Maha Yodha: A Kickstarter Preview

Maha Yodha

Maha Yodha is a 2-player card game currently making a splash on Kickstarter. Published by upstart company Leprechaun Games, Maha Yodha attempts to capture ancient Indian mythology in a relatively simple, yet strategic, card game. We have had the opportunity to play a prototype of the game and have much to say about it. But first, the gameplay.

Gameplay

In Maha Yodha, each player chooses a deck of cards, representing a faction (Aditya or Asura). Each deck offers a similar blend of 3 types of cards: Warriors, Weapons, and Scrolls. Each player starts the game with 20 life points, which are tracked however the players wish to do so, such as 20-sided dice, pen and paper, coins, etc. The object of the game is to reduce your opponent's life down to zero.

Each card contains a "Valour" rating from 0 to 5, depending on the strength of the card. On a turn, a player can play any number of cards up to a maximum of 5 Valour points. Cards are played face up in front of a player, in his own battlefield.

Warrior cards are necessary to attack the other player, as well as defend oneself from attacks. Each Warrior card has an attack and defense rating displayed on the card. Weapon cards modify these ratings by either adding to or subtracting from them. Some Weapon cards are best when played with certain Warriors, which provide additional Valour. Scrolls offer more modifiers and special abilities, which include everything from drawing additional cards to stealing a card from your opponent.

After playing the desired cards, the player adds up the total attack rating from all of his cards and the total defense rating from his opponent's cards. The difference between the two sides determines how many life points will be lost. If the attacker has a higher rating than the defender, the defender loses points. If the defender has a higher rating than the attacker, the attacker loses life points. Thus, if you're not careful, you can lose life points during your own attack.

After attacking, the cards in your battlefield remain in place to serve as defense while your opponent takes a turn. He can also play cards and attack. If this happens, his total attack rating is compared to your total defense rating to determine the number of points lost by either side. Thus, on your turn you will need to consider both offense and defense in the cards you play to the table.

The hand limit for each player is 5 cards. At the beginning of a turn, the player returns all warrior and weapon cards back to his hand and discards any scrolls that were previously in play. He also discards down to at most 5 cards and draws additional cards, if necessary.

The game continues with back-and-forth attacks until one player's life points are reduced to zero. The player with remaining life points wins.

Maha Yodha cards (image courtesy Leprechaun Games)

Review

Maha Yodha is reminiscent of collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, but with an Indian theme. I have never personally gotten into these types of games, as I typically prefer lighter themes and gameplay — so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect with Maha Yodha. However, after just a few minutes into the game, my wife and I both quickly took to it and had a blast! This is an elegantly designed casual game with incredible artwork and very engaging gameplay.

There are several characteristics of this game that make it an ideal casual game. First, there is only one goal of the game, which is to reduce the other player's life points to zero — there are no other game-ending scenarios or nitpicky rules to keep track of. Second, there are only 3 important symbols on each card, which are clear and well-designed. Modifiers are also easy to identify and total up. Third, there are only three different card types to learn, which all make sense to the gameplay. Fourth, only a few cards can be played on a turn (based on the limit of 5 Valour points), which keeps the game going at a fast pace and doesn't overwhelm players with too much information.

The gameplay offers a great balance of attack and defense. The same cards that are used for attacks must also hold your defense on your opponent's turn, so it is important to plan accordingly. The card ratings seem to ensure, appropriately, that if you come out with a strong attack you will be left with little or no defense on your opponent's turn. Because Warriors and Weapons are returned to a player's hand at the beginning of his turn, you can gain some sense of what cards your opponent is holding — however, his attacks can often be surprising, especially when coupled with Scroll cards that you didn't see coming.

The rulebook of Maha Yodha is presented in a format that is clean and uncluttered. Rather than being compressed into a single sheet, which would be possible given the relatively small amount of text, it is spread across several pages with lots of blank space. It seems quite accessible compared to many other rulebooks I have read. Aside from several minor typos and mistakes, which the publisher will be addressing prior to the final version, I found the rules to be well-written.

I believe the only barrier that might prevent a casual gamer from trying this game is the name of the game and some of the card names, which are unfamiliar and seem difficult for a native English speaker to pronounce correctly. However, pronouncing the cards is not important to gameplay, and the names appear to correspond with actual Indian mythology, making them consistent with the theme.

Final Word

Maha Yodha is elegant, simple to learn, and very engaging. It is much more casual and straightforward than other games in this genre, which is a huge plus. Its simplicity makes it a prime candidate for future expansions, which the publisher has hinted are in the works — however, for someone like me who prefers just a basic game, I believe it stands alone as a great option for 2 players that is definitely worth checking out.

Maha Yodha is currently gathering support on Kickstarter until June 21, 2014. There is also a free print-and-play version available for anyone who wants to give it a try before taking the plunge — see the Files section on BoardGameGeek. If you try it, let us know in the comments what you think!

Pros: Elegant and simple design, great artwork, more casual than other games in this genre

Cons: Hard to pronounce some of the card names

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.