Though it clearly borrows some systems from Magic:_the_Gathering?, Vortex is nevertheless a really new, clever and interesting game. It has been cleverly designed, well tested and balanced, and it adds to the classical magic fight a true territorial dimension, with a game board made of the player hexes and movement rules. In a way, it feels like a mix between the barrocco of collecting card games and the classicism of german board games.

A Vortex game is a battle opposing two factions of about twenty hexagons, mostly creatures and magical places. The game is short (usually less than half an hour), violent and fast paced. Each one of the eight factions fighting for control over the central Vortex - angels, dragons, steampunks, undeads, giant insects, sea creatures, forest creatures, golems - has its peculiarites, its strong and weak features, and plays very differently. This makes for a real variety in the game.

My first games of Vortex reminded me my very first games of Magic: the Gathering, long ago. Vortex is probably a less open system, less rich, less technical, but it is also less convoluted, more direct, easier to master. This makes for its charm, and will probably save the game from some commercial and competitive drifts.

Of course, Vortex is a CollectibleSetGame?, and this may put some players off. It would be a pity. With four starter sets, one in each of the four factions for which there are starters, and a dozen boosters, I managed to make eight armies of about twenty hexes - large enough to play - which makes, in theory, for 36 different face-to-face battles. If four players club together to buy the same, they will each have two different armies. I won't go to tournaments, I won't buy 250 boosters, but I think I and my friends will have much fun playing with our eight armies in the coming monthes.

If you're afraid of, or repelled by, the collecting aspect - and I can easily understand this - Fantasy Flight Games has, at least, published Maelstrom, a small but full box containing a choice of tiles with which you can build many different and interesting armies for a very low price. Vortex was an expensive (but really good) collecting game, it is now a very good and rather cheap boardgame.


See [1] for the original article from which the above was adapted.

BoardgameGeek page for Vortex

I have not yet seen Vortex, but there's some fascinating superficial similarities in the description of it and a game that many people told me was obviously a progenitor to Magic (although it wasn't,) Kings_'n_Things?, an 'ordinary' board game with a board of tiled hexagons where players compete with trolls, orcs, pegasi, dragons, spiders, penguins, and such. I'm sure they play totally differently; for one thing, the 'creatures' in Kings 'n Things are all in a common grab bag, not factionalized.

Nobody should ever avoid a game just because it uses the recent innovation of variable component subsets which Wizards of the Coast (rightly, in my opinion) has always called a "Trading Card Game" not "Collectible Card Game" despite the adoption by the rest of the industry of the term coined by Scrye magazine. As Bruno points out, four players can buy a small amount of game and trade to construct tuned sets; exactly the behavior intended by the Richard Garfield, the guy who invented Magic: the Gathering.