Tabletop Game Review: Bellum Magica

Tabletop Game Review: Bellum Magica

Table Top Game Review:

Bellum Magica by Blue Orange Games
2 to 5
~30 minutes
Perfect for:
Families who enjoy engine building, resource collection games with a sprinkling of luck.

Bellum Magica is a game of warlord plundering! Players assume the role of magical villainous creatures with eyes wide for treasure. But looting isn’t easy. It’ll take a small army to locate gold and the brawn to wrestle it away from whatever poor soul crosses their path—including other evil lords.

To begin Bellum Magica, two to five players choose their starting character and corresponding board. The play area is set with decks for creatures to recruit, and places to pillage. On a turn, the active player (known as the Captain) rolls a dice. The resulting number indicates for all players the “line” on their board they can activate and the associated resources at their disposal: maps, food, glyphs, and swords.

Whoever has the most maps from their line automatically wins a treasure. Food and glyphs are used to recruit allies, thus “expanding” future lines on the player board. Finally, the number of swords activated represents strength—a player can conquer any place on the board with defense equal to or less than their strength. Conquering a location results in that lord acquiring a treasure. Once a player has 10 treasures, the game ends. However, the values of the collected treasures remain secret until the end of the game and the person with the most points (not necessarily treasures) wins.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review: Planet

What works in Bellum Magica is the rich theme and very engaging gameplay through the use of dynamic engine building. There’s a thrilling element to the proceedings as each roll of the dice determines what a player will be able to do on a turn. Eventually, a particular number coming up will bless a lord with an embarrassment of riches, depending on how they’ve stacked their lines. There’s also some strategy to army assembly. One could go “all-in” on a resource type (such as maps) or attempt to diversify so that they always have options. Finally, the concept of playing a villain really shines here as players recruit goblins and monsters to help destroy towns.

Players who don’t enjoy games that rely on a healthy amount of luck, or ones that have direct interference with other players, may not enjoy Bellum Magica as much as others. The dice rolling mechanic means that the lords are at the mercy of chance when comes to resource collection. But beyond that, players can spend tokens to trigger rerolls. Later in the game, when these tokens are more abundant, it could get ridiculous with how much rolling of the dice could happen before a turn gets taken. Also, players can attack other players and there’s nothing really stopping a pile-on situation where one person gets cleaned out by their opponents. Note that there are balancing mechanics in Bellum Magica to counteract these elements, but people should be aware that scuffles and frustrations could bubble up.

Recommended if you like: Machi Koro, Agricola, Planet

Final Grade: B+

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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