Friday, March 29, 2024

Season Two of One Card Mazes builds on core ideas

Earlier this year, I wrote about the first season of One Card Mazes. And I now I’ve been asked to review the second season, which will end up on Kickstarter pretty soon. Okay, disclosure taken care of.

Short version if you don’t want to read any further, the second season builds on the ideas that made the first bunch of mazes fun. If you like puzzles, good stuff.

One Card Mazes are a collection of mazes where each of one fits on both sides of a card. Name’s totally self explanatory.

Here are the two clever bits mechanically speaking. There are paths that lead off the edge of the card. You flip the card over to continue that path. More interestingly, there are also spins, spots on the board that let you change the orientation. And you need those because there are doors in the maze shaped like arrows, and you can only pass through them when the arrow is pointing up.

Now, you don’t actually draw on the maps. Well, I guess you could, but the really not designed that way. As you re-orient the maze, you are going to be backtracking a lot. Maybe actually drawing on the maze would help but it also might make it a lot more confusing. I play with the mind’s eye. Or mind’s pencil.

When I first tried the original demos, I was concerned that the mechanics weren’t strong enough to support a bigger series of mazes. After I bit the bullet and bought season one, which brought the total number of mazes up to twenty-two, I realized that the rules might be simple but they have a broad enough scope to create a variety of engaging mazes. And that’s where I had a new concern. The fact that I was terrible at them lol

The season two preview I’ve looked at actually addresses both those concerns. Season Two includes two new types of mazes: Fledgling and Boss.

Fledgling mazes are simply mazes are easier. The two prototypes that were in the preview had instructions as part of the mazes but I don’t know if that will be the case for all of them.

In addition to being steppingstones to help me wor, my way up to more difficult mazes, like, you know, the ones in the first release, I can see these being good gifts to introduce other people to the system. I can even imagine handing them out in the classroom.

Boss mazes, on the other hand, are literal game changers. Because, they, like, change the rules. Instead of just getting your way through a maze, you have to defeat some kind of antagonist. 

On one side of the card, there is a central area with some kind of opponent on it. The preview has a gelatinous cube, a boxer and Cthulhu to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. The examples have three to four hit points that are displayed as numbered arrows.

You defeat a boss by entering that area in the correction orientation and number order. If you skip a number, you lose. Which just means you start over, or at least backtrack from where you came from.

Boss mazes don’t just add a dash of theme. They are longer, less forgiving mazes that have you will be exploring more of the entire board. Without removing the core elements of flipping, and re-orienting the card, they take the system to the next level. They don’t replace the core mechanics, they elevate them.

So, with these two different types of mazes, the guys who make One Card Mazes are bookending the entire system. They have something for folks like me who need some help and they have something for those jerks who need more challenge.

And One Card Mazes aren’t just cute and/or clever. They have real value. I keep a few in my wallet (they take up a lot less space than a full card game) When, all too recently, I was stuck on the side of road in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire, I was very glad for that. During the four and a half hours of waiting, with a phone that was nearly dead and needed to be saved for being used as an actual phone, One Card Mazes helped me keep a little sanity. Not all of it, oh no. But more than I would have had otherwise.

I am much more of a gamer than a puzzle person but One Card Mazes have done well for me. When that Kickstarter goes live, I’m on board.

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