We all love cooperative games. Instead of being out to get each other from the get go, we can work together towards a common goal. Unfortunately, most cooperative games suffer from the same problem: Alphaplayer-syndrome. Yes, you know someone like that. That player who always knows the best strategy, what the other players should do and who is so outspoken that everyone else just stops trying.
So, how do you avoid this problem without having to not invite the “alpha”? Play Magic Maze!
Magic Maze is a real-time, co-operative game. Each player can control any of the 4 Hero pawns whenever he wants in order to make that hero perform a very specific action, to which other players do not have access: move north, explore a new area, ride an escalator… all of this requires rigorous co-operation between the players in order to succeed at moving the heroes wisely, and complete your mission before the sand timer runs out. Moreover, you will only be allowed to communicate for short periods during the game. The rest of the time, you must play without giving visual or audio cues to each other.
How does it work?
The game always begins with one mall tile turned face up, containing the starting positions of the 4 thieves. Based on the number of players at the table and which scenario you choose to play, a certain number of mall tiles are shuffled and placed upside down.
This whole process needs to be completed before the sand timer runs out. It lasts for a mere 3 minutes, but can be turned over if a pawn is moved onto a sand timer space. Unfortunately, there are only a limted amount of them and each one can only be used once!
What’s the catch?
Teamwork… in total SILENCE!! All four pawns can be controlled by all the players at the table. You don’t really take turns either since you perform as many actions as you wish (and within your allowed actions) until you feel it’s enough.
You need to hope the others don’t take the long route to the exit or don’t notice that time is running low! You are not allowed to speak, point at something, make signs or signals, or make sounds. The only way allowed to communicate is “staring intensely” or placing the “Do Something!” Pawn in front of the player. Hoping that they then get the hint.
I was a bit skeptical setting this game up for the first time. It seemed so basic. But everything changed as soon as no communication was allowed and that sand timer started running out. Our panic-stricken eyes said what our mouths couldn’t: “Explore another area!”, “I can’t see the orange exit!”, “Time is running out!” Even with actions split between only two players, it was a frantic race to get the goods and make for the exits. And we kept making it with only a few grains of sand to spare!
The game adapts depending on how many players there are (1 to 8). The actions per player and number of mall tiles in the deck change. Players also choose which of the 12 scenarios to play, which add some special rules or instructions to increase the difficulty and add variety. A game only lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.
I can only imagine the (quiet) chaos that ensues during a game with eight players. Even with the mall increasing in size, it must still be too many hands grabbing at pawns. I think 2 to 4 players is probably the ideal range.
If you want a break from all those mind-bending strategy games, give Magic Maze a go! It’s fun, frantic and the fights only take place at the end 🙂