Imagine your sitting around your table, cards in front of you playing Bingo. But instead of hearing B-13…B-13… mumbled until someone completes a card, you hear the names of animus spirits! Air, Water, Earth, Life, Fire, Shadow and shout INCANTATUM!
Or WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA! LUMOS! Or the still very magical, hard not to shout BINGO!
If that sounds fun, you’ll want to read our review of this game.
If it doesn’t, you’ll probably want to read our review to see why we consider Via Magica a must have for families. We might just change your mind!
How Do You Play?
In Via Magica you’ll be competing against your fellow players to earn the most victory points. You’ll do this by opening portals (objective cards) that grant you special powers and victory points.
At the top of each of these portal cards are symbols which you will have to satisfy with your crystals in order to complete the card. Each round, these symbols are drawn one at a time at random from a bag. When a symbol is revealed, players will place one of their crystals on that symbol on one of their portal cards in their player area.
When a player completes all of the necessary symbols at the top of their portal, they say “INCANTATUM!” And are then able to move their completed portal to their completed section and draw a new portal card from those available in the center of the table. If more than one player completes a portal at the same time the person who first said “INCANTATUM” selects first. Then symbols are drawn again from the bag.
When the wild symbol is pulled, the player drawing from the bag stops, places all the symbol tokens back into the bag, and passes the bag to the next player.
The game ends when someone has unlocked their seventh portal card. Then the player with the most points wins the game.
What Do We Think?
Via Magica is one of our very favorite games for families.
No, seriously. This is an excellent family game.
This is a re-theme of an older game that we used to really enjoy but just never got to the table: Rise of Augustus. The re-theme really serves the game beautifully. Not only is the whole game packaged in a much smaller box, saving you valuable shelf space, but the theme hits perfectly for kids! If you were a fan of the original game, you’ll also love the hidden references to it present throughout the rulebook and even some of the art. If you’ve never heard of Rise of Augustus, you’re in for a treat with Via Magica!
BINGO for Families!
Essentially you are playing Bingo. A token is drawn from the bag and you place one of your crystals on that token on one of your cards hoping to complete it and shout “BINGO!” No, wait, I mean “INCANTATUM!” It’s such a simple premise worked into a game the whole family can play and succeed with!
Our kids absolutely love it. This is one of their most requested games since we’ve received it and I think it’s because not only is it fun, but it’s always exciting for them to be able to play a game with mom and dad that doesn’t feel like a “kid” game all on their own. Via Magica really helps kids build confidence to make choices and decisions on their own which is always something we look for in the games we select for our children.
Extra Strategy – More than just Bingo!
Now, the game is more than just bingo with cute art. There is an added level of strategy that we really enjoy as it helps our kids think about the decisions they make in the game.
One of those is probability. Each magic symbol isn’t represented the same number of times inside the bag. So that means that some cards are more difficult to unlock than others. Everyone receives a tile that shows just how many tokens of each symbol there are. I have loved watching my six and eight years think through their desire to unlock a high valued portal with the knowledge that the amount of rare symbols required may mean that it takes them a longer time.
Learning probability is an excellent skill for kids to learn young! And it doesn’t just appear in the number of symbols.
There are also portal cards that, once unlocked, allow players to treat certain symbols as wild symbols when they are pulled from the bag, thus increasing your probability of placing crystals on symbols you need. Watching my daughter have an “Ah-ha” moment when she found a portal card that allowed her to treat the most common symbol found in the bag as a wild and understanding that that card was well worth the effort it would take to unlock was very rewarding as a parent.
Push Your Luck for Bonus Rewards
There’s also a push your luck element to Via Magica that we love!
While you will earn points for how many portals you unlock, you also are able to earn points from the number of portals you open and the type. Starting when you unlock your second portal, you have the option to take the two portal bonus reward card. If you choose to take it, you earn two points at the end of the game. If you choose to leave it and go for one of the higher valued portal bonus rewards you can never return to take it.
Alongside these bonus rewards are also portal type bonus rewards. The first player to open three portals of any one color or one of each portal color can take that portal bonus card, earning them victory points for the end of the game.
The difference here is these bonus rewards are available to the whole group, so once someone completes the objective and takes that card, no one else may complete the objective.
This is the one part of the game where we find parents to have a leg up on the kids. It’s that extra element to focus on that kids tend to forget about. It’s tempting to stay focused on unlocking the portals in front of you and requires another level of critical thinking to strategize about what order you unlock them in so you can snag even more points.
While the Bonus Reward cards are a little tricky for kids, I highly recommend keeping them in the game. It helps to talk through this part with your younger kids in that 5-7 age range, and kids in the 8-9 age can really start to get the hang of it, even if it takes them a few plays.
When it comes to family games, Via Magica should be on your radar! This is an excellent game that is easy to learn and play with players as young as 4 or 5 years old that adults will love too. Because seriously, does anyone actually not like Bingo let alone Magic bingo??
We love the clever way Via Magica takes the Bingo game and adds layers of strategy to think through without ever making the game too difficult that families cannot enjoy it together. Not only does it hit on many of the elements I look for in games that my children play like giving them the ability to make their own choices, friendly gameplay, and a theme that hits — it’s also a game that is fun for adults as well! We have yet to play it with anyone who hasn’t come away smiling. So if you don’t have kids or are looking for a fun, light-hearted game to play with your friends or family, Via Magica is a great option.
You probably won’t see it in any big box stores, and that’s a shame, because it really is a great game that a wide variety of homes will have fun with.
Full Review first posted at www.thetabletopfamily.com
Follow the Tabletop Family on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/tabletopfamily