Fantasy Map Maker Review – Board Game Quest

Fantasy Map MakerFor some reason, I love looking at fantasy maps. As a kid, I was really into the Dragonlance books and I spent countless hours reading The Atlas of the Dragonlance Saga. It was a book of maps from various locations from the novels with interesting tidbits sprinkled in. I probably read it half a dozen times.

Even today, I enjoy games where you get to create your own map. The flip-and-write game Cartographers has been a staple around BGQ HQ for quite a while now. Today’s review seems partially inspired by that great game as we take a look at a roll-and-write game that wants to help you create beautiful-looking maps. Appropriately titled Fantasy Map Maker, it’s a print-and-play title that seeks to have you creating your own fantasy kingdom.

Gameplay Overview:

The goal in Fantasy Map Maker, other than creating an awesome-looking map, is to score the most points by the end of the game.

The game begins by selecting 5 quest cards, one from each category: nature, geology, landmarks, town, and the wheel. These are goals that will help you score points, with a max of 20 in each category.

Fantasy Map Maker Cards
The cards will determine how many points you score.

Your player sheet features a wheel at the top, and a 6×6 grid at the bottom to create your map. At the start of each round, a player rolls 2 six-sided dice. Then each player will choose one value to determine the wedge on the wheel you’ll be crossing off, and the other number determines the size of the feature. So If I roll a 2 and a 6, I can either choose wedge 2 and draw a feature with a size of 6 on my map, or wedge 6 with a feature of 2 size.

The feature you draw (mountains, rivers, oceans, forests, towns, etc…) can be placed in any space on the map as long as it’s next to a previously drawn feature. The game starts with your castle already on the map, so you have a starting place to explore from.

The game ends, for a player, once they can’t use the dice results. Usually, because the particular wedge is full already. The other players continue playing until they finish and then points are scored. The player with the most points is the winner.

Fantasy Map Maker Sheet
The top part of the sheet will house your rolls, while on the bottom part you’ll draw your map.

Game Experience:

Fantasy Map Maker is an interesting title. On one hand, it definitely works well in helping you to create fun looking maps which could be useful for a home-brewed RPG game. However, from a competitive game experience, it’s not quite there yet.

The game is a bit too random and the score cards are too focused for it to work well as a competitive game. For example, a number of the goal cards require you to have something near a road to score, yet there are only 3 opportunities to draw a road during the game. For our plays, those cards were rather low scoring because unless you got lucky with the die rolls, you simply didn’t have enough roads in your kingdom.

Fantasy Map Maker Map
Eventually, I busted out my Ipad to gain more tools for drawing… just because.

Contrast that with ocean spaces, where the wheel has 7 different spots for you to draw them. And if you throw in a few big rolls, your map will have a massive amount of real estate taken up with ocean. There were times when I basically abandoned a wedge because I really didn’t want to add any more ocean space to my map.

The other issue is that when playing with other players, someone can finish their game, and the rest of the players can keep on going for a while. Since you only end the game when you can’t use the rolls, finished players could be sitting there for quite some time while their artistic friends doodled up mountains and rivers.

But not all is lost with Fantasy Map Maker. While it may not work very well as a competitive game, as an activity, it’s great. I was playing solo and eventually lost interest in trying to force a score with the cards and just got into drawing my map. I first played on a print out, but the next game I switched to my iPad and used it to add all kinds of colors and textures. Over the course of about 2 hours, I casually drew my map, watched a show on TV (Tulsa King on Paramount+ for those curious), and just had a fun time creating something. And from that perspective, Fanstay Map Make is a great time. As the cozy genre of games starts to gain even more traction (thanks to Dorf Romantik), Fantasy Map Maker could be getting more attention for those who like to stretch their creative muscles.

Final Thoughts:

I’m going to skip the numerical rating because, as I mentioned above, as a game, Fantasy Map Maker isn’t all that good. But as an activity, or an excuse to create a map for your new DnD session, it’s a solid experience. I’m happy to ditch the cards, roll some dice, and just see what I can create.

That being said, there are some good bones here on a gameplay level, so with more play testing and rules tweaks I could see this eventually challenging Cartographers for best fantasy map-making game. But as it stands right now, unless you are in the mood to create, this one probably isn’t right for game night.

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