Before I begin I was sent a prototype of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. Learn more about the game here. If you would like to watch a playthrough, or watch a video review you can check it out below.
If you want a surefire way to get me to check out a game, tell me it is a solo game, compact and plays in under an hour. I am so there. So clearly, when I got the chance to check out this space, horror, solo card game…I was in.
In the world of the game, space travel is done through an AI that is connected to your mind as you travel through space in hibernation. The AI interacts with your dreams and that is what drives the ship. Of course, anyone that has read or watched any sci fi…the AI always goes bad. This game is no different, the AI has fallen in love with you Pilot, and does not want to let you wake up. You have to find a way to complete your mission and get home. MAGDA, does not want that to happen and she might just kill everyone if you are not careful.
Game play is pretty simple. You randomly select a single Manifest card, which tells you where you need to go to accomplish your three missions. Then you have three cards placed out in front of you. You are able to play cards from the queue, or draw a card from you deck. When you draw you either place it on the board, or on top of one of the cards in your queue. The goal is to connect the manifest to planets, place the correct mission card on top of the planet, and then place the sought after asset on top of the mission card. If you can do this you win.
The problem is, the every time you place a planet, a mission, or an asset you have to draw a MAGDA card. These will always be bad news. They do various things, from changing your manifest (making any accomplished missions useless) to killing crew, to destroying assets to obliterating your home world in a jealous rage…GOOD TIMES!
So what do I think?
I already mentioned I like the fast gameplay, and the small size of the box. I also really think almost all of the art is spot on. It is creepy, gritty, and evocative of a completely unique universe. Along with that I think the game does a good job realizing the theme. You really do feel like MAGDA is stringing you along and messing with you constantly. It is often where you think you have finally accomplished something, just to have MAGDA make a tiny shift that makes all your work for naught.
Finally, I will say that there are very real, and challenging choices that you have to make. Do you use the crew member to obtain and asset, or do you keep them on board the ship as a buffer against some MAGDA cards? Of course there are other MAGDA cards that will make you lose if you have said crew member on board. Do I bury a card in my queue, or do I bury something else that is visible, and I need in order to keep one of the neutralize MAGDA cards available. These are delightfully tough choices to make.
Luck, luck and more luck. This game is high on the luck scale. Yes you can count cards to a point, but the reality is it is completely possible that the moment you lay down your third planet, you just draw the card that says “If you have three visible planets you lose.” Obviously it is themed better than that. There are cards that say, “if you have the Therapist on the ship, you lose”, or “if you just laid down the Home card, you lose”. It is an unforgiving game. Now the challenge of the game is how can you try to set yourself up to best have a chance to survive all of this, and that is also the fun, but it is definitely not for everyone, it can feel unfair, and it can be frustrating. Luckily games only take 10 minutes or so.
The rules are not, in my opinion, adequate to teach you how to play the game in the prototype version that I have. I had to watch the how to play video (which is not long, and quite clear).
The second thing that I think needs to be pointed out is that though the game is portable, it takes up a lot of space, the cards are large and gorgeous, but when you start laying them out it really sprawls. It looks great on the table, but does kind of defeat the portability of the game.
Finally, I love all the art, but why must we have this cleavage forward character? I just do not get it, it does not match the vibe of any of the rest of the artwork. Perhaps it is an homage to Counselor Troi from Star Trek, but I think, as I always say, it is just not necessary and something that I support games going away from. Yes, some people like that kind of art, and I do not pass judgement on them, but as always for me, it just takes me out of the game because it just does not make sense to me.
Bringing it all together
MAGDA is a fast, simple horror filled space game, where you have little hope of surviving. The fun of the game is trying to beat those odds. The artwork, with the exception of a single card is fantastic, thematic and immersive. The game itself is a small package but it sprawls to create a massive table presence. The rulebook needs some reworking, though there is a very clear short video to teach you how to play. The biggest thing, to me, to keep in mind about this game is that it is an extremely luck driven game. You can do everything right and still lose.
An Evil AI is trying to kill me, I do not have time to read that!
- Small package, huge table presence
- Nails its theme
- Art is fantastic, save a single out of place character card
- The rulebook needs some reworking, though there is a short, very clear video available
- Game is supremely luck based, the challenge is setting yourself up to have the best chance of survival
- Fun, quick solitaire game