In reality, theft is somewhat looked down upon by hardworking shop keepers, the law, your parents, and any normal decent human being. Magic Maze completely disregards the mundane societal obligations like “Not Steeling Things” and throws you into a heist scenario, frantically dashing through a randomly generated fantasy mall where time spirals out of your control along with remnants of your sanity.
Magic Maze, designed by Kasper Lapp and published by SIT DOWN! Games, provides an interesting glance on the fantasy world as you take on the roles of four Heroes’ with a not so heroic quest. Instead of slaying a dragon or braving the depths of derelict dungeon, you brave the maze-like shopping mall with one goal - to steal the desired items unique to each Hero, then dash for the exits before the timer runs out and you are caught by mall security.
- 24 Mall Tiles.
- Four Hero Pawns in different colours, accompanied by symbol stickers which allow play for those with altered colour perception.
- 12 Out of Order Tokens.
- Nine Action Tiles. Five are double-side for 2-8 player games.
- Seven Action Tiles for one-player games.
- One Sand Timer.
- One "Do Something" Pawn.
- One Theft Tile.
Setting up Magic Maze
Construct the Mall Tile Deck
Simply check the number in the bottom corner of each tile, starting with scenario’s 1-7 for the beginners (initiation) campaign, shuffle them and place them face-down. When you’re more confident move onto scenarios 8-17, each scenario will increase game difficulty by either adding more tiles or rules to the game (like using portals, smashing CCTV camera’s n stuff!).
Place the Starting Tile
Place "Tile One" in the middle of the table. (1A side up is easy for beginners and 1B is for those who’ve played a game or two - Feel free to choose whichever).
Place the Four Hero Pawns
These should be placed in the four central spaces.
Hand out the Action Tiles
Hand these to each player. The numbers in the bottom right corner of each Action Tile correspond to how many people are playing the game (for instance in a four-player game each player gets exactly one Action Tile, these are labelled 126.96.36.199.7.8.). Each player then places their Action Tile in front of them, ensuring everyone can see it and that the North Arrow is facing in the same direction as the North Arrow on the Starting Tile. MAKE SURE THEY STAY FACING THE SAME DIRECTION.
Put the Out-of-Order Tokens, the Sand Timer, the Theft Tile (a. side up) and the “Do Something” Pawn to one side, all within reach of the other players.
You are Ready
Before taking the final leap and turning the sand timer over you can talk strategies and plot quicker ways to escape, or if this is your fifth time setting up having failed four times consecutively, feel free to punch the walls or go outside and scream at pigeons. Your descent towards madness is about to begin.
Playing the Game
Magic Maze is best enjoyed as a co-operative experience anywhere up to eight players. My advice would be to start with four players as it seems to be the sweet spot between organised chaos and complete entropy. I will touch up briefly on a Solo Game at the end of the section but for now will stick to a four-player variant.
The intelligence behind Magic Maze resides within its utter simplicity, the game itself comprising of little more than four Basic Steps:
- Flip the timer and search the shopping mall.
- Place each Hero Pawn on their corresponding Item Space; depicted by the identical symbol and colour of each Hero.
- When all four Hero Pawns stand on their respective Item Space simultaneously, you grab the items (flip the Theft Tile), the alarms are triggered, and you dash for the exits in an attempt to out run the malls armed guards (before the timer expires).
- Each Hero reaches their respective exit space (the exit sign with the colour and symbol of the corresponding Hero Pawn) and when all four heroes reach their exits, you are free! You’ve done it! You’ve stolen precious items from the humble servants of a fantasy realm! Well done you. However, if the Sand Timer runs out at any moment during gameplay, the Guards have rumbled your schemes and it’s off to jail, or a dungeon, or the guillotine. Any demise you dream of will suffice but basically, you’re met with defeat.
The game's brilliance is delivered through one simple rule; You can’t talk or communicate in anyway other than using the “Do Something Pawn.” That means no hand gestures, eye gestures, or even farting in Morse code!
Individual Player Actions
As mentioned in the set-up for Magic Maze, each player is given an Action Tile; each tile displays what actions that player can take. E.G:
- Player 1: Move Up.
- Player 2: Search and Move Down.
- Player 3: Use Escalators and Move Right.
- Player 4: Use Vortex and Move Left.
Each player can only perform actions displayed on their Action Tile, however all players can perform actions at any time. You don’t have to take turns. The only rule is that if another player has committed to doing something then you cannot stop them (don’t grab the Hero Pawn out their hands and commit to rude gestures) until they have let go of the Hero Pawn they are moving. If they’ve made a blunder, simply wait until they’ve finished before correcting.
You’ve learned to walk! Amazing. However, you only practised walking in one direction? You can only walk either up, down, left or right depending on the Action Tile in front of you. Each Player can move a Hero Pawn any number of spaces and at any time in their designated direction. Heroes cannot pass through walls or through each other. (Remember to keep the north arrow on each Action Tile aligned with the Mall’s Starting Tile)
You figured out how to move from one part of a room to another! When a Hero Pawn is placed on a Search Space that has their colour, then you may take another tile from the Mall Tile Deck. Connect the new tile to the one from which you are searching in order to create a passage. Now any Hero Pawn is free to move through the passage regardless of the colour of the Search Space symbol. The mall will continue to grow this way until all tiles are placed (Be very conscious of table space. It’s easy to accidentally create a mall that spills over the table).
After years of arduous research, you alone have unearthed the complexities of using escalators. When a Hero Pawn is placed either at the foot or peak of an Escalator Space then you may move the Hero Pawn up or down accordingly.
Using a Vortex
You, and only you, have mastered teleportation and are able to send the Hero Pawns hurtling through a vortex. When a Hero Pawn is placed on a Vortex Space you can move the Hero Pawn on to any other Vortex Space of the same colour. This is a crucially useful way of covering long distances with speed.
Any Player Actions
- Using the Sand Timer
Time is of the essence and always in short supply. When a Hero Pawn is placed on a Sand Timer Space, any player may flip the Sand Timer over. The same player must then place an Out of Order Token on the space they have just used. Players are welcome to talk after the Sand Timer has been flipped, however the moment someone touches a game piece, all players must return to silence. (Tip: Wait until the Sand Timer has nearly ran out in order to maximise the extra time received)
-Flipping the Theft Tile
Only when all four Hero Pawns are on their corresponding Item Spaces can the theft tile be flipped. This signals that the thefts have taken place and thus begins the mad dash to the exit. The Vortex System is also shut down meaning no Hero Pawn may pass through a Vortex. Any player can flip the Theft Tile however the tile MUST be flipped in order for the thefts to occur. If all of the Heroes escape without flipping the Theft Tile, then they find themselves empty handed and all players have failed.
-The “Do Something” Pawn
Due to the forced lack of communication, all players are instead invited to place the “Do Something” Pawn in front of their comrades when they spot another player could make a move.
Same rules apply; the only difference is the setting up the Action Tiles. Shuffle the seven Action Tiles used for one-player games (number in bottom right corner) and place them face-down, ensuring the North Arrow on each is aligned with the Starting Maze Tile.
Then with one hand turn the cards over, perform the action on the card (if desired) and then place face up in a discard pile. When you have reached the end of the cards, simply turn the discard pile back over and begin again.
Tips on Playing Magic Maze
- Play through the beginner scenario first. It allows you to talk and introduces you to the game mechanics.
- Keep a keen eye on the Sand Timer; it runs out fast!
- Be tactical with the Sand Timer usage. Waiting until it’s almost empty is the best time to use it.
- Repeatedly banging the “Do Something Pawn” on the table in front of your friend is more distracting than useful. A simple placing of the pawn is enough to get them thinking.
- Make sure the Action Tiles are aligned using the Starting Mall Tile’s north arrow. It saves a tonne of confusion.
Magic Maze truly is a unique experience, easy to play and incredibly addictive. After a few games you’ll be hooked to stealing swords, bows, wizard’s spells and Dwarf’s hammers; just don’t take this new-found love into real life.