Black Rose Wars is a tactical fighting game for two to four players set in the alternative Italian Renaissance world of Nova Aetas. Players take the role of mages seeking to become the New Grand Master. The game is designed by Marco Montanaro and developed by Ludus Magnus Studio, with its English edition published and distributed by Ares Games. It’s due to release in September 2020, and in the waiting time, let’s learn more about the game, starting by its setting and an overview of the gameplay.

Black Rose Lodge: the Throne room.

The setting

Turin, the year of our Lord 1522: The Italian city rising on the banks of the Po River is scourged by the Plague, while the iron fist of the Holy Church of Rome hangs like the Sword of Damocles over those who practice powers that are beyond human knowledge. A few hours separate the city’s pavement from re-embracing the light of dawn, while a blanket of fog lies widespread on the suburbs of Turin. The presence of bizarre individuals, emerging from every corner of the city center, can arouse curiosity in the most careful wayfarer. Wanderers or pilgrims like many others, but with a flicker more, something as impalpable as air that inquisitors and ignorant merely call : magic.

Enchanters, necromancers, and diviners come from the most disparate ravines of this old world, for the sole purpose of reaching the Grand Master’s home: the Black Rose Lodge. Special beings, who can see beyond what their deadly eyes offer, parade through the streets of the city, hidden from indiscreet eyes. They show something to a sleepy youngster, and then disappear beyond an anonymous wooden door. Protected by the dull gaze of those who live keeping their feet anchored to the ground, magicians can sharpen their knowledge as they divulge, confront, and cooperate to preserve the purple world.

The Masters, expert spell casters, can transcend reality to contemplate the plan of eternal flames and participate in the most important ceremony of the covenant: “The Black Rose War”. Through this ritual, performed at the end of each decade, the Grand Master will be appointed to guide the Coven until the next ceremony, during which he could reaffirm his role by defeating all of the challengers by casting the mightiest spells.

Black Rose Room, the central room of the Lodge, grants access to the powerful Forgotten Spells.

To keep the secrecy of the clash, and mostly the safety of those participating in the celebration, the Lodge has a room that is forbidden to any member, except during this mysterious ritual. The room is not easily accessible, except through deep tunnels that seem to lead to Hell itself, while its appearance is completely different from the other areas of the building. Four metal altars are connected to a magical artifact that dominates the room, while a blinding light obscures the contours of the other elements.

By walking through the last door, it is possible to reach the dimension in which the whole conflict takes place. The Lodge will always hinder the participants by shaping itself to resemble actual rooms, transforming them, when necessary, to adapt to new levels of challenge.

A guardian lives in the Black Rose, standing up straight and severe as a judge and jury of the ceremony. An intangible being of pure spiritual energy conspires and actively participates in the clash, if none of the aspirants turn out to be worthy of the honor of becoming the new Grand Master of the Lodge.

The game

Mages use their powers to battle their way through the Lodge.

Black Rose Wars starts with the Mages in their meditation rooms within the Black Rose Lodge. They must then use their powers to battle their way through the Lodge and appease the sentient Black Rose Artifact itself to gain mastery over it. They fight in a modular arena of hexagonal rooms, increasing their power by defeating the other mages, destroying the rooms of the lodge, making them unstable, or completing personal missions. At the end of the battle, the Mage that has accumulated the most power will be crowned by the Black Rose as a worthy successor and Grand Master of the Order of the Black Rose.

Players can choose among four mages to play: Tessa, the Faun from the Umbrian woods, who will manipulate the force of nature to overpower her rivals; Nero, a mage from Rome with noble origins, is ready to unleash his destructive magic on those who challenge him; Jaf’ar Ibn Al-Shatir, the wise astronomer from Arabia, who reads the future and the past to beat his opponents not in combat; and Rebecca, a mage from Salento, who use her skills to revive the dead and serve the cause of the lodge.

Nero and Tessa, two of the four Mages present in the core game.

The Mages have a Grimoire of Spell Cards from six schools of magic - Destruction, Necromancy, Divination, Transmutation, Conspiracy, and Illusion, each of them with a different type of spells. They need to add spells to their collection to crush their opponents, developing a unique strategy to annihilate them, and increase their own power.

There are four types of Spells and each Spell has two possible effects. It’s up to the mages to choose one while preparing their turn. Combat spells are used to deal damage to other Mages and their Evocations (summoned creatures); Contingency spells, to summon Evocations, gain Power Points, move swiftly, and draw Quests; Protection spells, which, once cast, remain active and can be triggered to protect the Mage from effects; and Trap spells, which, once cast, remain active and are triggered when their specific conditions are met.

Players build their deck of powerful spells throughout game, creating different combinations to make each turn even more devastating. The Mages will find themselves in constant difficulty, needing to prepare their turn in advance, deciding which series of spells to cast during that turn, and in what order.

Mages need to overcome challenges to prove being the worthy successors of the Grand Master.

Each Mage has a matching miniature to indicate their position within the lodge, and a Mage Sheet with information like the maximum number of Spell Cards to hold in hand, the number of steps he can move, the amount of damage inflicted when the Mage performs a physical attack, Health Points, and places for the Mage’s cards and tokens.

In addition to the Spell cards, the game use Evocation cards, to represent creatures players can summon during the game, Event Cards, to represent the influence of the Black Rose on the fight between Mages, and Quest Cards, challenges the Mages need to overcome in order to prove being worthy successors to the Grand Master.

The next articles will present the six schools of magic and the mages. Stay tuned!

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