Murphy's Magic Island is a maze game, and one of the
better ones. For two to six players, it's better with more people - as
the rules are written. With a little tweaking, it becomes a better
game all around.
The game consists of 4 outer frame board pieces, 25 board tiles, some
cards, pawns, tokens and dice. The board coloring is a little garish,
but largely clear. The cards are deliberately reminiscent of 1950's
style of board game, and are not slick at all. But they work.
The objective is to be the first to collect one each of six different
colored tokens and return home with them. A pawn represents your car,
and two ten-sided dice, added, are used for movement. The roadways
consist of blue lines with black dots - each dot costs one movement
point. The tiles contain some very convoluted paths that wind over and
under each other, and twist all around. The game is never the same
twice, as the board is built up by the players at the beginning. (To
save time, we simply place them randomly after placing Murphy's Magic
School in the center position - it goes faster and seems to produce
just as good a game.)
There are also many interesting things to visit on the island - some of
them can even protect you along the way. Six different locations
provide you with cards to prevent certain mishaps - such as an outhouse
that gives you a Port-a-Potty card. If someone else plays a Gotta
stop and hit the bushes - lose 12 points card, you can cancel it
with your Port-a-Potty card.
Scattered throughout the board are numerous teepees. Every time you
pass directly underneath a teepee, you take a Magic Card. These are
either Charms or Curses - or sometimes a card can be used either way.
Charms are played at the beginning of your turn on yourself, and
sometimes boost your move, and sometimes teleport you to a given spot
on the board. Curses are played at the end of your turn against
another player, and usually slow him down, cause him to lose a turn, or
teleport him to somewhere he probably doesn't want to go.
There are also tunnels of six different colors - if you have the right
colored token, you can pass through a tunnel. There are two tunnel
mouths for each color, and how far apart they are varies considerably
in each game. There is also a Magic Mine: drive in, and you'll have to
roll a die to see where you come out.
The final interesting spot is Murphy's Magic School. Spend a turn here
and you can teleport to any stack of tokens on the board. Pretty
potent, but it's usually hard to get to.
That's basically the game: roll the dice or play a Charm card, move,
pick up a token and/or Magic Card if you can, play a Curse if desired.
Next player's turn. The game is quite fun, but frankly needs a little
tweaking. Some of the Charms are too potent, such as Go to Murphy's
Magic School and draw three Magic Cards. We've changed that to
... OR draw three Magic Cards.
There is also a rule which makes the game better with more players: the
benefit of tokens. For every token you get, you get +2 to your
movement. You also get to use tunnels of the pertinent color. This
means that those in the lead tend to stay in the lead - unless the
other players play Curses on him. The rule is actually designed to
help the leader, due to the natural result of everyone wanting to
play Curses on the leader. There is also a rule that only two Curses
can be waiting for you when your turn rolls around - obviously this
game was playtested with five or six people most of the time.
The problem with these rules is that it makes the game a bit poor for
just two players. Once the leader gets in the lead, he stays in the
lead. A single opponent just doesn't have enough Curses to slow him
down. Therefore, if playing with three or less people, I recommend
not using tokens to give any kind of bonus. In fact, we play you
can go through any tunnel at any time, but if you have a token of
that color, your move is at -5 that turn!
At any rate, with minimal tweaking, this is a very fun race game the
whole family can enjoy.
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