Mage Wars Companion App Links
I always thought that it would be nice to be a wizard, until I realized how much paperwork would be involved. I mean, you have scrolls to organize, spellbooks to carry, incantations to remember. The filing ALONE takes several hours a day! So, if you’re even CONSIDERING a career in the conjuring arts, I suggest incorporating the marvels of modern technology to help streamline your soothsaying. This also goes for sorcery-based board games, where the bookkeeping to prestidigitation ratio can be outrageous. It’s why so few warlocks are board gamers. It’s true.
And this is why I was intrigued to hear about the Mage Wars companion app, developed by Super Combo Collective for Arcane Wonders, and released earlier this year. This app is designed to works in tandem with the Mage Wars board game, in order to mitigate the millstone of magical micromanagement as you play. Does it achieve this goal, or does it just add a layer of technical turbulence to the game? Join me today as I review the Mage Wars companion app to find whether it Gets Its Wings, or if the hype is just a bunch of marketing smoke and mirrors.
For this review, I will be discussing version 1.11 of the Mage Wars companion app on an iPad running iOS 8. A version of the app is also available for Android through the Google Play store.
The Mage Wars companion app aims to address two issues a Mage Wars player may face. First, there’s a comprehensive spell book editor, designed to simplify the process of finding the various spells, creatures and equipment in your card library. Secondly, the app includes a stat tracker for recording the health, damage, channelling and mana points of you and your opponent during gameplay. This replaces the game’s cardboard and tokens originally used to track these items. Which is good, because no amount of magic is going to fix it when this happens in the middle of a game: (Bumps table, knocks stat counters all over.) Hahaha, Oops! Where’s your magic spell to fix THAT, smart guy? Hmm? Alright, moving on.
So, those are the tools included in the Mage Wars companion app, but are these tools well built, useful, and easy to use? Or are they garbage, absolute garbage!? Well, let’s take a look at each one in more detail and find out.
Let’s start with the spell book editor. Creating a spell book in Mage Wars is fun, but, arguably a more complex endeavor than, say creating a deck for Magic: The Gathering. You have varying spell costs to calculate, which will fluctuate, depending on which school of magic your mage subscribes to. Fortunately, the app’s spell book building utility helps simplify the process by allowing you to create multiple books, displaying only the cards that are applicable to the school of magic you’ve selected, tracking how much each spell will cost within that school, how many of each spell are currently in your book, and how many spell points you have remaining to spend.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to figure all this out for yourself, because, as of the time of this recording, there’s no instructions or documentation of any kind included with the app. Now, I did stumble on to a very good tutorial video produced by Arcane Wonders on their website, but I wouldn’t even have discovered it if I hadn’t been corresponding with Arcane Wonders while doing research for this video.
Why is this video hiding on your website like some sort of frightened, feral rabbit? Why isn’t it linked to, or even mentioned, within the app? Why isn’t there a big, obnoxious button on the app’s home screen that beckons new users to this tutorial with promises of knowledge and other instructional delights? True, the need to refer to documentation diminishes once you’ve familiarized yourself with the app, but, even for those who are familiar with Mage Wars, the exclusion of any instruction is, at least, inconvenient, and, at most, making the app as aggravating to comprehend as a DVD remote control. Seriously, I don’t know what any of these buttons do. Because it didn’t come with an instructional video.
That said (TOSSING REMOTE), Arcane Wonders does appear to be listening to feedback to make improvements to the app. For example, the app’s recent update improved some interface glitches, such as fixing some math errors and making it easier to enlarge cards.
Any glitches that I encountered while using the spell book builder were minor. The contextual card cost recalculation based on the school of magic you’re using, and the fact epic, and other card restrictions are enforced, far outweighed any remaining display problems I encountered.
In terms of functionality, there were a couple of additional features I would have like to have had available. For example, while searching for cards, your search results are displayed, but there’s way to customize the way the results are organized, such as sorting by cost, spell type, spell classification, alphabetically, etc. This could be an inconvenience, because the way you want to arrange your search results may differ, depending on the type of card or card attribute you’re looking for.
As you’re adding cards to your spellbook, bars will be displayed on the right-side of the screen, showing how many of each card is in it. However, the number in the circle is the amount of spell points each instance of the card costs, not the sum total of all instances of that card in that spellbook. I kept thinking it was the other way around, thinking each card was costing me fewer spell points than they actually were. This isn’t a very big deal, but it did make me stop and think each time I was reviewing a deck to refine it.
But overall, the spellbook editor is great. So, so far so good. Now, let’s take a look at the other half of the app, the stat tracker, to see if it continues this trend of quality, or if things start to fall apart from here.
GAME STAT TRACKER
The purpose of the Tracker portion of the app is to keep track of the health, damage, channelling, spell points and initiative of both mages over the course of the game. All of the buttons are intuitive, with options to manually change the stats, and even initiative, as the game progresses. At the start of each round, the app automatically adjusts each mage’s mana pool.
This handy dandy tool completely eliminates the needs for the player stat boards and various little cubes for tracking these resources. And if you have to leave the app for any reason, the next time you open it, it allows you to pick up where you left off, which is very nice.
The only potential issues I ran into while using the stat tracking tool were that the plus and minus buttons in the middle of the screen are really close together, and I periodically clicked the wrong one, which was annoying. Actually, I’m not sure which is more annoying, that the plus and minus buttons are positioned side by side, or that, given two buttons, I managed to repeatedly missed and hit the other one. Fortunately, if you make this same mistake, it can easily be corrected with just a click.
However, one thing that users can’t adjust is that the numbers that pop up, when the plus and minus button are clicked, have a green background when adding, and a red background when subtracting, which I imagine could be very frustrating for color-blind users. Using blue and red backgrounds would probably be more user-friendly and accessible.
Alrightie, so what’s my impression of the Mage Wars companion app? Is it a good tool? Yes. Seriously, I know I’ll never build a spellbook without it again. And I’ll use the tracker pretty much all the time, depending on where I’m playing.
Simply not having to worry about jostling the wooden tracking cubes makes this app very tempting. But, even better, is that the spell book editor is fun to use. What’s more, if you get an idea for a spell book while you’re out and about, you can start creating it, do some searches and everything, without needing to have all those physical cards with you to look through. It makes spellbook creation faster, and let’s you discover cards you may have overlooked, because they’re right there on screen in your search results, instead of back in the pile after you’ve found the card you initially searched for.
So the app is very good, but I think it has the potential to be great, and the main thing preventing that is the lack of instructions provided within the app. It was only by a stroke of luck that I stumbled upon its instructional video on YouTube. Sure, this app isn’t that complex, but simply adding a link to the instructional video in a future update would go a long way towards preventing the confusion that can be encountered when first using it.
Fortunately, not only is the company behind this app the same company that makes the Mage Wars board game (giving them direct access to art and rules assets), they also appear to be supporting it. They’ve already made some improvements to spellbook management, enhanced some of the interface elements, and corrected some card cost calculations.
Which is all very good news, because, while I’d agree that this app is already worth getting now, after another update or two, I think it will become a must-have for Mage Wars players. For now, it’s on the right track, and hopefully the next update will make it great, then earning it its full set of wings.