Running a castle, plundering neighboring villages and defending yourself from other competing overlords is hard work. You can’t possibly be expected to do it all yourself. You need good, reliable help.
That’s where Evil Creature Inc. comes in.
We take the hassle out of finding your worker needs. We have Evil Creatures and Most Evil Creatures that can do the heavy lifting for you. You just provide the meat and glyphs and they’ll do the rest!
In Bellum Magica, by Blue Orange Games, players take on the role of evil overlords trying to conquer and plunder the human countryside. To do this they need to hire Evil and Most Evil Creatures to provide resources and swords to the cause. The first player to loot their 10th treasure chest ends the game, and the overlord with the most treasure wins.
Players take a Castle board of their choice or deal them out randomly. On a player’s Castle board there are attributes associated with resource collection on the left side and attacks on the right side. These attributes are activated with dice rolls throughout the game.
Each player is then dealt 2 Goblin cards which are added to their Castle boards on either the right side or the left side, adding to the existing castle attributes mentioned above. Cards are added by sliding them under the Castle boards, exposing the attribute icons.
The Farm, Village and Town decks are shuffled separately. Then, depending on the number of players, a certain number of the Farm and Village cards are drawn and placed face down into separate piles. Finally, the Farm cards are placed on top of the Village cards which are placed on top of all of the Town cards. This forms the Human deck.
The Tavern card is placed face up in the center of play and players will then draw cards from the Human deck equal to the number of players, placing them next to the Tavern card face up with the remaining Human deck next to those creating the draw pile.
Players then shuffle the Evil Creature and Most Evil Creature decks, placing them above the Human cards. Two from each deck are drawn and placed face up under their respective decks.
Treasure chests are then shuffled and put into stacks corresponding to their type; Wooden, Metal and Gold. Make sure all tokens are face down so you can’t see their values.
The remaining tokens should be placed in the trays that come with the game and placed to the side of play within reach of everyone.
The first player is determined by who is the most monstrous, which in my case is always my youngest son, and they’re given the dice to start the game.
Bellum Magica is played over several rounds, each consisting of multiple Phases;
- Choose an active horde
- Gather resources
- Call back scouts
- Recruit creatures
- Clean up
This continues until one player has claimed their 10th Chest after an Attack phase. When that occurs, the game ends and players tally their scores.
Choose an active hoard: On their turn, the Captain (the first player) will roll the dice. This determines which line on a player’s Castle board will be activated for the round.
This might sound simple, but it is not. At this time, each player has an opportunity to spend a Barrel from their supply to force the Captain to re-roll the dice. In addition, the Captain (and only the Captain) can also spend a Confusion Potion to re-roll the dice as well. This continues until no player wants to spend Barrels or Confusion Spells.
Gather resources: Players collect Food and Glyphs tokens from the main supply, equal to the number shown on their Castle board and Evil Creature cards corresponding to the final die roll. These resources are placed below their Castle boards for use later on.
Call back scouts: Each player totals the number of maps showing on their Castle board and Evil Creature cards corresponding to the final die roll. The player with the highest number of maps takes 1 random Metal chest from the supply and places it face down in front of them. If there is a tie for the number of maps, all tied players take 1 Wooden chest from the supply. If no one has any maps, no chests are taken in this phase.
Attack!: Starting with the Captain and going around the table clockwise, players will choose a Human settlement card to attack or they may choose another player to attack. In order to successfully attack, a player must have as many or more swords shown on their Castle board and Evil Creature cards, corresponding to the die roll, as the shield number on the Human settlement card or player Castle board they’ve chosen to attack.
For example, Sally wants to attack one of the face up Villages which has a shield icon with the number 4 in it. In order to defeat the Village, Sally must have at least 4 swords on her Castle board and Evil Creature cards, corresponding to the die roll, in order to defeat the Village.
Note: In order to attack a fellow player, the attacking player must have at least one thief symbol on their Castle board and Evil Creature cards corresponding to the die roll.
When a player defeats one of the Human cards, they take (from the supply) the tokens which are indicated at the bottom of the card. The card is then discarded unless it is the Tavern card which always stays in play.
When a player defeats another player, they steal chest tokens equal to the number of thief icons they have on their Castle board and Evil Creature cards corresponding to the die roll. These are then placed face down in front of the attacking player.
Recruit creatures: Starting with the Captain and moving around the table clockwise, players spend tokens from their supply to gain more Evil Creatures or Most Evil Creatures. The cost of the creatures is indicated on the back of the deck from where they came.
Players can buy as many creatures as they can afford. The new creatures are then added to their Castle Boards in the same manner as the Goblins were added earlier.
Whenever a creature is purchased, immediately turn over the next creature from the corresponding deck.
End of turn: Players refill the Human card row and the Captain passes the die to the player on the left, who becomes the new Captain for the next round.
As mentioned earlier, this continues until one player has received their 10th chest after one of the Attack phases. At this point the game ends and players reveal their chest tokens, totaling the numbers on the back. The player with the most points wins the game!
If there is a tie, the player with the most chests wins.
Theme and Mechanics: Mechanically this is a fantastic engine-building game. Much like Machi Koro and Space Base, players work on making their dice roll tableau more potent as the game progresses.
For instance, you may want to add an Evil Creature that increases your swords on all “4” dice rolls. Or add a Most Evil Creature that brings in 3 meat and a map with each “2” dice roll.
The evil overlord theme really comes through in Bellum Magica. Attacking human settlements and other players with the help of your minions really brings it out.
Flow: Just like many games where dice are involved, there is a strong aspect of luck. However, there are good ways to mitigate the luck.
By spending barrels, players can force the captain to re-roll any die rolls that they’re unhappy with. Unfortunately, other players can do the same, changing the results again. The best way to avoid this is beefing up all your number lines so it doesn’t matter the number rolled by the captain.
There is a fair amount of player interaction due to the barrels, but also because players can attack one another and steal chests. A player can also attack Human settlements that you were planning on attacking, so be prepared to pivot.
Accessibility: Bellum Magica is super easy to learn and to teach others. It plays fairly quickly, unless players are spending lots of barrels which can slow things down a bit.
Players of most all age ranges can play this one. We had our 7 year-old playing and he had no troubles. It’s also very accessible by players of all abilities and game difficulty preferences.
Production Value: The components are great, which is no big surprise coming from Blue Orange Games. The quality of the tokens and the insert is awesome.
The artwork is amazing!!!
I love the overlord characters and the Evil and Most Evil Creatures are so fun. I also love the variety and thought that went behind them. I think the Centaur Most Evil Creature is my favorite.
How does Bellum Magica score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?
Bellum Magica scores high on our “let’s play again” game meter.
The fact that you can play 2-5 players is a big plus since my main gaming group consists of me and my four boys. As mentioned above, it’s a fairly light game that is fast to get to the table and is fairly quick to play. Games like this usually take precedence over longer games.
Also being accessible to all my boys is a big plus. I don’t have to exclude my youngest and my oldest enjoys it as well.
Unfortunately, the theme is something that doesn’t appeal to my wife, but we have plenty of other games that she enjoys.
If you love engine builders or games like Machi Koro, you’ll love Bellum Magica.
About the Author
Dane is an Advertising and Layout Manager for a national magazine by day and a husband, father of four, and board gamer by night (and mornings). He has a passion for board games and believes board games help bring families closer together while providing kids a unique way to learn many diverse skills. And he thinks they’re downright fun!!!
The Board Game Family would like to thank Blue Orange Games for a review copy of Bellum Magica.