This week we have a game you may never have seen before! While perusing The Game Crafter's site a few months ago, I came across a game that was so eye-catching, I had to reach out to the designer! IT was called Omen: Master the Elements and from first glance, all I could think was, "Wow, I need to play this game!"
Most artwork you'll find on smaller, independent games, is good, but not very high quality. This is not a bad thing at all, it's just very rarely does an independent game get the "eye-candy" moniker. Omen immediately does!
However, just having a good look only takes you so far! Is it a good game? Is it fun? Does it provide a great experience when you sit down to play it? Heck, with all these pictures and so little wording, is it even easy to play or understand? Fear not faithful readers, your questions will be answered, if not in the video, in our blog today, as we venture into our Wizard's Castle, and attempt to master the elements in Omen!
I've known about The Game Crafter's site for a while, but with all the Indiegogo and Kickstarter buzz, I've been neglecting it. During my time interviewing Jason Tagmire about Pixel Lincoln though, he reminded me that it's a great place to meet up an coming game designers and see about games before they even get to Indiegogo or Kickstarter! So, I re-ventured forth and began digging into it, both for my own curiosity as well as with the goal of finding some gems to blog and write about for you, the fans of Crits Happen!
After about 10 minutes playing around, I found Omen. I literally couldn't take my eyes off it! It was so eye-catching with it's minimalistic elemental artwork and skull-candy-esque logo, I had to know more! So I reached out to Ben Conner, the designer and artists and the rest has led us here!
Now, as many of you know, I'm a one man band here, aside from the occasionally help from Mrs. Tox and NinjaZach. I know how hard it is to manage a day job, drive a night job around your passion, and deliver a good product in all cases! Ben is also a one man band. He did both the design work and the artwork for his game and pushed through all those challenges to bring Omen: Master the Elements to bear for all to enjoy. That alone is to be commended!
If you aren't familiar with it, The Game Crafter has an excellent community, so it was not completely a surprise when after emailing him, Ben got right back to me! If you ever want to collaborate, The Game Crafter is an excellent resource for that. But enough about that, how is Omen really?
Ben and I chatted over email for a bit and worked out a way for us to get a copy to review. He is a very nice guy and is very open to discussion. In fact several times during play testing, I had rules questions and he was very quick to respond and clear things up, all in a friendly manner. Making a good game is one thing, having the savvy to be a good marketer is another, but being someone who is socially connected and willing to talk to the community is just the icing on top!
At it's core, Omen is a game about location ownership and resource management. The premise is that you are a great wizard who is attempting to master the elements of those around you. You must use your resources to cast spells on other mage's to disrupt their studies, benefit yourself, and ultimately lead you to own enough resources to forge gems of opposing elements and win the game!
The game consists of a beautifully colored board, Omen Cards (Bad), Wealth Cards (Good), Elemental Cards for Fire, Lightning, Water, and Earth, and Wild Card Elements which can be used as any. You also get a meeple to represent your Wizard, six similar colored plastic Totem markers, and a spell card.
Every Wizard has access to all the possible spells in the game. As you coul dimagine, the elements affect spells the way you'd think. Lighnting moves you faster, Fire hurts people, and so on.
A turn is made up of moving around the board by rolling dice. If you land on a space that does not have a Totem on it, then you claim it, place a Totem of your color on it, and take the corresponding element card from "the bank". There are spaces for each, along with spaces for Wild Cards, Omen Cards, and Wealth Cards. If you land on a space with a Totem already on it, then you have to give that Totem's owner a matching element or they can acquire one from the bank.
If you land on an Omen or Weath space, you are allowed to draw a card from the corresponding deck. If you do, there are three possible results. You will draw wither a Talisman (Stays in play, usually in front of you, until you pass your castle next) a Sorcery (Stays in your hand until you wish to cast it) or a Flash (Played immediately and resolved).
Also, once you obtain seven of one element, you can turn it in for the corresponding elemental stone that is needed to win the game. This may sound very easy, but between the spells you will cast, the Omen and Wealth cards that will affect you, and the potential to get trapped in an opposing Wizard's castle and lose turns, it's all very deadly!
Some people may initially think, "Oh, this is just Monopoly in Fantasy Land." It's not. While yes, it can feel like that at first, and it's the easiest way to explain to someone new to the game about the ownership of spaces with your totems, there is quite a bit of strategy involved in Omen that makes it very fun and not as simple as it's surface may appear.
We played multiple games with two, three, and four players. All configurations are very fun, but optimally, we found it best with 3 players. Additionally, while the ages say it's good for eight and up, we found NinjaZach, having just recently turned seven, had no issues at all with it. The fact that this is such a visual game with very little wording involved (other than on the Spell Cards, Omen Cards and Wealth Cards), it's extremely easy to get into.
Now, a word on four player games. They are long. Yes the box says 60 minutes, but we had many go to 90. What we found was that with four players, having three others go when almost everyone knows you are very close to obtaining that 6th or 7th element needed to forge a gem, well, it results in a lot of blistering (a fire spell) and a loss of cards. Two and three player games make it much more manageable, but in four player games, that can extend them a bit. This does not make the experience bad by any means, but is just good to know when sitting down with four players.
Omen, aside from being beautiful, is a very enjoyable game. It is not overly deep in strategy, other than timing when to hurt your opponents or help yourself with the basic spells, but it does offer enough strategy to make you feel like you are playing a unique game and not just a shiny version of something you've played before.
It is a very social game as well. The spells being cast on other player's turns keep you glued to the action, which is excellent, as it doesn't mean a lot of down time in between your turns. Anything that keeps the experience fun and engaging is a good thing!
If you are into games that look good, play easy, and are fun with a small group, then Omen is something you should definately check out! We had an excellent time playing it with many different gamer types, and everyone came away happy! You can find Omen on The Game Crafter's site at the links below as well!
Win, lose, or draw, I hope that articles and reviews of game such as this open your horizons to games you may not have seen before, as well as sites you may not normally peruse. In today's case, not only is The Game Crafter a good find, but so are it's hidden gem's, like Omen: Master the Elements!
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