Hello fellow Mages, and welcome back to the Arena!
The long awaited moment has finally come; the next Mage Wars expansion is upon us!
This expansion is quite different. This is the first expansion in the "Battlegrounds" series for Mage Wars. This one is called "Battlegrounds: Domination" and introduces a completely new way to win your battles. Let's dive right in!
Battlegrounds: Domination (BGD from here on out) is the next "big box" expansion for Mage Wars. Like I mentioned previously, this expansion is very different than all others that have come before it. There are no new Mages included with this expansion, but fear not, this is still probably my favorite expansion to date!
So, what do you get in BGD? You get some stuff that comes in every expansion, like a new rulebook, some markers/counters. You also get 116 brand new cards. But most importantly, you get 20 puzzle-cut tiles. You can see an example of them below.
Alright, so this expansion is the most unique one to date. Previously in Mage Wars there was only one way to win, which was by killing the other Mage, but now if you play with Domination, there is a new way to win which is achieved by controlling different spots on the board. It is important to note, though, that you can absolutely still win by killing the other Mage. So if they're only trying to take control of those zones and neglecting to protect themselves, you can take them out.
In Battlegrounds: Domination, you are fighting over zones that have special conjurations in them called "V'tar Orbs". These orbs were created by the Dragons before they disappeared from Etheria. Although the dragons are gone, their creations still remain. Taking control of the orbs gives you a portion of its power each round and when you have enough of the orbs' power, you are able to open a portal straight to Voltari, the source of magical energy, and simply obliterate your opponent.
The orbs start off as neutral. Neither Mage controls them at the start of the game. In order to get control of an orb, it has to be hit with a melee attack. Easy right? Not so fast. When the dragons created the orbs, they knew that people would come looking for the power they granted. So they created guardians to protect the orbs from any outside force. The are called the Sslak and the Usslak and they can be seen below.
To this effect, you cannot melee attack an orb while there is still a Sslak or Usslak in its zone. In addition, each Upkeep phase, they will get a guard marker placed on them if they do not already have one.
So when you try to attack either one of them the first time each round with a melee attack, they will be able to counterstrike.
As you can see, they also gain the Unmovable and Anchored traits when in a zone with an orb. Unmovable simply means they cannot be pushed or pulled. Anchored, however, is a new trait. This is one that people will be excited about. A creature with the Anchored trait cannot be teleported!
These creatures are not super powerful but can be a pain to take out. The Sslak has just enough health and armor to where it will survive a couple of hits and the Usslak is even tougher to kill.
But when you do finally kill it, you can take over its orb. Immediately when you melee attack the orb to take it over, you get a small bonus. You can gain two mana, two health, or one of each.
In addition to that, each upkeep phase, you will receive one V'Tar and gain either one health or mana for each orb you control. During the Upkeep phase, if you have enough V'Tar, you win the game! The amount needed depends on which map you are playing. If both Mages have enough V'Tar to win, the higher amount is the victor. If there is a tie, you play another round and keep doing so until one Mage has more than the other.
In addition to that, we have official multiplayer rules. There are rules for both Team games and Free For All.
In team games, initiative passes between teams instead of individual Mages. In addition, activation also switches between teams instead of individuals. So when it's your team's turn to activate, you can activate the creature of either Mage on your team.
Quickcast works the same way except you can't use both quickcasts from your team right after each other. That would be pretty overpowered!
If a Mage on your team gets killed, their Mage card and all cards attached to them get discarded, but the remaining Mage gets control of all of their creatures and conjurations. Unless, of course, those cards are specific to a certain Mage.
In free for all games, initiative passes to the left. So do actions, meaning that in a 3 player game, the person with initiative activates one creature, then the person to their left does, then the next person and then it comes back to the original player.
If a Mage gets killed, everything they controlled is removed from the board.
And as always, the last Mage standing wins. Unless it's a Domination game, then the Mage who gets the V'Tar requirement first wins.
There are 26 new spells with this set and 9 special tiles included in the 20 tiles. Let's first take a look at each card and then we'll come back and explain what the different tiles do. We'll start with creatures.
Personally, I don't think these guys are worth spending the spellbook points to add into a spellbook but I definitely think they're worth getting out through the special tile seen later on.
With 3 armor and 6 health, he is unlikely to die in one shot and his 8 mana cost makes him pretty easy to cast. Plus he is an Animal and a Canine, meaning he will get all the boosts that synergize with those two traits.
He costs 11 mana, so he isn't exactly cheap, but he has a defense of 6+, 1 armor, and 9 life. Plus he gets Regenerate 2 when in a zone with a burn marker. So once again, he likely won't die from one hit and his regeneration gives him the possibility of sticking around for a while.
We haven't talked about the best part yet! His damage output isn't great, only rolling two dice. However, he has a pretty high chance of Taunting whatever he attacks. A Taunted creature MUST melee attack Skeelax the next round if possible. So this is a good way of drawing targets away from your Mage.
This guy is a level 3 Animal creature with 10 health and 2 armor, making him a little vulnerable to piercing attacks. He costs 13 mana to bring out, which is quite a bit, but he has two options for attacks.
He's got a quick melee attack of 4 dice with Piercing +1 and also has a full action, zone ranged attack of 2 dice that deals Poison damage. The attack is unavoidable and is critical damage so it bypasses armor. It also has a chance to daze.
Altogether I think he's a decent creature but not great. A Timber Wolf has just as much survivability for 4 less mana and one less spellbook point. Oscuda is better offensively though!
His stats are pretty low considering he costs 12 mana, but his effect more than makes him worth it. He only has 9 life and 1 armor so he won't survive too many hits, but while he's in the Arena, all your Goblin creatures will gain the elusive trait, which is amazing! Any Warlords who make a Goblin heavy book will definitely want to include this guy.
Those are all of the creatures, next we'll move onto conjurations!
Altar of the Iron Guard is an amazing conjuration for defensive spellbooks. I suspect that many Priestess books will start using this quite a bit.
The effect is pretty self-explanatory so I'll just give my opinion on it. I think it's a great card. It's only 4 mana and gives you an amazing defensive effect!
This is another card that I think many Warlords will put in their spellbooks since they don't have many flying options. Necromancers will probably love it too.
This is one of those cards that will really change the meta. It wouldn't completely destroy the Straywood Aviary build that won GenCon last year because the birds could probably handle it somewhat quickly, but it would certainly slow them down!
It's too bad that it gives these effects to your opponents cards too but it also has the added effect of letting you remove a burn or corrode marker from an object in its zone during the upkeep phase.
I'm not sure how often I will use this card but it's definitely interesting. Some Druids will probably want to try it out!
That may not sound like a big deal but if you are playing a Domination game where the first Mage gets to 11 V'tar, having that one extra can mean the difference between winning and losing!
Basically when put into play, it allows your creatures to move FROM their zone, as long as it has a V'Tar orb in it, into the zone where this card is.
This can be a really big deal with creatures that are slow and is an even bigger deal when playing with the Secret Passages tiles, which I will explain later on.
First of all, it blocks line of sight and passage. So this is a good way for Forcemasters to cut off escape routes.
Next, it's pretty cheap. 5 mana for 4 health may not seem very good but it's also Incorporeal which makes its survivability much better.
Finally, during the Upkeep phase, you can pay mana to reconstruct damage that has been done to it. So if the enemy doesn't kill it, you can just make it whole again!
Those are all of the conjurations so now we will move onto Equipment!
Not anymore! There are two new Wind attack spells released this set. We'll see them soon, so keep this ring in mind when we look at them.
Unfortunately that's the only piece of equipment in this set. So now we'll move onto those attack spells I was just talking about!
This is a zone attack that can target up to 2 zones away, making it the first zone attack with that kind of range. It costs 8 mana but hits everything with 2 dice with Piercing +1. In addition, it rolls 2 more dice against flying creatures.
And then on top of all of that, it has a HUGE probability of rolling some kind of effect on the effect die. You need a 4-6 to push, 7-9 to daze, and 10+ to push AND daze. Combine that with the ring above and there's an 11 out of 12 chance that you'll roll a success.
The only downside is that they get pushed in a random direction instead of away from you.
It only costs 4 mana. The range is 0-1 which admittedly, isn't great. It does 2 dice of damage which gets boosted to 4 dice if they're flying. On a 6+, it pushes. So with that ring, it's a 4+.
But here's the great part. It is SWEEPING! That means it can hit two creatures in the same zone. And then have a chance to push them both. It's also unavoidable and Ethereal. This attack spell is simply fantastic, in my opinion!
The only downside is that it is a full action spell. But let's be honest, that is probably a good thing. If this would go on a Wizard's Tower, it would be really overpowered.
8 mana. 0-2 range. Can target creatures or conjurations. Simple so far.
Lightning damage. 3 dice. Ethereal. 6-7 is a Daze, 8+ is a Stun.
Now comes the fun part! It get's Mana Drain +X and Piercing +X where X is the number of orbs you control. So if you control 3 orbs, you basically cast this spell for 5 mana and it's 3 dice with Piercing 3 and a good chance to Daze/Stun. This card is pretty good!
This is the former promo, Dragon's Breath.
It has a range of 0-3, which is tied for the longest range of any attack spell (the other is Thunderbolt and I'm excluding Chain Lightning from that), but the range actually has a limitation that I'll get to in a second.
It's a level 3 fire spell so the only Mages who will likely use it are the Warlocks and Fire Wizard and any other future fire Mage. It's just too many spellbook points for the other Mages!
It costs 12 mana and rolls 4 dice, which isn't great for that cost. But it has a REALLY high chance of burn! And at the end of the first attack, it can target another creature/conjuration 1 zone further away and attack it as well. But both creatures have to be in range.
This seems like a situational card for me. I'd probably use Fireball much more often than this.
12 mana, full action, another 0-3 range attack spell. Yay! Level is Earth 3 so Warlords and Wizards rejoice!
NINE DICE! Yes you are seeing this correctly, NINE! Plus 5-8 is a daze and 9+ is a stun. When you want to kill something, this is the spell to use.
12 mana, full action, range of 0-2. The interesting thing is that it targets 2 adjacent zones. Arcane level 3 so the only ones who will use this are probably going to be Wizards, which is unfortunate.
This is a zone attack of 2 dice. It is unavoidable and Ethereal.
It also gets more attack dice the more V'Tar orbs you control. So if you control 3 orbs, suddenly this is a 5 dice attack that hits 2 adjacent zones and any wall in between those two zones!
That's the end of attack spells, so now we move onto enchantments!
It has a reveal cost of 4 and targets a zone, which is nice. We need more enchantments that target zones! It's also a Mind level 1 spell so it's affordable to anybody.
The effect is pretty evident from the description. It prevents teleportation to or from that zone. This is something that people have been begging for for a while and it's finally here.
This card is amazingggg for Necromancers and Warlocks. The reveal cost is only 4 (6 if on a Mage) and it can go on any corporeal creature that doesn't have Poison Immunity. So I can stick it on my opponents living creatures and it's basically a Ghoul Rot on the entire zone. And the best part is that my Nonliving creatures won't be affected because of their Poison Immunity!
It has a reveal cost of 3 and is a Nature level 1 spell, so it's affordable for any Mage. It can only target Living creatures though, so Necromancers probably won't use it as often.
Basically this makes one of your creatures into a super powerful guard. But it only works while in the same zone as a V'Tar Orb.
While they're in the zone with an Orb you control, a creature with this enchantment on it gains the Unmovable and Anchored traits. That means they cannot be pushed or teleported out of that zone. In addition to that, they gain Armor +2 and Melee +1 while guarding.
This card can turn some decent creatures into amazingg guards! I plan on using this in a Druid spellbook on some Vine Snappers or Raptor Vines. Giving armor to those guys makes them fantastic.
Reveal cost of 3, 0-2 range, Mind school level 1. Interesting thing about this card is that it can only target a zone with a V'Tar orb.
& that's because of what it does. It allows you, once a round, to push an enemy creature within range of 1 a zone further away. So basically you can push creatures away from orbs you control with this spell.
That's all of the enchantments so let's move onto the final type of card, incantations!
It costs 3 mana, targets corporeal creatures, is a Mind level 2 spell and only has a range of 0-1.
But that's because after you push the first creature into a new zone, you can pay 3 more mana and push another creature in that new zone. And then you can push another creature and keep on going.
There are two important things to note. A creature cannot be pushed twice with the same Cascading Force Wave. And it cannot push creatures through walls, but it can push creatures into them.
This can be both a great offensive and defensive spell. If you have a line of creatures heading towards the enemy Mage, this can help them all get there much faster. Similarly, if the enemy Mage has a line of creatures coming right for you, you can slow them all down at once with this.
It costs 6 mana and affects the entire Arena. It's a level 2 dark spell so it can be pretty costly but it's extremely powerful.
After you cast it, during the next upkeep phase, V'Tar orbs simply don't work. That means neither player gets V'Tar points and neither player gets the additional mana or healing boost.
Opponent going to win next upkeep phase by reaching the V'Tar goal? Play this card and you get an extra turn to try to take an orb away from them or defeat them.
This is a Holy level 1 incantation. It costs 5 mana, has a range of 0-2 and can only target living creatures.
The creature must be in a zone with a V'Tar orb you control but if it is, this card can potentially do some amazing healing!
You heal 2 attack dice PLUS 2 more attack dice per V'Tar orb you control. Control 3 orbs? That's EIGHT dice of healing for 5 mana. That's fantastic!
So that's the end of the cards from this set. What are my favorite five cards? Let's start at number 5 and work our way to the top!
5) Gravikor - Flying creatures have been the bane of my existence in many Mage Wars matches. This is an amazing card for Warlord and Necromancers and anybody else who hates flying creatures.
4) Windstorm - Another card to destroy flying creatures! What else can I say, I really like taking them out ;)
3) Plagued - Like I already said, this card is amazing for the Necromancer, who is my favorite Mage!
2) Astral Anchor - The card everybody has been begging for. Teleport just got countered.
1) Sentinel of V'Tar - Potentially the most powerful card in this set for Domination games. This card single handedly turns creatures into amazing orb guardians!
Altar of Oblivion
The creature can be anywhere in the Arena, it doesn't have to be in that zone. So, have a creature about to die? Sacrifice it! Sadly you cannot do this with the Forcemaster + Mind Control trick because you have to "own" the creature, meaning it had to start in your spellbook.
First of all, it gives all living creatures in this zone the Regenerate 1 trait.
Secondly, during the Upkeep phase, all nonliving creatures in this zone get 1 point of direct damage. Yes, that goes right through the Resilient trait.
Third, it also Hinders all nonliving creatures.
When a non flying corporeal creature enters this zone, they activate the trap. The effect die is rolled to see if they avoid the trap. If a 9+ is rolled, they are hit with an Unavoidable attack of 4 dice with Piercing +2.
In addition, this zone also hinders non flying corporeal creatures even if the spiked pit marker has already been activated.
As a move action, a creature in a zone with a secret passage tile can move directly to the other secret passage tile zone. They ignore any walls and everything else in between and move directly into that zone.
This is a great way to come up behind your enemy to cut off their retreat. Be sure to guard these and be aware of them so you don't get caught by surprise!
If you control this zone, once per turn during the upkeep phase, you can pay to bring out a Sslak or Usslak under YOUR control! You have to pay their mana cost and 1 V'Tar point but you get the creature from OUTSIDE of your spellbook and place it in this zone.
On later turns you can then move it into a zone where you control a V'Tar orb so that your opponent cannot take it from you.
That's everything from this set. Let's go to the conclusion for my final thoughts!
So, what do I think of all this? This is without a doubt my favorite expansion yet! I feel like I say that with each and every expansion that comes out but it's really true!
Many people have said that they don't want to play Domination Mode, they just want to continue playing regular Mage Wars. And I will admit, I kind of felt that way at first as well.
But after testing this expansion out and playing Domination many times, it is safe to say that my views have drastically changed!
I'm not saying this is a BETTER way to play, only that it is different and exciting. It makes you rethink about how you design your spellbooks and opens up countless new strategies and combos to discover!
Even if you never want to play Domination, this expansion is worth it simply for the new cards and modular board. I've played regular Mage Wars matches with different shaped Arenas, using the special tiles, and it makes it exciting and fresh!
- New cards. 26 different ones.
- Modular board.
- Exciting new game mode.
- Official multiplayer rules.
- At first glance, may not appeal to those who think Mage Wars is fine how it is. But trust me, this is worth trying out!
- More special tiles would have been nice.
Things to note
- The reason the tiles aren't double sided is because is would have cost more money and therefore would have increased the cost to the consumer.
-There is another expansion coming out soon, Mage Wars Academy! It will be pre-released at GenCon and has a full release date of September/October. It will be a simpler way to play and be pretty cheap as well. It's designed as a entry point for less experienced gamers. Check it out!
It's more Mage Wars and there are no cards in this set I would consider underpowered or overpowered! If you like Mage Wars, get it!
Hope you all enjoyed this review! Let me know what you think of this expansion in the comments below, and until next time, see you in the Arena!