Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For 1 to 6 players
- For ages 8 and up
- Variable game play length
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Hand/Resource Management
- Bluffing and Misdirection
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Master the world of dreams
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek approved!
The world of Dreams is a place of wonder and horror. It’s there that anything is possible and nothing is off-limits. Inspiration can be found and hopelessness, too. For those mages who know how to tap into its energy, the dreaming world is theirs to control. But such power comes at great cost and such a resource is eagerly sought after by many. The power can be yours, if you are strong enough to hold it.
Luminous Ages, designed and illustrated by Anthony Christou, will reportedly be comprised of 120 cards, an unspecified number of thirty-sided and six-sided standard dice, an unspecified number of Life cards (value trackers), and an unspecified number of tokens used to keep track of different conditions and effects in the game. The game can be further expanded by purchasing boosters that contain additional cards. It should be noted that Luminous Ages is billing itself as a “tabletop & trading card game with cooperative and competitive game play”, which would suggest the booster enhance the game, but are not necessary to play. A total of 125 additional cards can be added to the base game if all the boosters are purchased. As this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality.
Note: Unlike our other reviews, we will not be going over the game’s rules, as they are still in BETA and very likely to change. Instead, we will focus on the game components and the different ways it can be played.
About the Cards
Luminous Ages comes with many different sub-types of cards, but when taken as a whole, they fall under two main categorizes.
Land cards come in 4 main types. These are “Core”, “Dreamlands”, “Dream Structures”, and “Quests”. Lands provide Dream Energy, a component that powers other cards, brings them into play, and activates them. It also indicates the overall health of the player’s characters in the game.
Lands are, essentially, a resource. They power and regenerate, providing the player a near endless supply. However, Lands are subject to attacks and must be defended. They can also be captured and used by enemies. This makes Land cards much more than just a simple energy battery. They are territory to be fought for and, if they cannot be won, destroyed.
With the help of the power generated from Lands, players can also cast spells. While powerful, they are also fleeting. This makes them something of a single-shot. The real strength of a mage comes from the creatures they control.
Creatures are either “Tranquil”, “Mare”, or “Neutral” when they come into play. Their alignment indicates how well they work with other creatures, both of the same alignment and not. There are also different types of Creatures. These include Dream Dragons, Dream Creatures, Legendary Creatures, Quest Creatures, Royals, and Standard Creatures.
Creatures care “summoned” by the player and used to attack and defend. Some Creatures can also be used to summon other Creatures, making the creatures much more than just an element of play at the gaming table. The player is bringing forth their army that is both dependent on the player and independent at the same time, capable of refilling their ranks once certain cards are in play.
Finally, Creatures have special abilities. Everything from Archery to the ability to drive another Creature insane with nightmarish visions. They can attack each other and the player’s opponents, and even defend against attacks (possibly being removed from the game in the process). How these abilities are used and against whom is up to the player, but abilities play a major part in the game. Avoiding or not understanding them will lead to the player’s failure to win the game.
One Game, Many Ways to Play
At its core, Luminous Ages is a trading card game, but the cards themselves can be used to play a number of different types of games. The trading aspect, therefore, and despite it being the center piece, takes something of a backseat when the game is on the table.
Mages of the Mark
This is the core game of Luminous Ages. Each player takes on the role of a powerful mage who will summon forth powerful creatures and defend their territory. Victory is earned by either draining an opponent’s Dream Life to -10 or gaining 30 Dream Life and bringing a Dream God into play. At which point, and rightly so, the player’s character is all-powerful, but not unstoppable. The player must keep their Dream God in play for 3 rounds. If they do, they win. If not, it’s back to the proverbial drawing board.
This is a rather intense game, as it can shift gears with little to no real warning. While players are busy both building up their own resources and deconstructing their opponent’s, both are also attempting to bring forth the Dream God. The first portion of the game is little more than firing back and forth at each other. When the Dream God appears, the game jumps to survival mode. The player who owns the Dream God defends it as best they can, while the player’s opponent frantically attempts to bring it down.
Playing the core game can be further enhanced and personalized by allowing players to build their own decks. This is the equivalent to each player building their own spell book and bringing it to the table to battle their opponent. Each deck must have at least 60 cards and the number of card types is limited, as well. For example, players can only have 10 Dream Creatures in their deck.
Building a deck for each player is referred to as the “Basic Mode”. Players can also share a common draw deck that is built the same way, but can have up to 100 cards. If there enough players and cards, Luminous Ages can be played with more than just 2 players, but each player must have an equal number of cards in their deck.
“Dragon Mode” is a cooperative game where all the players attempt to battle and slay dragons. The number of dragons to be slayed is based on the number of players in the game. Thematically speaking, this is just like a game of “Basic Mode”, but the players are working together, channeling their magic and might at bloody huge dragons. Players take turns attacking the dragons and then the dragons attack the players. Dragons will draw energy from structures, becoming more powerful, making the defending of lands all the more important. The players win if they take down the dragons. They lose if they are eaten.
Competitive Dragon Mode
Almost identical to Dragon Mode, but the game is semi-cooperative instead of fully cooperative. The goal is to survive, but to do so by inflicting the most damage on the dragons. Note that I did not say “kill the dragons”. This is a game of counting coup. The goal is to damage the dragon the most, not necessarily kill it. Although, in truth, that is the ultimate goal. It’s just not the single most important objective to win the game.
The Child Geeks really enjoyed the game’s theme and how easy the game was to pick up and play. Luminous Ages is not a difficult game for children to learn if they are already familiar with Magic and other trading or collectible card games. The most difficult aspect is simply keeping track of where lands are and what Creature cards are being sent to where. This is important for two reasons. First, Creature cards on certain lands cannot be used for certain actions. Second, Creature cards on certain Land cards can only be targeted by specific actions (like spells, for example). According to one Child Geek, “I really like the game. Reminds me of Magic, but a bit simpler. The artwork is awesome!” Another Child Geek said, “I thought the game would be hard to pick up and play, but it’s not very hard at all.” Of all the different game modes, the cooperative was the most loved and so was the game as a whole. The Child Geeks voted to approve Luminous Ages.
The Parent Geeks found the game play to be decent enough, but didn’t like the fact that it was a trading card game. According to one Parent Geek, “I don’t mind buying games, but I don’t like it when I have to invest in a game more than once. The trading aspect bothers me. It suggests that I’m not getting the full game and I have to keep buying into it if I want the complete experience.” This particular Parent Geek was not alone. In fact, all the Parent Geeks found they enjoyed Luminous Ages, but didn’t fall in love with it because they believed it came with a financial burden they did not want to carry. As one Parent Geek put it, “A great little game and one I’d play again and again if it weren’t for the fact that I might have to pay for it again and again, too.” The end result was a mixed level of approval from the Parent Geeks, based more on the game’ economic impact rather than its level of entertainment.
The Gamer Geeks were not impressed. According to one Gamer Geek, “It’s just another trading card magic game that is built on the shoulders of the titans like Magic and other card games that came before it. I don’t see anything here that is particularly ground breaking or interesting. Nice artwork, but that’s as far as I’ll go praising the game.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A solid enough game, but not anything new. I feel like I’m playing something I’ve played before and that isn’t very exciting.” The Gamer Geeks did like that the game had different game modes, but didn’t think that really qualified it for anything more than a solid “meh”. The end result was the Gamer Geeks not approving the game. They all agreed that it would be much more interesting if they never played a card game like it in the past, but as it stood, Luminous Ages brought nothing to the elitist’s gaming table that was new or interesting.
Luminous Ages falls into the same trap as the many other trading and collecting card games that came before it and will certainly follow it. There is an unshakable belief that the game is never really “complete” as the boosters could continue the game for years, and without them, the game is always a shadow of what it could be. This makes it, for many, an undesirable game to engage with and to get excited for.
Putting that aside, and just focusing in on the game, I’m pretty happy with it. The different areas and lands that can be attacked, combos, and setup for some nasty plays are all here. The game itself is easy to set up and the way the cards work together is very intuitive. Even if you haven’t played Magic from the very start (or at all), the game won’t take long to learn. The artwork further enhances the game, bringing the people, places, and creatures to visual life as they battle each other on the tabletop. The Dreamlands are beautiful and the nightmares are the stuff of – well – nightmares. The eye-candy and ease of play make it all come together to create a fast paced and fun to play game. Do give it a try when time allows. Who knows, it might be the game of your dreams.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.