • Some Talent cards have activated abilities. Pay the cost, if any, and gain the benefit.

The above actions can be taken in any order. Sometimes, the mana available on the dice is not enough to build an item card from the board. It is often necessary to activate workshop cards to help build an item. The same goes for activating cards that give you prestige points. Mana producing cards, Mana Gems, and dice can be used in any combination to provide mana to activate or build an item card.

There are two types of cards available for building: workshop cards and store cards. Workshop cards are placed on your player mat and can be upgraded and activated throughout the game. These cards can provide mana as well as points. Store cards are one-time use cards that provide points. You can acquire any number of store cards, but are limited to only four workshop cards. You can replace workshop cards by building a new item card in its place and either covering or discarding the old workshop card.

17549039_10154434742569646_769568590_o2Mana appears two ways on the dice. A single element symbol indicates one available mana of that type, while a double element symbol indicates two available of that type. Sometimes, dice can produce Mana Gems—these are gained as tokens of that mana type that can be used during the current turn or saved for later. They can be spent as regular mana or used to upgrade cards in your workshop.

Dice rolls can also yield special symbols, indicating a special ability. These abilities are only found on the standard mana dice.

There are four special symbols, one for each element:

  • Runestone
    • Gain two mana of opposite elements (earth/wind, fire/water)
  • Transmutation
    • Gain the effect of any other die (can be any die from the roll)
  • Power Surge
    • Recharge any card in your workshop
  • Gem Copy
    • Gain a Mana Gem of the same element as a Mana Gem you already own (may not be used on Mana Prisms)

Once all players have taken their turns, discard all remaining item cards on the board. Pass the first player marker clockwise and check for the game end condition. The game is over when the Item Deck is empty at the end of the round.

Whoever has the most prestige points at the end of the game is the winner. If there is a tie, the player with the most remaining Mana Gems and Mana Prisms wins. If there is still a tie, victory is shared.

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 Prestigious and Magical

Manaforge is a pleasant combination of dice rolling, resource management, and engine building. I thoroughly enjoy this game and have played it several times since being introduced to it at Expedition Prototype Con.

It is incredibly polished, and it is one of the first games I have played in a while that truly feels balanced from the first play to the last. Even though you deal with some randomness from the dice rolls—which admittedly aren’t always ideal—you can always find something to do on your turn. Deciding the best choice of card to buy and how to get it requires some thought and manipulation, which I really appreciate.

17547534_10154434513664646_1437709037_oDespite the thought required for your turns, this game is really accessible. It’s super easy to teach and understand. Not to draw comparisons, but if you’ve ever played Magic the Gathering, you will have no trouble understanding how to use mana or how to draft talent cards. However, people who struggle to minimize their AP will most likely overthink their turns, which can slow the game a bit even with the most experienced of players. Otherwise, the game plays fast and smooth.

17521987_10154434513659646_10132785_oThere isn’t too much I would change about the game, as I feel it is a fun and well-designed game as is. I would, however, like to see more card variety. The base game is solid now, but there is a lot of sameness in the cards–i.e. cards have the same basic functions, but for different mana types. I’d like to see some cards that really stick out individually. I’d also adjust the player boards a bit. Though I like the idea of having zones on the board for all your stuff, some zones just don’t see any use or just aren’t as practical as I would like them to be. For example, the zone for tokens is at the bottom of the mat. If you are playing at a public venue or on a small table, that section will never see use because you run the risk of dropping your gem and prism tokens all over the place. It’s easier to just place your tokens in the empty space that runs down the center of your workshop. It would also be better if the right and left sides of the board were swapped. If the talents are on the right side, you can easily tuck them under the mat and still be able to see the ability. Since store cards are generally one and done, storing them on the left won’t change much. I’ve also noticed that in most of the games I’ve played, people just kind of had their dice wherever, and didn’t really utilize the top part of the mat which is dedicated to keeping your used and unused dice organized. This is not a deal breaker, of course, and the board can still be used with ease as it is.

Overall, I am incredibly happy with all Manaforge brings to the table. It’s fun and easy, with great art that really speaks to its theme. I suggest this game to anyone, and I know I will be backing it when it hits Kickstarter on March 27, 2017!

Was this helpful to you? What other information would you like to have seen? Would you like me to do a review/preview? Please leave a comment below, or head over to my contact page to send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message. Thanks for reading!:)


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