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Master of Wills Review


Quick Look: Master of Wills


Designer: Randy Van Gelder
Artist: Joshua Calloway
Publisher: Stormcrest Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 25-45 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Review:

tl;dr: Deck-builder with push-and-pull gameplay. Games can feel a little too "obviously one right decision" after another.

Getting to the Game: Each player will bring their own 20+ card deck to the game. (More cards in your deck is allowed, but as history teaches us, never a good idea.) A huge stack of community cards is shuffled and then six community cards are placed in the middle. Draw random cards from the community for the decision of who goes first. Then, it's time to tug-of-war.



The object of this game is to have the most points worth of allies at the end of the 8 rounds. Each round consists of your and your opponent choosing cards which push and pull other cards towards your end zones. Get someone all the way to your side, and they stay there, contributing to your score. Fail to secure them completely, and they could be killed--or worse, turned to your opponent.

Playing the Game: Each round finds you choosing one card from the Community, a grouping of at least three (but often more) cards in the center of the board. Of great import are the ones that bear the helmet icon, as they will allow you to play a faction card from your hand. The twenty cards you brought with you must be comprised of 2 Legendary cards, 5 each of Epic and Neutral cards, and then at least 8 Action cards. The names are a bit of a misnomer--Neutral cards still belong to the specific factions, and all of them are actions, not just the 8 lowest-tier ones in your deck. Your hand in the game has three cards, so you want them to be the best they can be--flooding your deck with more blah action cards will only hurt you, as those in your hand are game-changing. 

Depending on the card you choose on your turn to move from the community zone, other cards based on color will move towards or away from your Allies Zone. Similar to the best chess matches, you want to maximize your position while simultaneously giving your opponent only bad choices. This is rarely a simple matter, however, as a new card is flipped from the community deck after each player's turn, and if there's ever less than three in the center zone, even more than that one will appear. It's here that you'll find the most frustrating part of Master of Wills: those dang community cards.



Inevitably what's going to happen is that you're going to see the exact card that you want, with a faction icon, flipped over as soon as you've taken your turn. You'll watch as your opponent moves everything over to their side, and then plays a legendary faction card that kills all the point dreams you had and cackles manically as your hopes and dreams fade into the night like tears in the rain. This may just be my experience. You could be my opponent and have everything go your way. But this is my issue with this game--it's conceivable, though very unlikely, that you could play most of a game without ever using a card from your deck that you brought. Since you're shuffling 120 community cards, and since only about a third of those cards grant you a faction card play, it's possible that you don't play very many of that carefully crafted deck in a single game. 

Artwork and Components: I keep going back and forth on the artwork here. It's definitely over-the-top cyberpunk, which is in keeping with the game's feel, but there are cards that feel way too much like Curtis. The line between kitschy and bombastic is pretty thin.

  

The components here consist of just the little orange meeple round tracker. It's good. The rest is all cards, which are too tall for standard sleeves, but you'll want to sleeve them. Card quality is good, and keeping them that way is going to be important. 

The Good: Tactical tug of war feels fun, and doesn't feel bad to lose (mostly because losing isn't always your fault). Lots of interesting decisions while deck-building.

The Bad: You're at the mercy of the Community Deck for the whole game. Whoever plays the most faction cards will win. Art is very stylized and will only be popular with a specific group of people.

Score: Master of Wills strikes a very elegant balance between deck-building and being at the mercy of a shuffled deck of 120 cards that literally dictates the entire game. There will be games where you get to play none of your deck, because the shuffle favors your opponent. However, there will also be games where the opposite is true, so... just like justice, perhaps the arc of time bends towards fairness. I'm giving Master of Wills a score of Jack of All Trades...




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Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Master of Wills Review Master of Wills Review Reviewed by The Madjai on January 25, 2019 Rating: 5

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