May 042012
 

wiz-war_coverBy Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty

Designer – Tom Jolly, Kevin Wilson

Artwork – Philip Dickenson, Christophe Madura, Denis Medri, Dallas Mehloff, Brian Schomburg, Wil Springer, Peter Wocken, Ben Zweifel,

Special thanks to my sponsoring retailer Spinning Dice Games for providing a copy of this game for review purposes

A number of years ago, I was introduced to Tom Jolly‘s original version of Wiz War,  and although very much an old school production, it was mean & nasty and yet, great fun. I never managed to find a copy and lo and behold,Fantasy Flight Games shows up with their version. Very excited, I couldn’t wait to get to see what they did with this classic! A game about wizards duelling in a maze, trying to zap the other wizards and/or steal their treasure and with what amounts to a sudden death victory as soon as the winner gets 2 victory points? Brutal, in your face, combat magic, no holds barred? A card set which is always different and can be played by combining different schools of magic, seeking the optimum mix, or in a chaotic way (my preference) where you never know what to expect comes bolting out of your magic ability? That sounds like FUN to me!

wizboardUnboxing

It should come as no surprise that the production quality of Wiz War is top notch as par for the course for Fantasy Flight Games. Loads of vibrant colours, solid boards and components, very nice plastic miniatures, quality stock cards with excellent artwork and a very good rulebook, with excellent illustrations and examples. This is the quality of production Wiz War deserved.

In this game for 2-4 players age 14+, you get:

  • a rulebook
  • 4 Double-sided Sector boards (one side is the classic board from the original game and the other is a new board for this 8th edition) They are interchangeable and depict the maze areas where the wizards do battle. Nothing extraordinary or intricate or ornate but not bland either. Just right for purpose I’d say.
  • 4 plastic wizards and 4 coloured bases
  • 5 plastic Transformed wizard figures, very nice too! (love the werewolf)
  • 4 Life dials to track wounds, which can add up pretty fast
  • 137 cardboard markers, tokens which indicate various things about what has happened to the wizards or what they have done in terms of spells, punching holes in walls,  as well as treasure tokens and portals
  • 168 Magic cards representing 7 Schools of magic – the Cantrip school (white or black) contains spells known to all wizards. The other 6 are specialist areas that the players choose for their wizards including Alchemy, Conjuring, Elemental, Mentalism, Mutation, and Thaumaturgy – There is nothing really new or unusual here but you have to remember that this is the 8th edition of the game so its kinda like the DADDY.
  • 1 Four-sided die
  • 4 plastic portal stands

And it all looks great!

wiz01-plastic-wizardsGameplay

The set up is ok although I would recommend bagging everything separately beforehand to save time. Your wizard starts in the centre of a sector, your treasures are set up in their alloted spaces, the portals which are used to move speedily to different areas are set up and everything is off-board. There is variable board set ups according to how many players.

Wiz War is a relatively straghtforward game. The object is to score 2 victory points to win. 1 point comes from killing an enemy wizard and 1 point comes from each time you bring an enemy treasure back to your home base. It’s emphasis is simply on knocking 7 bells out of each other and grabbing treasures and as such, the process is simply followed:

1. Time passes – The player reduces the duration of each of his temporary spells by one turn and discards any expired spells

In order -

  • Resolve spell effects of cards which resolve “as time passes”
  • Remove energy – remove one energy token from each maintained spell
  • Remove one stun marker from your wizard

2. Move and Cast – Move your wizard up to 3 spaces (plus an optional speed boost), cast any number of neutral spells and attack one enemy. In any order (even mixed…) you may:

  • Move and spend movement points (3 usually but can be “boosted”) – you can also move through portals which is a very nifty way of transporting across the labyrinth. Objects can be picked up and dropped as well as created, thrown, damaged and destroyed.
  • Make one attack – there some awesomely fun magic attacks available to you. You can also “punch” an enemy wizard in your square or an adjacent square
  • Play/Use Magic cards – there are a number of other spells available to you such as counter-spells, energy (play any number of these  to boost speed or boost other spells). Some spells come with an energy value which can be used as solely an energy card if you want to. There are also item cards which may come in handy. You can use any number of Neutral spells in a turn. Lots of interesting things happen in each school of magic.

The magic cards all have different effects and some have various requirements in order to use them such as target range, duration and Line of sight. They can also be used against different targets as explained on the cards. Hat tokens are used to identify which wizard is targeted by spells. They are also placed on objects to identify which was placed by a wizard.

Wizards can be stunned, and also damaged, losing life points from their starting total of 15. If their life points reduce to zero, they are kaput.

3. Discard and Draw – The player may discard any cards from his hand. Then if he has fewer than 7 cards in his hand, he may draw up to 2 cards from the Magic  deck (hand limit is 7)

The rules are pretty well written and organized. the process is simple in structure and it moves quickly, even with reading all of the cards in your hand and making your choices. I was very happy with the Igo/Ugo system and moving through the cards. You will slow down as you agonize over which spells to play but I wasn’t bothered by this. I enjoyed reading the spells and looking at the art which all brings the theme out well.

The card system has a chaotic feel but to me this suits the mood of the game. I can imagine battling wizards in a labyrinth is very chaotic in any case.

For a relatively simple game, there is a lot to learn in Wiz War as the cards are at the heart of the game engine and there are a lot of them. You aren’t learning how to play the game but how best to play the cards as depending upon the mix of cards at hand, things keep changing and you have to act on the limitations of your hand. Having said that, its simply a case of reading the details on the cars which are clearly written and tell you what you need to know. The interesting thing lies in the choices you will look to make as you decide which spells to use and how and when to use them.

Did it work for me?

I am very pleased with Wiz War. Yes it is rather old school in terms of the simplicity and structure of the system but I like that. If you hate randomness, this is not a game for you. Each player chooses schools of magic (which limits the randomness to a degree) and can specialize and that’s a great way to get to know your schools and card powers and this speeds up the game but I actually just like to shuffle them all together and make it all more random and crazy. The cards have a sense of humour, not obvious and too silly , like Munchkin, but just amusing enough. I really like the way the spells are described.

I love the way no 2 games will play the same as the board set ups can change and the cards will continue to change. The new board type adds to replayability. You are always left with new options and the back and forth sense of punch/counter-punch keeps things sharp. Down time is minimal really as even when you are reading the cards and choosing how to play them, it doesn’t take too long. I can see where this game could take too long if you aren’t aggressive and prepared to take risks. In fact, I think that the best way to play Wiz War is to be constantly on the offensive and taking the fight to your enemies. If you try and play cleverly, trying to out think your opponent, it will slow things down to a crawl and not be half as much fun.

Play it with a “go for it” mentality, throwing everything you can at the enemy wizard(s) for the best fun. It’s kill or be killed and there is only 2 victory points in it. The game could use more of a back story to deepen the theme but when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter. Its kinda like a first person shooter mashup with capture the flag. Its not a game of finesse but of wild and wooly action.

This is a marmite game. Euro game fans will probably hate it. We Ameritrashers will probably like it and those of us old school types will love it. Its simple, makes sense, and is a good romp. It looks pretty good too. And its good for lots of replays. I’m a happy camper. This is the Wiz War version the gaming world needs.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10

Family friendly?

Not a family game per se. Can be ok for 12+ I think but they may grow impatient with all the card reading.

For more information go to – www.fantasyflightgames.com

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Paco G. Jaen

Born in Spain with a talent for dyslexia, I am gamer, player, graphic designer, photographer and psycotherapist. Also online magazine publisher and writer. Yep.. I do lead a busy life!