by David Taylor
This is a preview article for a project currently on Kickstarter
Game Designer Sean Howard of Good Knight Games has created a new game that challenges players to navigate through a mysterious Victorian mansion to save “Uncle Alfie.” Uncle Alfie has been researching interplanar travel and unfortunately has become stuck in one of the planes of existence. To free him, players must navigate through the mansion to free him. The problem is…..every room is locked and they can only be opened by using a runic key.
At its heart, Unlocked is a race game that is driven by a set collection mechanic. Players will be collecting rune cards, casting them to build keys that will allow players to move through the mansion, where each room is locked, trying to be the first to save Uncle Alfie and win the game.
This is easier said than done because Unlocked: The Mansion of Mana has some interesting twists to it:
- The runes must be cast in sequential order to build the keys.
- All of the keys in the game are unique
- Each key has an ability that can be used to either help you or hinder your opponent(s)
Let’s take a quick look at the flow of the game. If you wish to view the complete rules, here is the link to the rules: http://www.good-knight.net/Unlocked-MoM/Unlocked-Mansion%20of%20Mana-rulesv17-final.pdf
For setup, the key deck is prepared by first removing any necessary keys, shuffling the remaining keys, and arranging a number of them in a tableau of 5 columns. The number of cards used will vary based on the number of players. The remaining cards in the key deck are set aside in a face-down pile.
Then the rune cards are shuffled , 4 cards are dealt to each player, and then “The River” is created in the center of the table based on the number of players. The remaining rune cards are placed in a face-down draw pile, with room available for a discard pile.
A quick round of Wizard’s duel will determine first player.
Before we jump into the actual game play, we need to take a look at the Key cards themselves. Each key card has information on them. First, there is the key image itself and the name of the key. There are a number of different icons on the cards, but a reference cards is available for each of the players that explains what they mean. Each card has a rune requirement on the left side of the card. There are a number of runic symbols in a vertical column(s) that show what runes are required to build the key and/or upgrading certain keys. Each key has an ability symbol on it, an activation track which shows if a key is ready or exhausted, and also a symbol that explains when the key is active.
A player’s turn has 4 phases that are executed in order.
Phase 1: Activate Keys – during this phase reuseable keys that have been exhausted are readied, and any keys that a player wishes to use during their turn, players will exhaust.
Phase 2: Draw Runes – during this phase, players will draw new cards into their hand. Players will draw 2 or 3 cards depending on if the cards were drawn from the face-down draw deck, the river, or the discard pile. These cards will either be runes or special cards. The special cards can be played at any time during a player’s turn.
Phase 3: Cast Runes – during this phase players play rune cards to the table in front of themselves in order to build keys. This is where the heart of the game lies. When players cast runes to build the keys, the runes must be cast in sequential order of the rune requirements on the corresponding key card. Players can play out as many cards in their hand as they want during this phase, but they are limited to having 2 unfinished keys in front of them. When a key is built, that player claims the card in the tableau by placing a token on it in the ready space of the key’s activation track and then discards the rune cards used to build the key. Multiple players can claim the same card, and players can claim the same card multiple times to gain the key effects for multiple times.
- Some interesting things to note:
Special cards can be played that help players and/ or add some player interaction to the game.
- If a player ever gets a rune stolen from their incomplete key tableau, and runes in the sequence after the stolen rune are placed in the discard pile. *this can be quite nasty*
- If a player wishes to start a new key sequence and already has 2 incomplete sequences, that player may discard one of the sequences.
Phase 4: Meditate – During this phase, players must be down to their hand limit, which is 3 cards plus any key effects that increase hand limit. After cards are discarded, the river must be reset by shifting all remaining cards away from the draw deck and filling in replacements moving towards the draw deck. If no cards were removed from the river, the oldest card (the one furthest from the draw deck) is discarded and the cards shifted and a new one is placed into the river.
To win the game, a player has to be the first to have token on a key card in each column, showing a path from start to finish, ending the game immediately.
There are enough things going on in this game to make it worth taking a look at. The biggest thing to mention is the artwork. I have to give credit to the artists Scott Rogerson and Margarita Kiseleva for creating a visually appealing presentation. Second, the game itself is engaging and will offer a quite a bit of replayability because of the sheer variety of key cards in the game and the number used. So the combination of cards will change the feel of each game.
The gameplay is very straightforward with the set collection, however, the need to play the runes in sequence is what gives the game some meat to it. So there is a lot more game that one may initially see. This challenges players to have to plan ahead in order to complete the keys. The special abilities of the cards are very cool, giving little twists here and there to make the game more interesting. The special cards are quite powerful and can really throw your opponents for a loop if used at the most opportune time.
The iconography on the cards is not too bad, and I am happy there is a reference card to use. But the first few games will be a little clunky trying to read the cards and looking up the icons.
I think there is a good balance of a euro style game, working to complete what you need to, and adding some player interaction that can create some “interesting” moments in the game, like swapping cards, stealing runes, or even adding a new column to extend the game.
So if you are a fan of set-collection games, this one has a little more substance to it and certainly worth a look.
To visit the project on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/goodknightgamesllc/unlocked-the-mansion-of-mana?ref=nav_search