So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Master of Magic is a classic, one of the most popular strategy games of the 90s. It is a 4X fantasy strategy game that allows you to play as an extremely powerful wizard, leading your troops and overcoming your magical opponents.
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foolishvictor
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by foolishvictor »

I just found Caster of Magic no GOG and this is my first post at Slitherine!

What makes this game great?
1. It is superficially very simple.
2. In its day it was buggy and flawed. A lot of people played the game and could only hope for a more stable version with better AI. That may not be a lot of people but time and provided that better version...
3. The choices that player makes in designing their wizard matter. A single spell book or other retort can make a big difference in the game.
4. Despite the choices you make in designing your wizard the game's randomness requires the player to adapt their approach to it.

To be honest I played Master of Orion 2 back in the day and was disappointed with MOO3. They added complexity where it was not needed. I found Master of Magic on GOG years ago and have been playing since.

I am curious and hopeful for Caster of Magic 2!
eddieballgame
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by eddieballgame »

In a word...depth.
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by TalonThorn »

Well, it wasn't the AI nor the stability, but despite these issues us fans liked it.

1. The breadth of magic.
Magic in MoM ranged from simple little spells to grand spells that affect everything. Some global spells even wreck havoc on the player who casts it (chaos spells)! There have not been any games where magic could be so powerful in a game, and this is one feature which still sets apart MoM from other similar games.

2. The diverse selection of races, and the uniqueness of each race.
Though unbalanced, the races have many extreme features that you won't find in other games. This provides a variety of ways a player can play through the game, as well as just making it interesting to try different races with different units, each with a variety of abilities. In fact, the diversity of races is directly related to the diversity of abilities, and I don't think there are any abilities that are not useful.

3. Micromanagement not extremely overburdening.
There are a whole lot of buildings and units that can be built, and there is no build queue. It can certainly be difficult to remember which path to take to get to a certain building, and thus allow for a certain unit to be built (especially with all the race choices!). However, I do not feel the same burden of managing many cities and all their buildings/units construction near as much as I did in similar games of the time (Master or Orion for one). Nonetheless, one person may say micromanagement is ok while to another it is a burden, so this may not be a significant reason why fans like MoM. For those who do like it, there is a whole other game in determining the best, fastest, or most efficient strategy for building up a city, and each race adds variance to this by not having access to all the buildings.

4. Powerful creatures you can summon.
Unique and powerful creatures play a big part in making MoM interesting. This also adds to the variety of ways a player can choose to play the game. It isn't just the power of the creature but the accomplishment of being the first to research, summon, and exploit the creature successfully against enemies. This feeling of power especially comes into play when playing the hardest AI settings.

5. Resource control
The game is interesting in that it has sources of magic to capture and hold. This adds an added strategy of being the first to crack open a power source, having to guard sources, and being able to attack enemy sources. Also interesting is having various resources available for city development. I find myself spending quite a bit of time trying to find the best city locations, locations that may produce a high population but more importantly have multiple gold or metal sources, or even nightshade to take advantage of. This feature is part of what makes civilization games so much fun.

6. Combat within an arena.
Not every player likes the combat system, but they can auto-complete the combat. For those who do, the tactics and the multiple-figure units make for an interesting combat system. Many of the combat spells are ineffective, and some are too limited, but the spells that do work in combat really shape the outcome without dominating the battlefield. Add to this the combat summoning and enchantment spells, and a battle outcome is far from certain. Even heroes can help cast spells during combat!

Did I miss something? Are any of these features not so unique? Maybe it is the combination of them all that makes MoM so fascinating. Heck, maybe it is the imbalanced races that makes it so fun to play. What are your thoughts?
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by DoxaLogos »

What appeals to me is the depth and the combination of strategic layer + tactical layer of gameplay. This is part of the reason the old X-COM series is one of my favorites is how it combines both. I'm new to MoM/CoM, but I can tell that it's right up my alley with this combination.
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by Taskr36 »

TalonThorn wrote: Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:07 pm 2. The diverse selection of races, and the uniqueness of each race.
Though unbalanced, the races have many extreme features that you won't find in other games. This provides a variety of ways a player can play through the game, as well as just making it interesting to try different races with different units, each with a variety of abilities. In fact, the diversity of races is directly related to the diversity of abilities, and I don't think there are any abilities that are not useful.
To me, the unbalanced nature of races was critical to the game. It's why I can't enjoy Caster of Magic, with their attempt to balance the races by ruining some of what made each one unique. It's easy to say that draconians were best, and gnolls were worst. That didn't appear to be an accident though. Draconians, with flight, fire breath and advanced cities, were the easy choice for beginners, or people who wanted to rack up a high final score. Gnolls were available for people who wanted a serious challenge, without the advantage of advanced technology, flying units, fast ships, or really much of anything. You used them for a challenge, and to see how you did when depending heavily on magic, summons, and heroes. Then, every other race fell somewhere in between, with some, like halflings and trolls, being easier for beginners, and others, like Elves and nomads, being easier for veterans who could plan out an advanced civilization in more detail.
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by MerlinTheWise »

In short - it has magic, as ironic as it sounds. Roughly speaking, AD&D, MtG and Civ had a baby, added lotsa awesome spices, condiments, sauces, stirred and stewed - and I've been playing it for most of my life, for example!
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by rgp151 »

Firstly I'll say that the Gnolls are NOT bad, in fact I think they are one of the best races. Gnoll Riders are the fastest units you can get out that have that much power, except maybe Doom Drakes. Yes, the Draconians are one of the best races, but they have their weaknesses as well. But I love me some Gnolls. Sorcery Gnolls are very powerful indeed.

One of the really cool things is that you can takeover and use all of the races, which makes for many very interesting strategies, unlike many games where any settlement you takeover becomes your race.

But I think the main thing is that there is so much customizability and there are lots of really interesting combos that work well together. I think in MoM, there is a significant degree of differentiation between strategies and configurations, far beyond what you get is most other games.

If you look at games like Civilization or even RTS games like Age of Empires/StarCraft and all of the descendants of those games, the differences between your starting picks are not that great. Even in Civ 6 now, the differences in your strategy based on what civilization you start with is not really that great.

In MoM the strategies can be widely different AND they are coherent. Famous + Charismatic, Artificier Runemage, Conjuration, Node Mastery, Life Barbarians, etc. All of these could yield very different strategies that requires entirely different approaches. In some games you may focus on hero development, while in other games heroes are irrelevant. In some games its all about summoning, while in other you'll never summon a single unit.

And there are valid counter to just about everything. Nature is a bit weak, but mostly the game is relatively well balanced all tings considered.
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Re: So, what makes Master of Magic so great?

Post by rgp151 »

Actually, another thing that makes MoM so good are the neutral encounters and the way that early economic development relies more on conquest than city planning, etc. Really the fastest way to gain power and grow in MoM is to get a stack of units and explore and take encounters. This is fun, as opposed to city planning, etc. So I think that a key to the fun of MoM is that so much of it is really about fighting and battles, with a minor focus on economic planning, whereas many more 4X games are more about economic planning and less about fighting. So MoM puts the action at the forefront.
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