Warhammer: Arcane Magic is a turn-based strategy game in a world of magic, monsters, daemons, and wizards. You take control of powerful wizards from Games Workshop’s much-loved Warhammer universe, of various factions and magic types. Each wizard has their own unique spells and abilities to help take down Harpies, Giants, Lords of Change, and even other wizards.
The developers, Turbo Tape Games, were drafted in by Games Workshop to create this game. They promise a lot to the players from the start, such as robust environments, epic spell effects, and stunning visuals. Such bold claims often fall down under scrutiny and I can only hope that as a fan of the Warhammer universe, they don’t let me down!
Does Warhammer: Arcane Magic have a magical gameplay experience, or does it need to go back to wizard school? Read on to find out…
Warhammer: Arcane Magic is very much what you would expect from a turn-based digital board game. Your environments are all rendered in 3D, though not as stunning as we were promised, yet still pretty nevertheless. They do their job well and are somewhat easily navigable thanks to the grid overlay. Sometimes one of my wizards would get inexplicably stuck on a piece of scenery and not follow his comrades, but all I had to do was select and move him individually to get him moving again. The wizards themselves are nicely animated and their spell-casting animations are definitely fun to watch. The overall finish of the characters is a little on the glossy side, which reminded me of actual board game pieces glinting from the light above a table. If this was deliberate, kudos to the developers.
All wizards come with their own set of spells and base statistic values that have an impact on combat and movement. The base statistics are: Hit Points, Dexterity, Toughness, Willpower, and Speed. The most crucial one is obviously Hit Points, as this is the life force of your wizard. Movement of the wizard is represented by Speed, which is how many squares they can move per turn, and the remaining three statistics (Dexterity, Toughness and Willpower) are damage modifiers for Ranged, Physical, and Magical damage, respectively. Remembering how much damage a wizard can absorb is critical in some missions when you face close-range enemies.
The object is to acquire more arcane power by moving on to, and thus controlling, the Arcane Fulcrum tiles. When a wizard lands on an Arcane Fulcrum he is bestowed a powerful new spell that can only be used during that scenario. When you secure all of the Arcane Fulcrums on the map, you can move onto the exit and progress to the next stage.
When you approach a Fulcrum, the combat sequence will start. Instead of being able to move freely anywhere on the map, you are constrained to an arena-type environment with boundaries. In order to cast your spells, you will need to use your arcane power. You are granted 12 arcane power points at the start of the turn and can spend them between all of your wizards. All spells are represented as cards, and these have their own sets of costs and other numerical values that determine damage, range, and other attributes of the spell. The artwork on these is of the standard Warhammer variety, reminding me a bit of the art from older Games Workshop rule books.
I found the gameplay to be a little slow with respect to movement and the start of a combat sequence. It made the game feel a little clunky and a little less polished than I was expecting, but maybe I am conditioned to much faster-paced games these days so something a little more meditative seems slow in comparison.
Casting spells is the most thrilling part of the game, for sure. When casting you are often treated to a different camera angle and this usually shows the fully animated effect your spell has on its target. Engulfing foes in flames, shocking them with electricity, or shooting ice particles at them are all extremely fun to watch.
Managing your arcane power so that you can do the most amount of damage to more targets gets tricky. Not only is your arcane power spent, but the spell is also subject to a D6 die roll (those groans coming from the back — you do know that tabletop Warhammer is based around dice rolling, yes?). Most spells require a minimum roll of ‘two’ to succeed. Rolling a ‘one’ is an instant failure. Trust me when I say that it hurts after you’ve spent 10 arcane power on a big spell, only to have it fail. That’s the game though, I guess!
Spells and arcane power reset each turn, however you can reset your arcane power sooner by stepping on a Fulcrum mid-battle. I often do this to be able to finish off one of the tougher foes so that my wizards are more likely to survive the turn. Complete the mission and head to the exit, but don’t forget to fully explore the map in order to find the hidden Plunder Packs. These contain one-time-use scrolls and Warpstones, which are used to heal and revive fallen wizards. They are also used to cast specific spells that let you control some of the monsters, so that you may have them fight for you! It’s pretty awesome when you can pull this off.
MODES AND FEATURES
Warhammer: Arcane Magic has only one mode. The campaign mode takes you through the dark forests of the Old World and the deprived areas of the Chaos Wastelands. Each chapter comprises of 8 acts. Defeating all of these will unlock more wizards to employ in your cause. Having a full party of three wizards will always shift the odds in your favor when seeking victory, so it’s the most ideal amount. Remember, wizards are paper thin and never wear armor!
The wizards of the game don’t really level-up. Instead you can purchase new spells using Gold, the premium currency within the game. Gold will unlock new and more powerful spells or can be used to purchase Plunder Packs outside of the campaigns. Each wizard comes with one basic spell after unlocking them. The more powerful spells cost Gold and you can earn this by completing the missions or purchasing it in-app. You can usually unlock the second and third spells quite quickly, but after that you may have to grind a while to afford the next two.
There are two empty spell slots for each wizard that are used to equip them with scrolls from the Plunder Pack. Equipping these is easy and they are a one-time deal when cast in combat. Most will consume arcane power, much like the normal spells, but some will consume Warpstones. The shop does not sell these. Instead you buy these using Gold, so they are an indirect premium purchase.
As Warhammer: Arcane Magic is a digital board game, it is controlled by the same randomness that governs a lot of board games. Remember, this is a Warhammer game and die rolls are a thing in that realm. So it’s no surprise that a negative die roll can still mess you up, despite careful planning. However, as long as you position your wizards in the right way, you should avoid a lot of damage.
I found the strategy to be loose and not very deep. There weren’t enough challenges to really push me and I was able to beat each mission on my first play-through. This is actually good news for those who hate having to replay missions over and over until rolls, or any other factors fall in their favor.
Always equip extra scrolls in your wizard’s empty slot before jumping into a mission. You have no idea how much that extra two damage will come in handy from that 2-cost spell. I had many a time when having that extra spell meant I could Bind a monster to do my bidding and its cost of actions were lower than mine. This makes the monster either a wall for other foes to get around or something you can use to do that last bit of damage needed. Another great reason to Bind monsters is that they will die as soon as the last foe dies. So you will never need to take them on in a fight afterwards. You may call this cowardly… I’ll just call it tactical genius. 😉
Warhammer: Arcane Magic is a good, solidly designed game that is slightly let down by its lack of innovation or more challenging gameplay. Some minor aspects of the game felt a little unfinished and not up the same standard we’ve seen from other Warhammer / 40k / Games Workshop games.
I would usually expect a decent amount of additional content from a Warhammer game, but this one falls a little short of my expectations. However, at $3.99 I can’t really complain all to much. We get a solid gameplay experience with some nice visual effects. I would hope that if the developers do add more features to the game that they would offer some of it for free in addition to the current in-app purchases. The game used to cost a lot more at launch, so by comparison, for this amount of money it’s actually quite the bargain now. You get a very decent game at a very decent price.
Despite a couple of negative points, I do think that this game is quite fun. The animations of the spells and simpler strategy add up to an adequately enjoyable experience. Your level of involvement in the game is on the heavier side, with the only linear thing being the areas you explore and the randomness of the dice rolls getting in the way occasionally. There are some nice touches that will entice Warhammer veterans, yet I believe the game remains just as inviting for those who have no idea what Warhammer is. If it appeals to you, you should definitely check it out.
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