Magic Maze

RRP: £23.99

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RRP £23.99

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After being stripped of all their possessions, a mage, a warrior, an elf, and a dwarf are forced to go rob the local Magic Maze shopping mall for all the equipment necessary for their next adventure. They agree to map out the labyrinth in its entirety first, then find each individuals favorite store, and then locate the exit. In order to evade the surveillance of the guards who eyed…
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Dice Tower
Golden Pear
Value For Money

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A new way to play.
  • Quick to explain and set-up.
  • Plays well up to eight players.
  • Incredible fun.
  • Great replay-ability.

Might Not Like

  • Not much going on visually.
  • Yelling at that friend who always forgets the timer...
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Description

Co-operative games can be a true joy but can also suffer from the problem of ‘alpha gamer’. That is where one more experienced gamer takes over and basically takes everyone's turns for them. Magic Maze is a co-op game that effectively neutralises this by having everyone play in really time and not allowing them to talk!

The game is set in a fantasy world where you play the usual tropes of mage, warrior, elf and dwarf. They have somehow lost their weapons and equipment, so, obviously, they decide to rob the local mall.

When I say you play, I mean you play all those characters. Because no matter how many players there are you will all control the four characters. Oh, and your control of them is limited to direction tiles.

Each player will receive a tile or tiles, depending on player count, with a direction and/or action on them. For example, I might have ‘move north’ and ‘use stairs’. I can use these actions on any character, so together we have to move the pieces around the mall without talking. Sounds easy, but when you are trying to direct four different pieces, to four different places without talking the challenge becomes clearer. To make matters worse there is a strict timer that will need refreshing at certain points.

Perhaps the best component is what I call ‘the big red dobber'. This is essentially a massive red pawn that you can slam in front of someone when you think they should be taking a move. Which is hilarious until it is done to you.

The biggest challenge in Magic Maze is keeping your mouth shut, but when you manage that you discover a fantastic co-op game that is quite unlike anything else I’ve played. The game starts easy and gradually brings in more and more challenge and uniqueness but can be kept (relatively) simple for families too.

Player Count: 1-8
Time: 15 Minutes
Age: 8+

 

“Everything is so clear to me, how do they not see it?  My incredible brain sees everything yet everyone else appears to be baffled.  All they have to do is move one piece and we can get things going again.  Maybe if I tap the “Do Something” pawn in from of them one more time they will get it.  No… that’s not working.  Why are they all staring at me?  Why are they frantically hitting the table in front of ME with the “Do Something” pawn?  Oh… we’re out of time because I missed something…”

Magic Maze is a great way to learn just how unaware you can actually be.  Magic Maze is a co-operative, real-time game released in 2017 by Sit Down!, that was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award. In this game players take on the actions available to four heroes who are trying to steal new weapons from a nearby mall and escape with them. This means no one person controls the Mage, you all do.

At the start of the game each player is given an action tile showing what they can do. For example, one player may be able to move east and use escalators, while another may be able to move west and use portals. Working together, you need to manoeuvre each hero to their designated location on the tiles that will be randomly drawn and placed, then get everyone out of the mall. In two minutes....Without talking.

More Than a Gimmick

Oh, did I forget to mention that part? That’s right, you can’t talk. You do however receive a large red wooden pawn called the “Do Something” pawn. This is a fantastic tool for ruining relationships, frustrating your wife, or for looking like a fool. You can’t do anything else to communicate other than place this pawn in front of another player.

However, this does allow for some creativity and innovation. You may lightly place the pawn when you need someone to get to something but not necessarily immediately. Maybe you place the piece with a bit of force if you want them to do something they should have done 30 seconds ago. And maybe you rapidly bang the table as a last ditch effort to get them to earn us more time.

Eventually you will have a whole new language made up of knocks and bangs, like a monkey…

It’s not entirely hopeless though as you do have ways to replenish lost time and communicate in a more civilised manner. There are spaces on some tiles that allow you to flip over the sand timer.  These are one time uses and should be used sparingly; only when necessary! The great thing about using them (other than getting more time that is) is that you are allowed to talk.  You can talk until someone takes an action.

Be wary though as this uses up your precious time. Finding the balance between planning and just winging it is a huge part of the Magic Maze game.

The Turning Point

After five or six 15-minute cycles of silence and arguing you will finally get it down and win. You will feel incredible. You will all feel so proud of yourselves. But that will fade. Suddenly someone will comment on the size of the rule book being much larger than what you read up to. Someone else will notice there were tiles still in the box that you’ve never seen. You completed scenario one… the tutorial.

This is the defining moment for your group. Do you decide you’ve had enough already and can’t bear to go on? Or do you fight? You’ve been pretending to be heroes for the past two hours so why stop now?

Scenario two is mostly the same as scenario one, with just a slight variation on the end condition. That’s the thing with the scenarios; they are slight rules changes from the previous scenario. Even so, the seventh scenario is such a different game experience than the first.

The 10 scenarios after that are challenges that change the game rules for that individual game. We’ve not gotten that far yet…

Final Thoughts on Magic Maze

When I first heard about this game I thought it sounded interesting. I enjoy co-operative games and I enjoy real-time games. This seemed right up my alley. Well it took up the whole neighbourhood, destroyed it, and built a shopping mall in its place. It has planted it’s foundations and cemented it’s place in my collection. Alright that’s enough building related puns.

Magic Maze is truly special. It has taken a really simple concept and added the perfect twists to it. I was initially worried the no talking rule would feel like a gimmick but I was so wrong. Magic Maze is as good as it is because of that rule. Without it there’s no challenge.

It plays from 1-8 players and works well at each. Meaning you can crack it open on a lonely Wednesday evening or gather seven of your closest friends and treat it like a party game. The possibilities are endless (for 1-8 people).

If I had one small criticism it would be the theme/story. You control four fantasy heroes: Mage, Dwarf, Elf, and Barbarian. Somehow they have had their weapons stolen from them so they decide to visit the nearby modern shopping mall… From what I’ve seen there is no reason that this couldn’t have been set in a goblin cave. Despite this small grievance I still rate this game extremely highly. It’s a game I introduce to anyone that will let me and they always want to play again and again.

I’ve not played the expansion yet, but I’ve also not felt like I’ve needed to. So far anyway. One day I’ll no doubt get it.

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.

Core Components

  • 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 3.4.5.6.7.8.). 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.

Extras

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:

  1. Flip the timer and search the shopping mall.
  2. Place each Hero Pawn on their corresponding Item Space; depicted by the identical symbol and colour of each Hero.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Moving 

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)

Searching

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).

Using Escalators

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.

Solo Gaming

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.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A new way to play.
  • Quick to explain and set-up.
  • Plays well up to eight players.
  • Incredible fun.
  • Great replay-ability.

Might not like

  • Not much going on visually.
  • Yelling at that friend who always forgets the timer...