Name: Cheaty Mages
Type: Card Game
Playtime: 30 mins
(3.0 / 5)
Cheaty Mages is a fast and fun card game published by Alderic Entertainment Group (AEG) and written by acclaimed game designer Seiji Kanai (who also made Love Letter for AEG). It was first published in 2013. The theme of the game revolves around a group of unscrupulous mages who are gambling on the outcome monsters fighting in a pit and who are casting spells on the monsters to help or hinder them in order to influence the outcome of the fight, all while trying to avoid detection from the ever present judge.
Inside the box you get-
- 72 x Spell Cards
- 10 x Fighter Cards
- 8 x Judge Cards
- 30 x Betting Token Cards (6 each of numbers 1-5)
- 30 x Coin Chips (split into 1, 5 and 10 denominations with 18×1, 6×5 and 6×10)
- 1 x Rulebook
The cards are all made of a durable card stock and laminated to make sure they stand up to the rigors of the gaming table. The art is basic, but suits the game and is consistent across all the card types. The Fighters all look reasonable, except the Orc who looks decidedly piggish and the Judges are all illustrated so that they resemble their characteristics, be it absent minded, stern or happy. The Spell cards make up the bulk of the set and have the same basic artistic style as the other cards. Some show illustrations of the spell, such as fireball, giants strength or haste while others, like mana boost, just show esoteric symbols.
Each card has a number of characteristics which vary by card type-
Fighters have a strength, prize amount and maybe a special ability.
Judges have a mana threshold, Judgement and maybe a special effect
Spells have a type, mana cost and effect
The game is simple to play. Deal out 5 fighters, 1 judge and a number of spells to each player (this varies based on the number of players). Each player decides to bet one 1,2 or 3 fighters and places, facedown, the numbered betting cards of their chosen fighter/s. The players take it in turns to cast spells on fighters, generally increasing or decreasing their strength. Some spells are cast face up for everyone to see the effect, some face down. The round ends when every player passes on casting more spells.
Once all the players pass the strength of each fighter, after the spells cast are added, it totalled up, as is the total mana cost of the spells on each individual fighter. If the total mana cast on a fighter exceeds the judges limit then that fighter is subject the judges judgement text (nothing, all spells dispelled or the fighter is kicked out of the competition). Once the judge has passed judgement and any special text on the judge card is taken into account, the fighter with the highest power still in the fight, wins. Anyone who bet on that fighter gets a payment based on how many fighters they bet on at the start.
After 3 rounds have been played the player with the biggest pile of winnings is declared the winner. It’s a pretty simple and straightforward game with a fair bit of strategy behind how you bluff your way to winning a given round.
All in, I like Cheaty Mages. I brought it to the table for the first time recently and taught the other players how to play it inside of 5 minutes and after that we all got into the spirit of being dastardly mages desperately trying to outdo each other, which I feel is half the fun of the game. For what it is the production values are quite high and I think it’ll make it to the table fairly often as one of the first games of the night, while we wait for others to turn up. It’s a little pricey for the contents and it could stand to be a couple of pounds cheaper but it’s by no means expensive and if you find it for under £15 then it’s well worth picking up.