Mandragora, Bruno Cathala's third game, was released in 2021 (Kingdomino) in collaboration with Florian Sirieix (after us) from the French publisher Studio H. Well, in keeping with Spiel 2023, the Swiss game publisher brought Game factory The magical family game is also available in German-speaking countries. You can find out how the game performs in the following review.
It's Black Magic Friday and the magic supply shops in the village are having sales. For us magicians, this is the perfect opportunity to replenish the spells and their ingredients we need! But we are not alone. Of course, other magicians are just as keen on all the offers as we are and are looking for magical bargains. So we send our assistant off as quickly as possible in the hope that he will grab the valuable mandrakes (mandragora), magic books and the associated ingredients on his shopping trip and leave the cursed scrolls behind.
Gathering, collecting, conjuring and collecting
Mandragora is a set collection game in which 2 - 4 players take on the role of a magician and have to cast spells that are as powerful as possible. They send a common assistant in a roundel through the shops of the village, who collects all the resources, magic books and, if necessary, cursed scrolls that a shop has available. On our turn we have the choice between two actions: we can either move the assistant or cast a spell.
If we move the assistant, we move it clockwise by 1 – 3 stores. We then take all the cards from the shop where we placed the assistant. All shops that the assistant has left or passed through are supplemented with additional cards to make them more attractive in future turns. The information about which cards the stores have for us is open to everyone. The three dark shops are an exception. With these we don't know what to expect because the cards are laid out face down.
When we cast a spell, we use our collected cards to cast a spell. To do this we need a magic book and 1 – 5 ingredients of the corresponding color. Depending on how many ingredients we have added to the spell book, we can take one of the spells on display and activate it. The combination of the spell book and the spell gives us victory points at the end of the game.
After choosing a spell equal to or lower than the number of ingredients used, we are allowed to cast the selected spell. Level 1 and 2 spells give us various instant effects. Level 3 spells allow us to move the assistant one space further for the rest of the game and thus react more flexibly. The spells of levels 4 and 5 let us discard some or all of our hand cards at the end of the game. In the end, these give us minus points for each color that we still have in our hand.
Jokers and bad curses
If we have a eponymous mandragora or mandrake, it acts as a joker and can be used as an ingredient or as a magic book. However, we are only allowed to use one mandrake per spell cast. If we use a mandrake as an ingredient, we can only use one of them to make our spell one level more powerful. If we use the mandrake as a magic book, we are not allowed to use a second mandrake as an ingredient. However, we can freely decide whether we want to cast a spell with ingredients of one color or exclusively with ingredients of different colors. The latter can also be carried out with the only one black magic spell book available and can be very helpful in getting rid of as many cards of different colors as possible from your hand.
However, hidden among all the magic books, ingredients and mandrakes are cursed scrolls of various strengths (1 - 3 curses). The person with the most curses at the end of the game receives 2 negative points. Therefore, you always have to consider whether you visit a shop with a curse card or not. The question arises here: Are the cards on display worth enough to face the danger of negative points?
The game ends as soon as the last card has been drawn from the draw pile in the middle of the village. Now the end of the game marker is given to the next person. From there, three more rounds will be played. At the end, the points of all cast spells + books are added together. You get one minus point for each color in your hand and 2 for the most curses. Whoever has the most victory points at the end is the lucky winner.
As a team to win
In addition to the standard version of the game, there is also a team mode in which 4 magicians compete in a 2 against 2 duel. If one of the players draws or receives at least one cursed scroll, the team can either exchange one hand card with each other or give one hand card to the respective team partner. This makes the game a little more flexible overall and makes curses a little more desirable from time to time. However, the mode does not offer much added value.
Information about Mandragora
|Number of players: 2 – 4|
Age: from 8 years
Playing time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Family game
Long-term motivation: medium
Classification: Set Collection
Author: Bruno Cathala, Florian Sirieix
Publisher: Game Factory, Studio H
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2023
Language: German, French, Italian
Cost: 15,69 Euro
Mandragora is a quick-play set collection game that can also be played as a family thanks to its simple rules. Children will quickly understand the rules and will hardly have any problems during the game thanks to the easy-to-understand symbols. However, due to the effects of the spells, the game has minor take-that elements that could bother some people.
The game relies a lot on luck, because we cannot influence what is on display and where the assistant is currently positioned. In addition, the person who has the better magic books usually wins. So the person who cast the most red book spells was victorious. The game won't blow the socks off of those who play a lot, but the game is ideal for casual gamers. It's uncomplicated, quick to set up and quick to play. You don't have to think much about tactics. Mandragora wasn't able to completely convince us, but if you're looking for a relaxing game to play in between and aren't put off by the high luck factor with Take That elements, you'll certainly be happy with Mandragora at the affordable price.
|Game Factory 646308 Mandragora, Contest of Magicians,... *||14,90 EUR||Buy|
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