Murphy's Magic Island

Revised edition published 1995 by Lost Horizons
Designed by Peter Eric Hendrickson
Review copyright 1996, 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 26, 1997

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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