Magic Maze Review – Mayhem in the Shopping Mall
Magic Maze is a bit of a unique game. Recently, it has taken the world by storm, being featured by almost every major board game influencer’s Youtube channels, as well as cleaning up a whole number of awards in the industry. Yet, it is a simple game, with a unique premise that makes it something of a wonderfully weird experience more than an actual game.
With that in mind, I thought we would look at doing a quick Magic Maze review today, just to do a bit of justice to the game. Please note that this is a review of the 2-8 player versions of the game – solo is a bit different.
What is the Premise of Magic Maze?
I think Magic Maze has one of my all-time favourite premises for a board game of all time. In Magic Maze, the players all control four character archetypes from fantasy games. These include a barbarian, elf, dwarf, and mage. They are all about to go on a quest, but they don’t have what they need – so what do they do? They go to the local shopping mall to steal it.
So, with that in mind, Magic Maze is a 1-8 player tile placement game with a bit of a difference. Rather than one player controlling one pawn, all the players control all four pawns at the same time. Rather than players being able to control a pawn, they instead control a type of movement. This means that one player may have moving north, one player moving south, one player moving east, one player moving west, one player using escalators, one player using vortexes, and one player being able to search (in a seven-player game).
Those are the seven base actions, and how they are divided will depend on the number of players. For instance, below are the movement tiles for a two player game.
The real chaos ensues when the game begins because all movements are simultaneous. I may be moving a pawn forward, whilst you move one left, and a friend moves one right. Meanwhile, another friend has seen what we are doing, and has used a vortex on another pawn. At which point, I see the vortex pawn and move it forward, and you move it left.
The goal is to get every piece to their item space (the item they are stealing) simultaneously, and then get everyone out their own coloured portal. Sounds simple, right?
Well, Magic Maze gets a bit more complicated because the whole thing is done on a timer. There is a five-minute hourglass to get everything done and everyone co-ordinated. On the board, there are one-use hourglass spots that allow you to flip the hourglass should you need more time.
There is one final complication – once the timer starts – the game is played in absolute silence. You cannot communicate or point at the board. This is the real crux of the game, as you need to be in sync with one another to be able to beat each level. If you want someone’s attention you need to use the “DO SOMETHING!” pawn (yes, that is its technical name) by tapping it in front of the player and staring aggressively.
There are 17 levels in the game, each one adding new and crazy rules. These range from vortexes being out of order, to each player swapping their action tile when the timer gets flipped, with the introduction of character specific doors or CCTV cameras or character specific talking.
What is Magic Maze Like To Play?
It’s strange because, although Magic Maze has a theme, it is almost an abstract game. The theme doesn’t really matter as a whole, because it is the gameplay that really stands out. Magic Maze is, it has to be said, absolute gold.
Chaos is probably the best word to describe a game like Magic Maze. Obviously, before the game begins, there is time to discuss the strategy as a group – however, without knowing the order the tiles are going to come out in it is impossible to plan for every contingency. This means that, as players, you have to constantly adapt and bend your strategy around creating the best possible route to get your character from A to B.
Of course, the game is not that simple. You may need to get the barbarian (yellow pawn) to the yellow item; however, you may also need him to open a door on the other side of the map. This leads to anarchy as a group, with the “Do Something” pawn being passive-aggressively tapped around the table as everyone struggles to see what it is exactly they can do.
Magic Maze is, needless to say, a challenge to play. As players, you have to keep in mind the positions of all four pawns, as well as trying to find out what the collective feeling is around how a piece should be moved. This is the first game I have come across that really plays on the concept of players acting as a hive mind or a collective. In other words, this is as close to being a Borg as gaming gets.
You are a gamer, you will be assimilated.
What really, truly makes this game is the campaign-esque scenarios you can play. The game only takes around 10 to 15 minutes per map, depending on how in sync you are as a group, and having the different map rules and settings helps keep it fresh. They turn a 10 minute game into a several hour long epic series with ease, meaning it rarely grows old.
There is something simple and yet effective about Magic Maze. The whole premise is both funny and ridiculous. It is a brilliant idea, and the gameplay is unique, making it a game we are really happy to have on our shelves.
Magic Maze Review: TL;DR and Conclusion
This is a good game. In fact, this is a really good and really different game. It is an essential game for players who are parts of gaming groups that fluctuate in size. If you find yourself playing with 6-8 players regularly then this game is an absolute must.
The campaign and the novel gameplay really make for a unique game. The whole thing is incredibly enjoyable. It is great for any number of players, as both a party style game and as a standard co-op (with a difference).
To be honest, I love Magic Maze and I cannot recommend it enough. Simply superb.
What do you think of Magic Maze? Is this the kind of game you could love? Do you love it? Or does it sound like the kind of game you would rather live without? Let me know in the comments below.