Card Game Review: MagBlast: Second Edition
"Glittering pinholes in the cosmic curtain of space serve as the backdrop for Fantasy Flight Games' MagBlast: Second Edition, a card game of fast-paced, interstellar conflict."
Glittering pinholes in the cosmic curtain of space serve as the backdrop for Fantasy Flight Games' MagBlast: Second Edition, a card game of fast-paced, interstellar conflict. As many as eight players square off to spryly construct fleets of starships, intent on annihilating their enemies' flagships. With any amount of skill and luck, a brazen fleet commander might walk away victorious, even unscathed, to cavort triumphantly through the inhospitable plenum of nothingness.
Designers of MagBlast show an obvious appreciation for the classic television space dramas of the previous three decades. They are indebted to nostalgic shows such as Buck Rogers, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape, which featured tactical ship battles as a staple of interstellar storytelling. On the front of the box, a bewildered star-fighter encased in his metal sarcophagus is frozen in terror, his scream silenced both by the confines of his vessel and the vacuum of space. For all we know from the smoke arcing behind his ship, the pilot is just as likely spiraling uncontrollably to his doom as he is narrowly escaping the blasts in the background. Clearly, MagBlast espouses television assumptions that laser blasts do more to settle stellar disputes than the words of slick-talking diplomats. Besides, blasting enemies is much more fun.
Players soon begin eradicating any one of MagBlast's eight meddling species utilizing three types of cards and the rules pamphlet, which consists of three half-pages of black and white rules. The documentation benefits from simple rules explained simply, providing pictures of example cards and the layout of the playing area when needed. One of the more interesting, and admittedly peculiar, rules of the game is the requirement that players provide sound effects when playing a laser blast card against an opponent. Players can, of course, adhere strictly to this rule or not, but playing with the rule does add some youthful foolishness that enhances the game's enjoyment.
The only time the rules might be confusing is when it comes to simultaneous play of action cards; for instance, when a defender immediately counters a Squadron action card with a Time Distortion card. Nevertheless, the rules are conceptually ambiguous but mechanically clear, and they in no way hinder play. In fact, the miniscule amount of rules helps, not hinders, the game. Even where there is only a sense of possible confusion, the game designers provide italicized examples of game play to make sure there's clarity. My only complaint about the documentation is that there's no listing of the game's contents; the initial number of cards that are suppose to come with the game is unknown. For a .PDF copy of the MagBlast rules, visit Fantasy Flight Games' website.
Pop iconography extends beyond the game's cover to grace the front and back of each card. The face of each card is rendered nicely in color. On the flip side, three different soft-gray collages denote the card's particular type: flagship, ship, or action card. Generic, sci-fi inspired names for starships enrich the stellar back-story and aid players in envisioning a plausible background for their cosmological demolition. With help from the amusing, true-to-genre weapons and accessories, the game does a fair job developing its quirky space milieu.