1st August 2021
Sunday night gaming on Board Game Arena has come to a conclusion.
The last game of the evening was Via Magica.
Via Magica - the magic way, what is the magic way? Turns out it's a game of errr.... bingo? Not just bingo, but bingo very loosely inspired by Harry Potter.
Players take the role of a student of magic looking to earn their Certificate of Sorcery, this is done by collecting macguffins to open magical portals; the titular Via Magica.
Caveat: We have only ever played Via Magica online.
What's in a game?
The artwork on cards in Via Magica is universally good; cheerfully brash and colourfully cartoonish characters dominate the cards. The animus tokens are also bright and colourful.
The game's iconography is easy to read.
How's it play?
On to play
In Via Magica, all players act simultaneously after the active player who assumes the role of Catcher, which is a fancy name for a bingo caller, draws a token.
Play proceeds until a player has activated a 7th portal card.
Players now calculate at all the victory points their portal cards confer, end of game bonuses they earn and points acquired from bonus tiles.
All scores are tallied, highest score wins.
There's no denying it, Via Magica is bingo, the manual says as much. The portal cards are bingo cards and the animus tokens are bingo balls, the twist though, is that whilst there are only 7 'numbers', the odds of them coming up are heavily skewed and is what adds a scintilla of much needed depth to the game. Portal cards with more than 1 or 2 rare openings will generally be much harder to complete, it also means that players should complete the 'rarer' spaces first if they get wildcards.
Additionally, there is a little bit of strategy when using some of the lower cost cards; once a player starts a card, they'll generally want to finish it, as a consequence, quite often there's no decision to be made and players will concentrate on the card they started if they can. However, since players initially have 7 crystals, they'll always have at least 1 surplus crystal (Provided they are only 'going' for 1 card a a time that is.), 'loading' a lower cost card with surplus crystals can prove when a draw goes against the player, allowing them to switch a crystal round to a secondary card which may prove beneficial.
Initial and later card drafts will prove important, the basic dichotomy is choosing between point scoring cards and special ability cards, as well as quick-to-complete lower cost cards and higher value more costly ones.
During play, we found that picking the highest cost cards seemed to be the most successful approach.
Ultimately though, this is a game of luck and luck will be the biggest factor.
Obviously Via Magica has little to engage players of heavier games and personally I found it an unabsorbing experience.
It's unlikely that I'm the target audience though, the simplicity and bingo theme of Via Magica clearly makes it a crossover game that is accessible enough to appeal to non-gamers and which they will find easy to learn.
I play, I paint.