Magic Mountain Review
Magic Mountain Review

Magic Mountain Review

👈🏻 Back to Reviewed Children’s Games

Designed by Jens-Peter Schliemann, Bernhard Weber

Release Year: 2021 Ages: 3-5

  👥  1-6 Players   ⏰  10-20 min   💸 ~$25   🔗  Buy

Overview

In Magic Mountain, your students begin the game at the top of the mountain, with some scattered witches standing between them and reaching the bottom. On your turn, you will randomly draw a colored marble representing a “will-o’-the-wisp” that will guide your students down the sloped board. You must pick one of the six slots at the top of the mountain to drop the marble, and watch as it randomly bounces its way down the mountain. Whenever the marble gets stuck behind one of your students, you get to move that student along the path to the next space that matches the color of the marble. But watch out, if the marble gets stuck behind a witch, they will move in the same way and get closer to reaching the bottom of the mountain first.

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There is also an element of speed with moving the figures because if you move to the new space fast enough, you could potentially trap the marble behind the same student and have the opportunity to move them again. Once the marble reaches the bottom of the mountain, it is the next player's turn, returning the marbles to the bag if all five have been drawn. This process continues until either the players win with enough students reaching the bottom (depending on the difficulty setting), or they lose because three witches reached the bottom of the mountain first.

Age Recommendation

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With some help, I believe that kids as young as 3 can enjoy Magic Mountain. They may not understand the strategy and need some help identifying the next matching space on the path, but with a little guidance, they can fully participate and learn as they play. There is no reading in the game, so really the only prerequisite is color recognition and a basic understanding of turns and game structure.

Compared to other kids’ games, Magic Mountain’s Plinko-like mechanisms appeal to a wide range of ages, and I think that kids up to age 8 could really enjoy it. Older kids may grow tired of it a little more quickly, but it isn’t a game that is outgrown as quickly as many other children’s games.

One thing to note is that the game does include five standard-sized marbles, so they are a choking hazard and you’ll want to be careful when playing with younger kids.

Things Kids Like

✅  Random Marble Movement is Exciting - There is such a tangible and visual unpredictability in watching the marble bounce its way down the mountain that kids find very exciting. There are many times when the marble could bounce either to a student or a witch, eliciting audible groans or cheers based on the result.

✅  Escalating Tension as Witches Move - The game also has a nice arc as the tension ramps up as you near the end. As the witches get closer and closer to the bottom, it gets tricker to avoid them since there is more room for your marble to stray from where you dropped it at the top of the mountain. This increases the chances of exciting moments as players try to get their last students to the end while the witches may be in difficult positions.

✅  Celebrating a Student Reaching the Bottom - Whenever a student needs to move to a colored space that isn’t shown on the remaining path, they instead safely reach the bottom of the mountain. Since it usually takes kids a little longer to see that this is the case, there is a moment of excitement when they realize that they get to move the student to the bottom. It is a little thing, but it’s nice to have intermediate goals that the kids are excited to achieve.

Things Adults Like

✅  Unpredictability and Excitement - Unlike many children’s games, where elements that kids find fun are a little more boring for adults, Magic Mountain is a game that adults enjoy for almost all the same reasons! Watching the path of randomly bouncing marbles is fun, and unpredictability is a great way to keep kids’ games fresh for adults.

✅  Non-Trivial Decisions for Marble Placement - But randomness alone won’t make it interesting for adults, as evidenced by many classic children’s games that rely solely on luck. However, the combination of weighing the probabilities of marble movement and the unique distribution of figures on the board means that it is often intriguing to decide which slot is best to place your marble.

✅  Adjustable Difficulty Settings - And it’s a small thing, but with a game that appeals to a broad range of ages, it is nice that it is so easy to adjust the difficulty. Simply select a level that will determine how many students are required to win and how many witches would cause you to lose. The game also includes a competitive variant where one team is trying to move the witches and the other team is moving the students. I can’t speak to this variant from personal experience, but it does sound like it would be a fun way to play.

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Things Game Teaches

✅  Spatial Reasoning - Magic Mountain is a game that requires reasoning about the very physical process of a marble rolling down the board. Kids repeatedly have the opportunity to think, “if I want the marble to hit this student, which slot at the top will make that most likely?”

✅  Risk Assessment and Probability - But the board doesn’t just have a single student you are trying to hit, and there are often nearby witches or other students that shift the probabilities or risk for that area of the board. This provides a very organic way for kids to understand the 50/50 probabilities of each fork in the road, and the way that sequential 50/50 probabilities can stack to cause the marble to either drift far from where it was dropped, or alternate in a way that follows a roughly straight path.

✅  Finding Next Matching Space - Particularly for younger kids, the simple process of following the path to find the next matching colored space is a good mental exercise. I think the fact that the marbles travel straight down but the path winds horizontally makes it a little less intuitive to kids and presents a positive challenge.

Things to Dislike

❌  Relies on a Perfectly Flat Surface - In a perfect world, every forking path in Magic Mountain would be a perfect 50/50 split. However, rarely is the surface you are playing on perfectly flat, and even the slightest difference can cause the marbles to be heavily biased in one direction or the other. This can dampen the fun since the experience really hinges on that unpredictability, and I often find myself making little adjustments during the game by folding the plastic bags under the stands to try to make the board more even.

❌  Can Be a Little Repetitive - There isn’t a lot that is different from game to game, and while the movement of the students and witches will always create unique arrangements, it can still feel a bit same-y after a lot of plays. This will likely be more true the older the players are, but I could see some players getting the point where they feel they’ve seen everything they want to see out of the game.

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Our Ratings

Ryan (32 Plays) - 8

🎬 Watch Extended Final Thoughts

Is It For You?

If you are looking for a kids' game that has a lot of variability or lacks any choking hazards, then maybe pass or wait on Magic Mountain. 👎

But if you want a kids' game that has more of a focus on probability and risk assessment while still having exciting moments and appealing to a wide range of ages, then Magic Mountain is definitely a game you should check out. 👍

🛒  Check Out Magic Mountain on Amazon