Game Buzz: Wiz-War

OK, back in the saddle again with a reprint coming to us from Fantasy Flight:

image by BGG user D6Frog

Wiz-War was originally published in 1983, designed by Tom Jolly.  It’s one of those classics of board games, and even said to be an inspiration for Magic: The Gathering.  Fantasy Flight’s version adds Kevin Wilson as a designer, plays with 2-4 players aged 14 and up, and takes about an hour to play.  Wiz-War is a game about, well, warring wizards.  I don’t really know much about it in its original version, but the game is regarded highly by a lot of people, so I’m looking forward to checking it out.

In the game, you get four sector boards, used to create the playing space.  There are four plastic wizard minis, as well as four colored bases for them to help differentiate player pieces.  Five plastic transformed wizard figures represent wizards that have changed forms.  Four life dials are used to track player health (I know, it’s hard to believe that there are dials in a FF game).  A direction overlay and a d4 are used to determine random directions.   Additionally, there are 168 magic cards, 45 object markers, 4 portal markers, 8 treasure markers, 20 crack tokens, 26 energy tokens, 24 hat tokens, 10 stun tokens, and 4 plastic portal stands.

Sector Boards - image by BGG user D6Frog

At the start of the game, each player gets a wizard figure and a colored plastic base, as well as a sector board.  One side of each sector board is the classic side, from the original game.  The other is all new.  After deciding which side to use, sector boards are shuffled (both order and orientation) and placed out to form the boards.  Each player’s wizard goes on their home base, and a treasure marker goes on each of the treasure start spaces of the sector board.

You’ll then prepare the magic deck.  There are seven schools of magic in the game: cantrip (common spells); alchemy (creating items); conjuring (creating inanimate objects); elemental (wind, water, earth, and fire); mentalism (mind); mutation (shape changing); and thaumaturgy (varied spells).  You’ll take the white cantrip cards (black is for the advanced game) and three other school decks, combining them into one.  The three schools can be decided on by consensus, by taking turns, or at random.  Alchemy, Elemental, and Mentalism are suggested for the first game.  The unchosen schools won’t be used.  Each player gets a hand of five cards, and each player sets their life dial to 15.

Wiz-War is turn-based, and on a player turn, there are three phases: Time Passes, Move and Cast, Discard and Draw.

TIME PASSES: Some spells have effects that resolve during this turn.  Others are temporary spells, and you will remove one energy token at this time.  If that was the last energy token on the spell, the card is discarded.  In addition, if you have any stun tokens, remove one.  You are now stunned for the turn.  This limits the actions you can do in the next phase.

MOVE AND CAST: There are three action options for this phase, and you may do any or all of them in any order: move, attack, and play cards.  If you’re stunned, you can either move or attack, but not both.

  • Movement: Your base speed is usually 3, and this means that you have three movement points to spend.  To spend a movement point, you simply move to an orthogonally adjacent square.  You can’t walk through walls or locked doors, though you can play a card to unlock doors.  If you walk off the edge of the board, you reappear at the same position on the opposite edge of the map.  If you walk off the map into a portal, you reappear at the matching portal.  You can boost your speed by discarding an energy card or magic card with energy, getting one more movement point per energy on the card.  Your base speed could also change during the turn, and if it does, you lose or gain movement points immediately.  You don’t have to use all of your movement points at once – you can use some, do an action, then use more.
  • Attack: You can’t attack during your first turn, but after that, it’s on.  You get one attack per turn, and it can either be physical or magical.  You could punch an adjacent wizard for one damage, or use an item, or cast a spell.  The attacked player may be able to cast spells to block some or all of the pain.  Damage dealt is deducted on the receiving player’s life dial.  If their total reaches zero, they are out of the game, and you add their hand to your own.  All items that player was carrying are dropped on the board.
  • Play Cards: There are several types of magic cards in the game – attack spells, which can only be cast when attacking; counter spells, which can only be played when being attacked; energy, used to boost movement or spell power; items, which are played face up so you can use them; and neutral spells.  Magic cards will have icons to tell you who you can use it on – yourself, an adjacent wizard, a wizard within line of sight, or a wizard anywhere on the map.  Some are used instantly, some are temporary and get energy tokens that are removed as time passes, some are permanent.  Spells must be maintained to be used, which means that you leave them face up.  These cards count against your maximum hand size, which is normally seven.  If you ever have more than your maximum hand size, you’ll need to discard or make spells inactive by flipping them face down.

DISCARD AND DRAW: The last phase of a turn is to discard if you want to, then draw no more than two cards. being careful not to exceed your maximum hand size.

The game ends when someone has two victory points, or when someone is the last wizard standing.  You get victory points by killing an enemy wizard, or if enemy treasure is dropped in your home sector.  You can lose the treasure VP if the treasure gets picked up or moved elsewhere.

I think this game looks like a lot of fun.  I don’t know about how the spells will all work, and suppose I need to try it out to really get how it all works.  But the theme alone has got me interested.  I’m just picturing old bearded wizards racing through a labyrinth, shooting spells around corners, then running away giggling.  I’m not sure it’s supposed to be that silly, but I’m entertained.  One thing to be concerned about is probably luck of the draw – I would imagine that the cards are pretty well balanced, but if you’re not getting what you need, you may spend a lot of time running and hiding.

One thing that I think this game will offer is some good variety from game to game.  By having three different magic schools each game, you’ll have some different combinations of spells every time.  I can also hear the FF expansion machine working on new schools of magic to further enhance variation.

I’ll be interested to see how Wiz-War is received when it comes out.  I’ll also be looking forward to seeing how people like the changes that were made in FF’s edition.  This game remains firmly on my watch list, and I look forward to giving it a play.  Thanks for reading!

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