Bands of powerful magic users duel for supremacy in the tabletop board game, Incantris. With a fully modular board, miniatures, 3D scenery, custom dice, asymmetrical gameplay, and simple rules that allow complex strategy, Incantris delivers a lot of game in a single box.
There is a lot to like about Incantris, so much so that I almost don’t know where to start. An obvious choice would be the miniatures. And I can’t argue that having 12 nicely sculpted miniatures is certainly a selling point, but that can be said of a lot of games. For me, it’s the 3D scenery, spell effect tokens, and custom dice that really set Incantris apart from other miniatures games on the market. As if that was not enough, the unique spells assigned to each wizard, which allows for varied and emergent gameplay, is what really keeps me coming back for more.
The first day I opened Incantris, I played it two times. Then I played it again the next day, and again the day after that. I really wanted to see how all wizard and their different spells played. I wanted to know which group of wizards fit my playing style and if I thought one set of spells was better than another.
There is a lot of game inside the box, and Incantris offers a high amount of replayability. The box contains 12 miniatures (in six different sculpts), 8 double-sided full hex tiles, 6 double-sided half hex tiles, tokens, and cardboard scenery (trees and walls). That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
The rules for Incantris are fairly straightforward. On your turn, you’ll activate each of your wizards, one at a time. Each wizard can either move and activate, or activate and then move (unless an ability lets them do something different like move, activate, and move again). Spells and abilities both count as an activation, so you can do one or the other on your turn but not both (this is aside from abilities that are “always on” like Water Walk, which doesn’t require an activation to use).
This limited number of actions (move and activate) really causes you to plan your turns. Frequently, I found myself wishing I could have another activation. Some of the spells could really combo if even two activations were allowed. Combos can still happen, and your band of wizards are really meant to work well together and have complementary powers, but you’ll need to plan a little for them. Finding the combos and figuring out how your party of wizards all work together is part of the fun of playing Incantris. An example: casting Blaze, which is a type of firetrap, with the Sorcerer and pulling/pushing an enemy into it with the Shaman’s Primal Reach power.
The gameplay of Incantris is fun, no doubt about it. The rules for Line of Sight, obstacles, terrain effects, etc all work together, allowing the battlefield area to be used strategically. For example, your wizards can hide behind walls and retreat past rivers.
Casting a spell is straightforward: simply roll the number of dice allowed and count your successes against your opponent’s counter roll. Since the dice only have two values, a Wand (green) or a Ward (purple), it is usually fairly easy to tell which wizard was successful. Some of the spells have modifiers, such as “+1 Wand”, while other spells don’t require a dice roll at all.
Each wizard has an affinity with a certain type of magic, for example the Shaman excels at spirit magic while the Sorcerer/Sorceress use elemental magic. This is important because wizards of a specific affinity will be better at defending against that type of magic.
Increasing the replayability aspect of Incantris, included in the rulebook are various scenarios and different game modes. Battle Royale is the standard game, but alternate game modes include Crystal Sap, Capture the Crystal, and Shifting Arena. Rules for campaigns, individual games that are linked together, are also included. The campaign rules introduce equipment and items that the wizards can use during the game. Magical items include a Power Ring, Amulet, Potion, Crystal Coin, and Winged Boots. Purchasing these items really allow you to customize your gaming experience.
The sculpts of the Arcane Knight and the Sorceress are quite similar. Both have long dresses, one foot forward, and one hand held forward holding something. They aren’t so similar that you can’t tell them apart or anything like that, but you might have to do a double take a few times. This is nothing major and doesn’t take away from gameplay, but I would have liked a slightly different pose for one of them.
And my next “gripe” really can’t be considered a gripe at all. It is more of just something I noted while playing. This will probably vary depending on your playing style and who you are playing against, and may not be an issue for you at all, but the times I played as soon as one wizard was defeated the game was essentially over. You can prolong the game, and you might even be able to pull off a victory after losing a wizard, but it will be rather difficult to achieve. As long as all three wizards are on the board the game feels balanced and strategic. But as soon as that first wizard is defeated, especially if an opposing wizard isn’t close to being defeated as well, the dynamics change. And if it is your healer that goes down first, forget about it. Again, your playing style might yield different results. And even if it doesn’t, this isn’t really a bad thing, as it makes the first half of the game that much more exciting and tense. And really, a lot of games suffer from this same type of issue so it is difficult to really take away any points for something like this. It definitely doesn’t take away from the fun.
In some ways, Incantris is a streamlined version of a few other “dueling mage” type games that can readily be found on board gaming store shelves. This actually goes into the positive column for Incantris. Some of those other games take a long time to set up or put away, or they aren’t easy to teach and/or learn, and they take multiple hours to play. Incantris solves all of these issues, while at the same time keeping all the fun and maintaining the tactical “wizard battle” feeling. Having premade teams, with predefined spells, really shortens the prep time, but also keeps things interesting. Will your Druid, Sorceress, Shaman combo be able to beat my Arcane Knight, Shadow Weaver, Sorcerer team? I’m not sure, but it is going to be a blast finding out.
Having a modular board, 3D scenery, custom dice, and miniatures, means there is plenty of good stuff in the box. Battling wizards, asymmetrical gameplay, and a high degree of strategy, ties all of that together and seals the deal making Incantris definitely worthy of checking out.