Board Layout Tips

Excerpts from a discussion thread at BGG.

Q

Is there strategy in how you set the board up? ~rootbeer

A

Yes there is. Certain characters have advantages in certain terrains. Some characters have advantages with certain natives. So these people will want to put the tiles in a way that the terrain or valley ties will be in the way of the other characters. Also, characters that can enchant tiles will want to set them up so that flipping a tile can mess up the other players movement options. ~Windopaene

A tremendous amount of the game hinges on how the board is set up. In fact when looking at a board set up by beginners you can rate those players skill in the game by how well they as a group set up the board. Why is it important? Because there are various plateaus in the game that once you reach more involved types of game play open up. The right kind of board will reach those plateaus quickest and the wrong kind of board may likely end before enough happens (as too many turns are spend working the inefficiencies in the realm) ~wtrollkin2000

Q

Are the players making any decisions while constructing the map, or are they just plunking tiles down? If they are making decisions, what are they based on? ~rootbeer

A

There are definitely decisions to be made, though until you have actually played the game I'm not sure that any explanations are going to make a whole lot of sense for you. But generally, you place tiles to provide (or deny) easy access to treasure sites from the characters' starting points. I haven't played in a while and am not terribly experienced anyway, but I think it's fair to say that most characters (especially the "easier" ones) are best served by keeping the mountains and valleys central and well-connected, playing caves toward the edges, and using woods to connect things as needed. You don't know which dwelling will appear in which valley before you start, so you want all your possible starting points to be no more than a tile or two away from mountain loot. Caves are slow and difficult for most characters (though the dwarf and some of the magic-users can make good use of them), so you "burn" those tiles when possible, especially the "pure" cave tiles like the Caverns. But it's all very much dependent on the characters involved - magic-users especially can play some very nasty tricks by effectively cordoning off areas by flipping tiles or using spells/items to access areas that are difficult for others to access (e.g. using the Cliffs as a barrier). ~tppytel

Further Comments

I don't have any suggestions on board layout, other than simply making sure that everything connects in such a way that it's easy to get to every part of the board. In my group we make no effort to keep the board simple since we like a challenge. ~Joel Yoder

Joel and I talk alot about this and I differ from him in that I beleive a 'quick' to navigate tile layout is THE heart of making the game work (especailly for new players) IMHO adding longer paths doesn't add challenge. Instead it only makes it take more days to get to the treasure and resources that allow the game to progress to the next level. This can make the difference between a 3 hour game and an 8 hour game (with people dieing and having to restart and remarch the length of the land). ~wtrollkin2000

Constructing a board is like a game of TransAmerica. As you say, the players want to minimize the distance between the valley buildings. Then from this hub of connected valleys every Cave and Mountain should also be the minimum distance away (and not have to pass through multiples so that every tile is easy to escape from). No need to worry about the realms starting to repeat in shape because the random tile order will ensure that. On the other hand if you do build a complex realm it advantages the mages (who fly and walk the woods) and they already have a a strong presence in the game and don't need the boost. ~wtrollkin2000

For More Competitive Play

  • Excerpt from "Which Way the Witch King? A MAGIC REALM Seminary" by Paul R. Bolduc

Wiki Note: Although the players have not chosen their characters yet when the map is set up, many will often have a preferred character they intend to play.
...During construction, you should strive to make the board as favorable to your intended abilities as possible. If you intend to fly, try to put the Valleys on the periphery of the board and to isolate them as much, as possible via hidden paths, secret passages, mountain and cave clearings and, perhaps best of all, "W" tiles (Woods, excluding Deep Woods) where enchanting the tile would cut off whole sections of the board. Your ability to fly (or ignore roadways) will circumvent these obstacles and leave the rest of the characters behind. Don't be surprised if you find those intending to play the Witch, Druid, Dwarf, Amazon, Witch King or Wizard also setting up such obstacles. [...] Enchanting the various woods tiles drastically alters the roadway patterns. When the board is set up favor ably, it can stop the nonmagical characters cold. The Ruins tile is also some times effective in this way. These enchantments do increase the powers of the Elf, Wizard, and Magician so some care should be taken. Enchanting tiles with Purple present should be avoided if [a character plans on using] Melt into Mist and there is a treasure location of interest there. The nuisance value of this trick (provided you did well on the board building phase) is often well worth the few phases it costs [a magic user to enchant the tile].

THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

[Let's] Start where the game starts, with the players assembling the 20 hex tiles to form the MAGIC REALM. Strategy begins here because the placement determines how the road net fits together, where caves are, what areas will be blocked by mountains and what areas are accessible only by secret passages or hidden paths. The characters have abilities that give them advantages in different types of terrain, so a player can gam an advantage in the game by constructing the board to favor the character he hopes to play in the game. Some of the charactersí advantages are obvious. The Dwarf is great in the caves and rotten outside of them, so he would like to see the CAVES tiles placed close to each other so that he spends as little time as possible when he moves outside of the caves. He would like them to be centrally located so they get in the other character's way. Characters who have an advantage in dealing with natives (such as the Captain, White Knight, Black Knight and the Wizard, because of his large number of friends) would like to see the VALLEY tiles containing the dwellings located close to each other. Characters who have advantages in certain tiles and who will work alone either because of weakness or special advantages should place their favorite tiles off out of the way, where other characters will not come in and mess things up (so the Witch and the Druid would like to see the RUINS off in a corner, and the Woods Girl feels the same way about WOODS ties generally) The Wizard would like to see paths and passages get in the way as much as possible. Other advantages are more subtle. The Dwarf likes caves partly because he is designed to face the slow monsters there instead of the fast ones in the mountains. The Amazon's extra move phase allows her to hide and move two mountain clearings so she would like to see mountains blocking the board to hinder the other players. Characters who can take a Spell allowing them to fly like to make normal movement as inconvenient as possible, partly by placing the WOODS tiles where they will cut off sections of the board once they are enchanted. And so on.