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Mage Wars: Core Set - Board Game Box Shot

Mage Wars: Core Set

| Published: 2012

Mage Wars gives players the ability to battle it out as powerful mages like never before!

go to: Who would enjoy this game?


In Mage Wars players enter the arena and take on the role of powerful mages in an epic duel. Each mage has a spellbook that is fully customizable and each round mages will have access to their entire spellbook. The arena adds a higher level of tactics and strategy as players must also consider range and movement. All of these elements combine to make each duel a true battle of wits.


Each player chooses a mage and builds a deck of spells, placing them in a spellbook which is a small book (see image lower in the review) containing sleeves for your spell cards. The rulebook includes a list of pre-built spellbooks which we highly recommend you use to get started quickly. Your spells are made up of equipment, conjurations, creatures, enchantments, incantations and attacks.

Mage Wars spell cards

The Game Round
A game round involves gaining mana, choosing two spells from your spellbook that you can cast during the round, and then taking actions with your mage and the creatures that you have on the board.

You start the game with only the mages in the arena, placed in opposite corners. From there it’s a battle of wits; casting spells, moving, attacking and defending until one mage is destroyed.

There are two main elements that set Mage Wars apart from other battling card games: the arena board and spellbook.

Mage Wars game in play

The Arena Board
Rather than players laying cards across from each other in the style of a front line battle, cards are played on the arena board. It consists of 12 large spaces (4×3 grid). The mage and creatures you control can all move around the arena, which adds an entirely new level of strategy. The game almost feels like a tactical miniatures game, but with a much simpler system of movement, range and line-of-site mechanics.

A game cannot simply be won by casting the right combination of spells at the right time. You must consider strategic movement like a game of chess, and this is a very welcome and fun part of Mage Wars! For example, your opponent might move her mage off of your trap, but if you’ve anticipated that movement, you might teleport her back into the trap. (happened to me and was quite painful)

Mage Wars spellbook

The Spellbook
The spellbook is genius. Your typical customizable card game involves creating your deck and then drawing cards hoping you get what you want. This inevitably means you’ll be filling your deck with multiple copies of a card to ensure that your chances of drawing it are higher. Many times those games can be won or lost simply by what cards the players draw, no matter how strategic or smart they play.

The Mage Wars spellbook eliminates this. When you are choosing your spells for the round you’ll have access to ALL of your spells. There is no luck of the draw! Choosing your spells for the round from a book of spells can be a bit daunting the first few times you play, but once you get a few plays under your belt you’ll love the fact that you have everything at your fingertips.


You absolutely get your money’s worth when you buy this game! They call this a “core set” but it’s much more than that. Many games you buy these days cost $30-40 and contain just enough to peek your interest, then bombard you with expansions. Sometimes games don’t even come with enough components to compete in tournaments, forcing you to buy more product. While I’m not against that model, I welcome Arcane Wonders’ approach to give you everything you need and more right at the start!

Mage Wars mages

The game comes with four mages, each with their own play style. There are enough cards to create a set of spells for all four mages and still have extra cards. There are two spellbooks with clear card sleeve pages (4 sleeves per page). They can hold from 72 – 144 cards (depending on if you put one or two cards in each sleeve). This is enough space to put the spell cards for two mages in one book if you wanted.

The card illustrations are superb. When you look at an illustration on a card and wish you could have a full size poster of it, you know they’ve gone above and beyond!

The action markers are a welcome addition, rather than the traditional method of tilting your card to show it has taken an action. There are also plenty of tokens to easily mark effects on creatures.

Learning Curve

This game has a lot of depth, and a lot of intricacies. The good thing is that the rules and terms are intuitive and make sense. The rulebook has a quick walkthrough which is a great way to learn the game. Arcane Wonders has also made a video version of this walkthrough. We recommend laying the game out and following along, even if you’re watching the video.

The game is highly customizable, but to help get you right into the game the rulebook has suggested pre-built spellbooks for each mage. You can also visit the Mage Wars website for revised and improved spell lists which have optional “Apprentice Spellbooks” that use fewer cards. When you play the game the first few times and/or are teaching someone else how to play, using less cards will speed up the game and make it feel less overwhelming. We would recommend that you take a bit of time before starting the game to look at what your cards can do, and try to get somewhat familiar with the terms.
Click here to view the official pre-built spellbooks >

The rulebook is very easy to refer back to, and has a codex in the back that describes what the terms on the cards mean. The more you play, the less you’ll need to refer to the rules.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {no}
With a 44 page rulebook, this is not an easy or quick to learn family game. However, if you have a family that loves playing deeper games like Magic: The Gathering and/or miniatures games like Hordes, this game should be in your collection.
Strategy Gamer {yes}
The ability to choose from all your spells instead of drawing, and the tactics involved with moving your mage and creatures on the board make this game a true battle of wits and greatly outweighs any deterrence that might come from the luck involved with the attack and defense dice rolls.
Casual Gamer {maybe}
The learning curve is a bit too steep for this to be highly recommended for the casual gamer, especially if you add in deck customization. Certain casual gamers might enjoy playing this game with someone who already knows all the rules and can give them a pre-built spellboook.
Avid Gamer {yes}
Even if you never customized your spellbook, the strategy in what spells you cast and where you move in the arena gives this game replayability that is through the roof. Add in the customization and 322 spells the core set comes with and you’re through the stratosphere!
Power Gamer {yes}
This is a power gamer’s dream. You’ll feel the power when you build a customized deck based purely on your play-style and preferred tactics, and not on what cards you hope to draw. This game has the depth of a miniatures game, and many power gamers will welcome the fact that their creatures are professionally illustrated cards, and they can spend their time strategizing rather than painting!

Final Thoughts

We thoroughly enjoyed our time playing Mage Wars. When you take on the roll of a mage, doesn’t it make more sense that you know all of the spells you can cast, and it is more a choice of when to cast them? You don’t see Gandalf hoping to draw the right spell so he can protect the group from the Balrog… He knows his spells, and casts them as long as he has the strength.

Mage Wars is a big game. Be prepared to dedicate a good amount of time to the game as the rulebook is 44 pages long, and deck customization takes things to an entirely new level. It is time well rewarded though, because Mage Wars is FUN! This is definitely not a game that will gather dust on our shelves.

User Reviews (10)

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113 of 120 gamers found this helpful
“Excellent Duel Mages game!!”

Intro: Welcome to Mage War! I’ve bought this game after reading several reviews that were praising the game play and mechanics. Also, after browsing the Boardgaming Website and watching the tutorial video, I was really intrigued by the setting and the Mage book concept so I decided to give this game a go.

Learning: Like I mentioned above, the tutorial videos that are available on the game site and on YouTube are a perfect starting point to learn this game. It goes through a quick intro and then displays a real time 5 round game (or at least the first 5 rounds). I would really recommend you watch these before you read the instructions manual as it will make for an easier walkthrough.
The rules themselves are not extremely complex if you are already familiar with a lot of the standard terms and logic of most of the LCC game out there. After 1 or 2 games, you should be quite at ease and the pace of the game should pick up.

Competition: this game is design for a “duel” type game for two players to face each other in an arena (board). Although the game is scalable to be played by 4 players in teams of 2 or free for all, I would suggest you play a couple of duels and get comfortable with the different mages and all of their ability before you go that route.

Replayability: Very high potential for replayability. Once you have mastered the basic concepts, the games let you customize your mage by actually building your own spell book. The starting game comes with 4 different mage (each with their own unique ability) and that you also have the opportunity to expand the game with several extensions that contain other mages.

Strategy: One of the great things about Mage Wars is the strategy that is involve in the game play. I think the best way to describe it for me is a mix of Stratego (remember that game!) and MTG. So you have to plan your move on the board and plan which spells to make ready. Best thing is to plan one according to the other depending on the different strategy you have decided to go with. So for example, if you are playing the Warlock which has aggressive offensive spells, you want to plan your moves to be able to put you in range to cast those. On the opposite, if you are playing the healer, you might want to stay back a bit and send you creature forth to slow your opponents down to build your defenses.
This also speaks again to the replayability of the game. There are so many possible of combination of Mages/Strategy that I doubt you would get bored!

The turns: Very good turn based system that allows both mages to alternate their actions starting with the mage that has the initiatives. All of the active mage/creatures on the board have to act before the turn come to an end. Once this is done players exchange the initiative and repeat the same steps. Of course it’s not as simple as that but it’s very effective at keeping player focus and engaged. Because you alternate between each mage/creature, you never have to wait very long before actually taking an action.

Length: first few games are longer because you need to get used to the spells in your book. This is crucial for you success! Once you are familiar with the card and what they can do, the planning phase because a lot quicker at the pace of the game becomes much more interesting. Game usually last around 60 minutes once you are comfortable with the rule

Final Thought: Very good game in my opinion. Give yourself the time to learn and be willing to even play your first couple of game with the open card concept to facilitate the learning curve. Once you’re in… you’ll be hooked for several gaming night!!!

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119 of 129 gamers found this helpful
“Magic the Gathering on steroids (and without rares)”

My friends and I have been playing Mage Wars for a few months now and I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite games to come out in a long time. The game play is a lot of fun and highly addictive. Most of the things I loved about Magic is present without the one huge drawback… having to spend and spend and spend and spend to remain competitive.

Before I go on, every single member of my gaming circle has forever sworn off Magic the Gathering for this one main reason, spending a fortune chasing rare cards, building strategies around these cards only to have Wizards declare said cards illegal in tourney play thus de-valuing them. Mage Wars will be upgraded with new cards in the future to be sure, but given the nature of how you buy the cards as sets, chasing rares is a thing of the past.

Secondly, building clever combinations of cards that cause fun things to happen to you or terrible things to happen to your opponent is half the fun of a game like this. A real drawback of Magic was that you would build a killer deck only to draw all the supporting or filler cards and not have your combos go off…. If I am an all powerful wizard it seems that I could cast any spell I knew until my powers began to wane. This is exactly how Mage Wars works, you can select any spells in your repertoire until you exhaust them and or your magical power.

Thirdly the element of movement in a limited space is excellent and adds a dimension of play that suddenly includes things like traps of walling in your opponent; in defensive play building barricades and ducking out from behind them to get off a shot against your opponent really adds a level of realism that was lacking in Magic. Plus a successful spell does not guarantee damage to your opponent, you must roll dice to determine that, so there is that element of chance.

The components could be a little better, the life and manna counter are too easy to bump and knock the little cubes off their numbers, this has upset a few games in our group. Arcane Wonders could look to Fantasy Flight games and their copious use of spinner type counters in games like Infiltration and Wiz War for some future guidance in component construction.

The artwork is excellent and the cards seem printed on high quality stock, the board is also well constructed, the box has plenty of little niches to sort components into.

Finally if you buy this, be prepared to have it consume a lot of your gaming time as it becomes addictive, after a game you immediately want to tune your deck and play again… that, in my humble opinion, is a hallmark of an excellent game.

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Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Pet Lover
113 of 123 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Ground Breaking. Where has this game been all my life?!?”

Lady luck has been murdered, or at least injured. No longer are we at the mercy of the luck of the card draw. Strategy and immersion has a new name, and that name is Mage Wars!

Mage Wars is the Thunderdome for two mages. The game has four mages, each with a distinct feel to them. For instance, the Warlock is a direct damage loving pyromaniac that doesn’t seem to need to rely on summoning creatures (because he himself is a tough cookie of magic). The Beastmaster is totally the opposite, in that he can summon a whole bunch of creatures really fast. No matter what Mage you choose, you’ll do your best to crush your opposing Mage.

But here is the epic part of it all… Spellbooks. Yes, spell books. Instead of having a deck of cards from which you must randomly draw a card, you have EVERY spell available to you in your spell book from the beginning of the match. This means that you are constantly changing strategies and adapting to what your opponent is doing.

Also, Mage Wars gives you the biggest bang for you buck. I can’t emphasize enough how many goodies you get when you open the box. You get everything you need for a two player game, including the 300+ spells (yes, over 300 spells!), the four different Mages (Warlock, Beastmaster, Priestess, and Wizard), two spell books (to hold all of your spells), plenty of attack dice (the random element to the game) and tons of condition markers (burning, poison, stunning, dazing, oh my!). Plus, all of this awesomeness comes in a package made to hold ALL OF IT!!!!

This game can’t get old. Move over Magic (MTG), get lost Summoner Wars… there is a new king in town. Mage Wars!!! Why am I writing this review when I should be playing!?!

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Mage Wars fan
AEG fan
71 of 78 gamers found this helpful
“A Must Have Wargame”

First of all if you like strategy and wargames, you need to know that Mage Wars combines both well. Setting of the game and the “book” that you can pick your skills from seem unique in their own ways.

Even though rules are not very complex you need to understand the mechanics and rules well before playing due to the game is ability based. If you don’t know the abilities well, you can’t develop a strategy. That’s why i can suggest to watch some videos about game before or after reading rulebook to take a quick look.

Mage Wars are meant to make two or four players duel each other, it’s simple like that. Despite the game can be played by 2 or 4 players, I can tell 2 player version is better. If you play as four players pace of the game decreases a bit. Because Mage Wars has a turn based system. Units you have on the battlefield(board) have to do some actions for each turn. Once you’re done other player takes action and this goes on. Strategic desicions make it interesting and engaging. However this game is fun when pace is settled. You need to play it with wargamers or people who like strategic games. That’s why it’s not a family game.

There are mages and mage abilities in the game. If you don’t play fast enough it feels like playing a regular wargame rather than casting spells. If you learn game a bit after playing couple of times you can easily decide what you’ll do next. As you learn the game you’ll be able to decide faster and make better desicions or even read your opponents moves. This is when Mage Wars turns out “magical”. It makes you feel as if you really cast spells (with some imagination, we enjoyed that!). Afterwards you’re more into the game, there’s where strategy begins.

Strategy is big part of the game play. Without strategy there is no win. So you need to know your next move on the arena and spells you’ll use next. According to mage you choose your strategy changes. There are offensive and defensive ones. There are also lots of summonings to protect you for defensive gameplay for instance. Or you can even use your summonings as baits for an aggressive gameplay. It’s up to you and there’re many possibilities to play. Different scenarios and possibilities make it highly re-playable.

If you are a new player game takes long for sure. But once you get familiar with your book and spells inside it, game takes 60-75 mins.

To sum up Mage Wars is a game that every strategy players or wargamers must have. Take your time, watch some videos before playing. Learn some good starts and afterwards done with the basics you look forward to play it again.

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117 of 133 gamers found this helpful
“The war of Mages is upon us for real this time”

When I picked this game up (or rather – was offered it for a review), I took the box home with mixed feelings of both excitement and cautiousness. Because as cool as the included “spell books” (binder of pocket card sleeves) seemed, I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried about how it just would end up being nothing more than a gimmick and the same goes for the board as well – I mean surely the cards would probably be fine standing on their own two legs without the need of a card board playmat?

Well luckily for both me and the developers on Arcane Wonders, they’ve managed to nail it and get everything right. Not only do both of these physical features provide a lot of extra strategy and depth to the game play, but also the game itself with its infrastructure when it comes to the way the schools of magic plays and how natural the “flow” of magic within of the game feels just adds to this amazing experience and feeling of what it’s really like to be a mage; to cast spells of destruction or creation and how to use the different elements and schools to your advantage in ways that your opponent haven’t even thought about.

I’m actually quite perplexed at how much difference it makes to add actual movement to a strategic card game of casting spells and summoning creatures to fight for your cause; when you suddenly need to actually reflect on such things as line of sight, how to block your enemy’s movement or luring creatures into your traps, and just staying out of harms way. It really adds another dimension to a “simple” card game of shooting magic at each other. Then again, Mage Wars is about so much more than simply pointing fingers and wands at each others and going “Fireball!” or “Lighting Strike!”. The depth of both the magic AND combat system makes this game way more complex, but also so much more strategic and fun than any other similar game that I have played.

As I write this short review, I regret rating it an 8 instead of a 9. Because the more I think about it – the clearer it becomes to me that Mage Wars is without a doubt one of my favorite card and mage themed games in general, ever.

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My First Heart
114 of 131 gamers found this helpful
“What Magic: The Gathering really should have been!”

The game is great. With a wide berth of prebuilt options to choose from you can get started right away or take some time for customization.

There are a good deal of tokens/markers but don’t be overwhelmed, they all serve a use for the various wizards.

Deck construction can take some time as there are some rules, and tinkering will require a pretty good knowledge of how the game plays. I usually enjoy that aspect, but went thru that with M:TG. These days, I just want to play as much as I can and not tinker so much.

Pro’s –
Huge variety in spellbooks/wizards. Healers, rangers, warlocks, dark, evil, light etc…
Not much in terms of setup if you play prebuilts or smaller edits to the spellbooks.
Designed well using vernacular from other games. (As it should.) Builds on what worked and is established, creative in it’s interpretation and implementation of spells.

Con’s –
4 Players out of the box, though the gamekeeper in our clan bought a second set. We are usually 5+ for weekly sessions.
Can get lengthy, but once a couple have fallen it shakes out pretty fast.


A great deck based game and an addition to any serious game collection.

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98 of 154 gamers found this helpful
“Non-Magic Player that has been hooked”

I was first introduced to the game at the Dice Tower Part Deux gaming convention. I sat through a demo of the game and found that it hooked me completely. The game is definitely not the easiest card based game that I have learned but it appeals to my strategy and power gamer part. It is all about you versus the other player and how good the spell book you built is. Even the base, pre-built spell books are incredibly balanced and you can play right out of the box. I ran a pre-built in a tournament at the con and managed to win two matches right after learning the game.

The art work is gorgeous and make you want to look at every card. The explanations on the cards are clear and really easy to understand when you play them. I look forward to teaching the game to more people and getting even more games under my belt to help learn it.

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I'm a Real Person
87 of 153 gamers found this helpful
“that nostalgic magic the gathering feel”

marvellous game if you are a magic the gathering fan this is the game for you , it gives that tcg feel plus you get strategy and miniature game blends is really cool.I can’t wait to purchase an expansion to se how much more exponential variability it will get .
the only down side is that it is indeed a game more suited for hardcore gamers , quite long and quite difficoult to learn ( if u have’nt ever played mTg) otherwise is a must buy !!

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Lion Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
92 of 164 gamers found this helpful
“Nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining”

I cannot give a lengthy review of the game, but I demoed it at Gencon 2012. It was pretty fun, You get to pick one of several different kinds of mages. It is a somewhat strategic game that uses cards, a game board, and dice. Depending on the wizard you use (mine was a fire wizard) you cast mage specific spells. The druid had a bear that was tough as nails, and I had a werewolf pet(pretty awesome). I’m pretty sure that once you cast the spells, you cant cast them again. You can make your animals/monsters battle each other, or you can go after the opposing wizard. I think health started at 25. The demo only lasted an hour, and we didn’t get to get into much wizard bashing. the components are illustrated very well, and this is a game that I can see myself playing, but not on a regular basis. I think it could get old fast if played to much.

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Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
AEG fan
Mage Wars fan
6 of 10 gamers found this helpful
“Tactical MTG”

This is one of my favorite purchases from my FLG. I was very pleasantly surprised by Mage Wars. I had done a little research about it online and had decided to replace my Magic The Gathering time and energy with something a little less draining in the wallet department. This fit the bill perfectly.
I won’t say much about rules and so forth except that they are very similar to MTG, and flow in a common sense kind of way. Line of sight is very simple in this game, allowing you to focus on the powers of your cards instead of mathematical calculations.
The artwork is beautiful and reminiscent of MTG. The components are of good quality and the best part is, everything you need is included in the base set.
The publishers also have a decent walk-through video on their website to help players get started.


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