Morrigan Review

One of current Kickstarter games that I was asked to review is Morrigan.

In Morrigan, the object of the game is to score 15 points (to prove yourself worthy of saving the princess), and then fight a final adversary (mega-evil wizard who has kidnapped the princess; I like to call him Bowser, though his actual name is Maletar).  There are three different ways of earning victory points - defeating enemies, owning territories, and overcoming trials.  Each turn is fairly straightforward - draw two cards, do a bunch of actions (or none if you don't want to), reinforce territories and undefeated adversaries, and then discard down to five cards.  When playing actions, there are a few things you can do.  You can play a territory - in which case, you suddenly become the owner of it and have more victory points (but you will want to reinforce it so that other people don't take it).  You can play a trial - at which point everyone goes around and bids a single card (face down) or passes.  All reveal at the same time, and whoever has the highest action card gets credit for overcoming the trial.  You can also play adversary cards.  When playing an adversary, each player has the opportunity to reinforce the adversary by one card (it can be an action card or a "bluff", which is anything else).  Finally, you have the opportunity to fight for a territory that another player has, or to fight an adversary that has not yet been defeated.  When fighting, you show all of the action cards you want to spend, reveal all of the cards reinforcing your target, and if you played a higher total number than the target's defense value, you win.  Once someone has 15 victory points at the start of their turn, they fight Bowser.  The turn is slightly different, as they draw two cards plus one for each other player in the game.  Then, they play all of their action cards, and each opponent has the opportunity to reinforce Bowser by one card (he has a starting defense of five).  If you defeat Bowser, you win!  Otherwise, you lose some victory points and the game keeps going.

My favorite element of Morrigan is definitely trying to balance how to spend your action cards.  This becomes especially important when playing with five players.  Since you only get to draw two cards per turn (and they might not even be action cards), you simply don't have enough cards to participate in everything.  (I cannot emphasize that enough - you can't play on everything.  You will quickly run out of cards.  This aspect of the game also leads to parts of the game where everyone is playing a lot of cards followed by turns where people are often just drawing and passing.)  So, you have to decide when you should use your cards in order to help yourself, and when you should use them to slow down other players.  It's also a good idea to make sure that you keep at least one useful action card in your hand to bid, in case someone plays a valuable trial card.  But, if your action card is less than a five, you have to decide if you're willing to play the action card and risk losing it without gaining any points - which is the absolute worst use of an action card (but gaining a trial for a single action card is the best use of one, if you can win it).

Adversary worth 4 victory points
The next element of Morrigan that I liked is that you determine if you're going to reinforce an adversary in order.  This element adds in a little meta-game of trying to force other people to do the reinforcement for you.  If a Dragon is played (adversary that is worth five), then everyone will definitely want to reinforce it - after all, you don't want the person who played it to be able to take it easily.  However, you also don't want to use your cards to reinforce it - you want to use them for things that help you.  So, as the first player, you can try to pass and hope that it forces the other players to reinforce it; but this could also backfire, because they might not have any action cards.  Or, they might choose not to reinforce it because they're annoyed that you didn't help them.  Either way, the fact that you reinforce in order definitely adds an interesting element of player interaction.

Now, there are a couple of aspects of Morrigan that I'm still undecided on.  First is how territories work.  Territories are the only victory points in the game that can change players (if one player attacks the territory and takes it from another player).  Because of this, players tend to be very reluctant to play territories - especially late in the game.  If you play a territory early in the game, then it might be left alone long enough to reinforce it several times (you can only play one reinforcement card per territory per turn).  However, if you play a territory worth three when people are close to 15 victory points, there's a good chance that it's going to be attacked.  But, then the attacker also won't be able to reinforce it with more than one card after they have taken it.  I think it's neat that each type of victory point card is taken differently, and the game is definitely designed for territories to be taken back and forth, but I'm not sure how much I like them, simply because many people will be reluctant to play them.  I think that your game experience will be quite different depending on how people play these cards.  (Specifically, if a player places a five point territory in play in one of the first couple of turns, I'd imagine that people will fight over it much more than if nobody plays territories for the first half of the game.)

The next aspect of Morrigan that I'm undecided on is related to a strategy that we developed in the last game that I played.  Here's the premise of it - one point action cards are essentially worthless.  However, you are legally allowed to attack with any number of action points.  And so, we would often attack an opponent's territory or an adversary with a one action point card - purposely losing to see what cards were used as reinforcement.  Then, we would attack again with the needed amount of action points (or choose not to attack if we couldn't win).  This prevents you from having to overspend you action points, at the cost of a fairly useless card.  Whereas I think that this is a sound strategy, I think that it ruins most of the bluffing in the game.  You can still attempt to bluff on a trial (though that is very risky to start with), but now it's not especially helpful to bluff on an adversary or territory.  After all, if something is reinforced multiple times, the attacker will want to see what all the values are anyway; and so, they would have spent their one action point card to reveal them either way.

Special cards are also very good.
My main con for Morrigan (which is prevalent in many card games) is that the luck of the draw plays a very significant factor in the game.  Some cards are simply better than others.  A five point action card is far better than a one point action card.  In every situation.  A five point trial card is worth more than a one point trial card.  So, drawing these better cards gives you much more power over the game.  Being the person to draw a five point trial gives you the control over when that trial gets played - such as when you have a five point action card ready (or, even better, the special card that allows you to double the action card you play for a trial).  But, really, the more high action cards you draw in the game, the better your chances of winning.  Yes, you can still play very poorly and lose, but the winner should be the person that draws better action cards.

Overall, I give Morrigan a 7.0/10.  The game works well, and I think that it "deserves to be made."  (A term I only use in reference to Kickstarter games that haven't been published yet, though, to be fair, this one has already been published in France.)  However, there's nothing in the game that really invokes strong feelings in me one way or another.  I definitely do not hate this game, but I also don't love it.  I would play it more if people asked me to, but it probably won't be one of the first ones that I grab off my shelf to play.

If you're looking for card games to play, you might also check out Bang!, Famiglia, and Revolver.

I would like to thank Editions Dagda for providing me with a review copy of Morrigan.  And, as a reminder, you can check out their project on Kickstarter here.

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