Magma

Release Date: 
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Image icon magma-board.jpg59.04 KB
Setup Time: 
Play Duration (experienced): 

by Jonathan Leistiko

Object

Claim exclusive access to as much vacant territory as possible with few pieces as possible. Vacant spaces are three times more valuable than pieces in play.

You Need

A Magma board
A set of 25 pieces for each player (three 50-piece sets in red, yellow, and blue)
Six 30-second timers (only used in the advanced “Hot Magma” version of the game)

Setup

Take a look at the board. Each hexagon on the board is a space. Each space in a corner of the board is filled with a color. These colored in hexagons are home spaces. Place the board where everyone can reach it with each player sitting near a home space. Take the pieces that match the color of the home space that’s closest to you.


The home spaces are in the corners.

If playing with two players, start at home spaces on opposite sides of the board (ex: red and red), but play with different colors (ex: red and blue). If playing with three players, start at equidistant home spaces (ex: red, yellow, and blue)). If playing with four players, leave two home spaces on opposite sides of the board vacant (ex: leave yellow out). If playing with five players, read these rules first, then read the five-player variant rules. If playing with six players, each player gets one home space.

By now you’ve noticed that if you’re playing with four or six players, each color has two players assigned to it. The player who shares your color is your teammate. You’ll work together to win (or lose) the game.

Put one of your pieces in your home space.

Pick a player to go first.

Play

When it’s your turn, you can do one of three things:

Move a piece of your color that’s on the board.
Move one of your pieces onto the board.
Pass your turn.

Move a piece of your color that’s on the board
When you move a piece, you may move it to an adjacent unoccupied space or you may make any number of jumps. A piece may jump over any piece of the same color in an adjacent space, landing in an unoccupied adjacent space beyond it.

For example, the right-most blue piece can move to and end its movement in any space with a green star. It can not move to the space with the purple X because it can not jump over the yellow piece.

Move one of your pieces onto the board
Every piece you put into play comes onto the board through your home space. If your home space is occupied by one of your pieces, you may jump over it and land in one of the two spaces adjacent to your home space, just like you would jump a piece that’s already in play. You may continue jumping with the piece you’ve put in play.

For example, if blue wanted to put a new piece in play, that piece could jump over the allied piece in the home space, move to, and end its movement in any space with a white diamond.

Pass your turn
Sometimes you’ll be happy with your situation. You won’t want to move any of your pieces in play because it will leave you vulnerable to lose territory, and you won’t want to add pieces to the board because they’ll fill up spaces that are worth more points to you when they’re empty. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can do nothing and pass your turn.

When your turn is done, play passes to your left.

Ending the Game

The game ends when one of the following conditions is met:
All players pass in sequence.
All players agree that the game is over.

Scoring the Game and Winning

Once the game is over, count the number of pieces of your color in play. Jot this number down.

Next, count the vacant spaces that only your color could move a piece to. Spaces that other colors could move a piece to do not count for anyone. Multiply this number by three, then add it to your number of pieces.

The player (or team) with the highest sum wins. Ties go to the player (or team) who played most recently.

In this game, yellow went first. Can you figure out each player’s score? Who won?
The scores are at the end of the Variants.

Variants

Magma for Five Players
Pick one player to play solo. This player gets all pieces of the solo color and both home bases of that color.

If you’re playing solo, you get twice as many turns as any other player; one turn each time one of your bases comes up in the play order. For example: Going clockwise around the table are Alice (red), Bob (blue), Claire (yellow), Dan (red), and Eunice (blue). Claire is the solo player and Alice is going first. The order of one round of play goes like this: Alice, Bob, Claire, Dan, Eunice, and Claire again.

If you want to move a piece onto the board and you’re playing solo, you must enter the board through the home space that’s closest to the home of the most recent player. In other words, each of your home spaces gets one turn per round – you can’t use the same home space twice in one round.

In all other respects, a five-player game is like any other game of Magma.

Hot Magma
The version presented in the rules is recommended for your first few games – while you’re learning the basic strategies and how to play. Once you’re familiar with the game, you should play the game the way it was intended to be played: Fast and frantic.

At the start of the game, each player also gets a 30-second timer with no sand in the top. When it’s your turn, flip your timer over so sand starts to run out. When your sand runs out, your turn is over, whether you’re done or not. You may end your turn early if you can. If your sand runs out before you declare that your turn is over, you suffer a penalty: The game stops and the player to your right may remove one of your pieces from the board. Once the piece is removed, play continues normally.

White-Hot Magma
At the start of the game, the starting player gets a 30-second timer with half the sand in the top and half the sand in the bottom. Any time the starting player starts a turn, the player to their left can start the timer and say, “Magma.”

If you have the timer, and the timer is running, your turn is over when the sand runs out, whether you’re done or not. If you end your turn early, flip the timer over and pass it to the next player; it’s that player’s turn now. If the sand runs out before you end your turn, you suffer a penalty: The game stops and the player to your right may remove one of your pieces from the board. Once the piece is removed, play continues normally.

Scoring the Game and Winning Example Answer
Blue: 14×3 + 20 • Yellow: 13×3 + 20 • Red: 4×3 + 20. Blue wins by three points.

Origin & Credits

June 10, 2009: 
Yesterday, Sharon strolled out of the shower and said quite emphatically:

“Hexagonal board, hexagonal tiles, six-player play, pattern recognition, semi-simultaneous play, checkers-like.”

I opened Notepad and immediately jotted this down, but didn’t really do anything with it until the mid-afternoon. Apparently my mind had been working on it in the background, because it came up with this:

“Quick play with a 30-second timer. Move all you want to during 30 seconds, then pass the timer to the next player. The next player turns it over and has that much time. the faster you take your turn, the less time the next player has to take his or her turn. The longer you take, the more points you can score.

“Territory claiming: Can only jump your own pieces, like chinese checkers. Build out and claim space like Blokus or Go.”

I mocked up a board in Adobe Illustrator, started playing a six-player game. Two or three rounds in, I realized that I wanted to strongly encourage players to leave vacant space while still rewarding them for extending tendrils out beyond their territory. That’s when the 1:3 point ratio came into being. I proceeded to play through that six-player game, a three-player game, and a two-player game. They all went well enough. I suspect I may need to drop the ratio from 1:3 to 1:2.

I’m a big fan of chinese checkers. So much so that (long ago) I made a program to play chinese checkers on the Commodore 64. I like how this game parallels chinese checkers, how some strategies transfer, and how some completely fail to.

July 27, 2009:
I extensively edited these rules last night to incorporate team play and other minor edits. When I returned to them this morning to finish editing them, I discovered that my file had become corrupted and could not be opened. That was sad. Now I’ve recreated what was lost, so things are better.

Magma has been played many times now, by groups of two to six. From personal experience and player feedback, I changed the game from one color per player to three colors and team play with four to six players. This is much more satisfying than being beaten on with no hope of aid or rescue. Also re-did all of the examples.

This is one of the first games I’ve offered through The Game Crafter. (Runaround is the other one. It’s available at http://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/runaround ) I’m interested to see how it works out. If you order from them, remember that each copy is hand-crafted, so turnaround time is about one week. We have removed Magma (and Runaround) from The Game Crafter’s site for the time being. Stay tuned for future developments.

Minimum number of players: 
Maximum number of players: 
Play Duration (new players): 
Minimum Age: 
13
Game Type/Context: 
Price: 
$0(USD)