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Elemental-Wizard Themed, Deck-Building Game with a Shared-Mana Pool using aMancala Mechanic

13 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/05/2012

I've been batting around the idea for a deck building game for a few months. So for the first time, I put my ideas down and then fleshed them out. The theme is wizards casting the elements to cause certain things to happen to the other wizards in the game.

The main thrust of the design is using 6 bowls situated in a circle, starting off there are 6 glass pieces in a given bowl, all the same color.

Here's how the theme relates:
Bowls - Mana Wells
Glass pieces - Mana
Color of pieces - Mana type

(For the recond, there are 6 mana types: fire, water, earth, wind, spirit, and arcane.)

All of this mana is shared by all players. In order to do any action, a player must have the necessary mana combination in any of the 6 wells.

Mana is manipulated by a mancala-like mechanic, where a player can pick up from a well any number of mana and then place them out one at a time in a clockwise fashion around the circle.

As mechanic, I know this is sound because I've played it three times already as a puzzle game. The game's intrinsic difficulty is based purely on what combinations you're having the players work toward.

So to my questions:

- Thematically, does this game work with what you've read (rules below if you want to read more)?
- Do I have too many mana types? (Play testing so far says no. The number is fine. Players can keep track of the 6 types.)
- Of most interest to me, does anyone know if any other game has used a shared mana pool mechanic like mine?

Rules -

Cards -

Joined: 07/12/2012

Your rules reference III.D., but I don't see it...
So that makes a large part of your mechanics (conjure/invoke/sustain and "main source") a question mark.

You have a typo on the "Lock Well" card (forr)
"Fiery Armor" not "Firey Armor" (also not clear if I still take damage or if it's redirected)
Chilling Blast - 1+1x? Why not just 1+x?

Entangling Roots vs. Censor - Censor seems quite a bit more expensive.

Obviously I didn't play it yet - the mancala mana mechanic (3M) seems like it would be very entertaining. I almost want to see cards that directly affect the mana and the wells a bit more - "color fixers" for the various elements for instance.

Joined: 03/05/2012
Hi Mikey, Thanks for the

Hi Mikey,

Thanks for the feedback on my typos! Let me quickly address the things you mentioned:

- the section that was referencing III.D should be referencing V.D
- Fiery armor should only redirect damage
- Chilling blast X+1X is a typo :)
- Entangling Roots v. Censor: yep, you're right. Good call!

Could you expand on your idea of color fixers? I already have Imbue Mana and Focus Mana, which modify the mana wells.

Joined: 07/12/2012
Example or two

An example or two of exactly how conjure/invoke/sustain work would probably be helpful, I think.

As far as "color fixing" I was thinking of something along the lines of:
"Transmute: 1+ Arcane - change one mana crystal to a different type" - So you'd actually fetch a different mana crystal and replace another already existing mana crystal.

You could even have 2:1 or something - trade in 2 fires to get 1 of a different type (you may or may not want to specify)

In all honest, that's just what's coming out to me right now - without having even played the darn thing. For all I know getting mana screwed doesn't happen frequently or isn't a frustrating experience, and you wouldn't need such exchanges.

Joined: 03/05/2012
Thanks for your examples.

Thanks for your examples. Yeah, I was thinking of doing something that transferred mana from one place to another. A 2 for 1 mana trade may also be interesting.

Honestly, getting mana screwed is actually a big part of the game: since other players are trying to use the same mana to do things and can see what you're trying to do, I would expect that them to do their best to mess up the mana combo you're going for.

I'm aiming for about every turn there being several cards you'd like to play, but since I limit you to three actions and then further limit players to not be able to reuse a mana well in a given turn, then that means that players who aren't planning carefully will likely get to invoke just one spell a turn.

[Edit: updated the rules and cards for the various typos. Introduced some of those mana transmutation cards. Also, added a FAQ section to the rules for some things that I thought players might ask.]

Joined: 07/12/2012

Again - apologies for not playing it. It's non-trivial to set up your game, and what little free time I have I try to dedicate to my own game. :)

Just be careful that players don't feel TOO frustrated if they can't do something. It depends on how they can't do it also, and how often they get thwarted. Spoiling other people's plans can be a wonderful feeling ;) BUT just be careful that if the other players decide to screw around with one player that that person can do NOTHING at all to retaliate. Yes, being outnumbered should mean that you lose, but it's more about the feelings that go on.

I can see it where someone might be constantly thwarted - whether by design of other players, or simply because other people happen to be casting certain spells and it constantly screws around with someone's mana pool.

Similarly, you do want your players to be able to plan something and to be rewarded for investments/trade-offs of some kind. At first blush, it doesn't appear that players will be able to plan for what their mana pool might look like on their next turn. I know that this type of reactionary think-on-your-feet can be fun, but there's also something to be said about being able to strategize and seeing your strategy coming to fruition.

But I do like the overall concept - and I haven't played it yet - so take these things with a grain of salt. YOU are the designer, after all. :)

Joined: 03/05/2012

No apologies necessary. I have the same restrictions on my time. I even got some playtest materials for other games before, but I didn't have the time to print it out and figure out all the in's and out's.

I will say that the ease of conjuring and invoking spells is one thing that I'm keenly interested in. If it's too easy, then there's no challenge. If it's too hard, then games will go on forever.

Joined: 03/05/2012
Totally right about getting mana starved

I played tested it last night. Getting mana starved was happening far too often. There were about 3 or 4 turns in a row where I simply had no action to do. I made a couple on the fly changes, and the game got better, but you can't change what's written on the cards on the fly. So yeah, definitely made everything a little easier to use.

Joined: 03/05/2012
Version 0.3

Version 0.3

- Renamed:
the spell library as the Great Library
your spell book as your personal library
your hand as your spell book
- Removed examples from in main text and moved them to separate section so that reading flow was less disrupted.

- Moved mana casting from being a phase to being a action
- Increased actions from 3 to 4
- Added an action to discard your spell book (hand) to your personal library and redraw it.

Mana Casting
- Removed a preset casting direction; players may cast clockwise or counter-clockwise freely.
- Added a new means of casting called dividing: players may move up to half of a single well's mana to an adjacent well(s).

Source Requirements
- Changed the definition of main source requirements from meaning "the amount of the main source on the spell is available from an unused well" to meaning "the main source is available from an unused well."

- Added even more cards so that there are 63 unique and 171 total.
- Reduced the amount of mana needed to cast various spells across the board.
- Added a spell type of sustainable, meaning it lasts as long as you keep using a sustain action on it.
- Reblanced the mana involved in each card so that there is more equal distribution of each mana type

Rules -

Cards -

Change log -

Joined: 08/20/2008
I've read the rules and

I've read the rules and looked over the cards, and I'm going to tell you why the game doesn't call out to me. It's not necessarily a flaw, but it's likely to be a barrier to a proportion of players.

The main thing is that there are decisions that you ought to take that feel too complex. When doing circular casting, you should be making clever decisions about which colour stones to place in which wells, but all that does is hold up your turn and break your concentration regarding target choice and other particulars. When the spell you're using is a response to another player's multi-target spell, redirecting damage or something like that, you've also got to contend with making sure the original caster remembers how damage was assigned while you muck around setting up the wells.

That frustrates me, because I really like the idea of playing with a shared mana system. But I'm less interested in playing what feels like a puzzle with an optimal solution that I can't intuit.

I guess that for me, I'd want the whole thing simplified a bit. I'd like to see the number of mana types dropped to three or four, increasing the chances of at least one well having the mana you need for a spell. I'm also not a fan of player elimination and HP as a mechanic - it feels very dated. I think that I would prefer more of a race system - the players are competing to be the first one to seed the landscape with five of their personal totems. The totems would be coloured stones that could be used as spell boosters for the owner and wild (any colour) mana by the other players. Spells would be simple - Portal rather than Magic :)

Obviously that's a pretty sweeping redesign, so it's certainly not advice I'd expect you to take right off the bat - if at all. But those are the sort of mechanics I would look for given the theme and mancala feature, so take it as you will :)


Joined: 03/05/2012
Appreciate the feedback!

You raise some good points. From the few play sessions I've had so far, since the game has only been incarnate for about two weeks, I'm quite surprised at how well the game plays. There is a lot of thinking that happens on a given turn, a whole lot. I'm torn because on the one hand you can see the amount of strategy that players are putting into their positioning, but on the other hand, the game can move at a glacier pace if a given player has analysis paralysis.

Regarding the number of mana, I started with four mana types, but honestly, it was so incredibly trivial to do that there was almost no challenge involved at all for what I think should be a mechanic that you shouldn't be able to just do mindlessly.

Also, you HP and player death ideas have merit. That was my least thought out portion of the game, so I'm hardly married to it at all. If you have any alternative ideas for that, feel free to give them.

Joined: 03/05/2012
Version 0.31

Version 0.31

- Various typos and other errata as pointed out by Huggable Hamster and Gamesbook from

- Changed how instant and reflex type cards work:
+ Instants now can only be played on the invoking player's turn
+ Instants now cost an action
+ Reflex only ever respond to an action of another player

- Added on further rule clarification about mana casting called Blocked Well:
+ In short, if there's a used well or locked well, you cannot cast mana into it or out of it, but you cannot skip it either. Therefore, you must go another direction if possible.

- Rebalanced a couple cards to make them harder to cast and reclassified some cards based on the new instant and reflex definitions

Rules -

Cards -

Change log -

Joined: 03/05/2012
Version 0.32

Version 0.32

Rewrote introduction so that it provides theme, an overview of the mechanics, and the goal.
Added the Active Field, any spells in effect that last more than 1 turn are here
Damage: clarified in the rules further how damage works
Some organizaional tweaks:
- Moved the special rules for mana back to the rest of the mana casting process
- Made subcategories for the FAQ

Card removals
Block Well: players seem to be avoiding the spell because it has a strong probability of coming back to bite them

Individual card changes
Focus mana: reduced Spirit requirement from 3+ to 2+ mana
Sadist's aid
- can retarget on each sustain, not whenever you please
- healing effect only comes from damage dealt by spell invoker
- no longer has the instant attribute; must be conjured as usual
- damage increased from 3+2X to 4+2x
Lightning strike: damage done is lessened from 3+2x to 1+2x

Group card changes
Earth defense spells now have slightly lower HP values so they are easier to break.
Every card that was sustainable or permanent now has an end condition that other players can meet.
Every spell that had a mana limitation effect has a duration of 1 round now.
Corrected various additional typos.

Joined: 03/05/2012

Version 0.40


Arcane Beam: removed fire from casting requirements
Arresting Earth: clarified wording to make it clear only the player using it can take cards
Blizzard: clarified when the damage takes place
Burning Wall: Changed requirements for Wind from 1+X to just X
Dervish: clarified where the removed cards go; lowered casting requirement for wind from 2+X to 1+X

Earth Buckler: changed name from Earth Shield, since Shield is now a keyword
Enjoin Source: lowered Spirit requirement from 3+ to 2+
Fiery Armor: lowered the Fire requirements from 3+ to 2+ and removed Wind requirement
Flaming Rage: changed from Attack type to Curse type

Piercing breath: raised the casting requiremet from Arcane 1+ to 2+
Redirection: changed from Curse type to Defense type
Sacrificial healing: renamed to Channel of Life
Unbind: lowered Spirit requirement from 3+ to 2+ and removed Arcane requirement

Created keyword Shield for any spell that acts like HP. Currently, this changes all the wordings on the Earth defenses.

Elemental gaze: excessively complex card concept for the base game
Engulfing stream: weak attack; overlapped with other cards in same mana source
Firebolt: duplicates the effect of Fireball

Imbue mana: duplicated the effect of another card
Lightning strike: very strong attack, but doesn't match the Wind category
Tempest's tide: overlapped with Tsunami

Reformatted and added background art
Reduced the number of cards in the deck by from 171 to 144 by removing certain uniques and by reducing the number of duplicate cards

Moved mana requirements to the bottom
Move some key terms to the top right
Changed font sizes on various portion

Spells -
Rules -
Change Log -

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