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Wizard Academy: Setup

United Kingdom
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Original Post

This is part two of the detailed intro to wizard academy, how to set up the components. The purpose of this post is to provide context for any future discussion about different set ups. The game is going to be scenario driven, so the scenario description is the place to start.

Golem construction for beginners

Demons are at the gates, trying to smash through the doors of the academy and destroy everything inside. There isn't long before they find their way into the academy, the only way to stop them is to create guardians capable of holding back the attack.
Botches: Half of the spells at each level (rounding up)
Mandatory Spells: Zap, Teleport Self, Rend Dimension and Create Guardian
Rune Setup:
Type 1-5, random rooms (redraw cursed room or masters study)
Type 6, lost room
Type 7, outer dimension
Other setup: Place a guardian in the spaces with the type 4 and 5 runes.
Disasters: 8 Room activation, 2 Wildmagic, 2 different level 1s
Progression: 2 level 0s, 2 level 1s, 2 level 2s, 2 level 3s, 2 level 4s, defeat
Starting Mana: 6
Win Condition: The four rooms in the corners of the academy each contain a guardian.
Easy mode: -1 botch at each level, +2 starting mana, fix an initial disaster card "Imps"
Hard mode: +1 botch at each level, fire in a random room, fix an initial disaster card "Fire"

Let's talk about how that gets us to this:

Character Cards

This is a two player game in which the players have opted for Myrrin and Sir Bearington. Each player chooses a character card and places it somewhere on the table that they can easily reach it. In the image these are at the bottom left and bottom right of the table.


The face down grid of cards taking up the top left of the table is the spell deck. To lay out the grid, first a row and column of type 1-7 runes is laid out to create a blank grid. Then a stack of spells for each level is created. This is achieved by starting the stack with any mandatory spells of that level, then the spells and botches decks for that level are shuffled and the appropriate number of cards are dealt onto the stack. Finally these cards are shuffled and placed in the slots for spells of that level. The leftover spells are placed to one side and will not be used in this game.

The level of spell that goes in a particular slot is determined by the highest type of rune needed to cast it:
Type 1-3: Level one
Type 4-5: Level two
Type 6: Level three
Type 7: Level four

For example, there are six spells that require a type 3 rune at most (1-1 1-2 1-3 2-2 2-3 and 3-3 order is not important) and the scenario has a single mandatory level one entry that is from the spells deck (Zap). As half of the spells at this level must be botches, three cards are dealt from the level one botch deck. Along with zap this means that two more spells are required and these are dealt from the level one spells deck. These six cards are shuffled and placed in position on the grid.


The rooms are placed at a random orientation in a 4x4 grid in the center of the table. The "outer dimension" room is placed away from this grid, but may be brought into the game later. In the image it is sitting to the left of the uppermost row of spells.


The initial disaster deck is specified by the scenario, all eight of the room activation cards are included alongside two wildmagic cards and two different disasters from the level one deck. The latter is achieved by taking one of each of the level one disasters, shuffling and adding them to the disaster deck - the players are not permitted to be aware of which disasters were added. Each player then draws a disaster, in the image the drawn disasters are on the character cards and the deck has been placed face down on the left of Myrrins character card.

As the game goes on more disasters will be added to this deck. The first time it must be reshuffled, two level 0 disasters will be added, the next time two level 1s and so on. The remaining disasters are sorted by level and placed within easy reach to facilitate this. Optionally, the disasters that will be added can be drawn now and made into a deck of their own (that is not shuffled) to save space and make memorising the last level of disaster added unnecessary. In this case the optional step has not been taken and the disaster decks are sitting atop the flash duel box on the left of the image.

Random Room Deck

This deck is shuffled and placed near to the disaster deck. In the image this deck is to the left of Myrrins character card and some cards that have already been drawn. This is due to the fact that the scenario calls for some random rooms to be selected at a later point in the setup.


The counters are stacked by type and placed within easy reach. If any initial counters were required they would be placed at this stage, but the scenario doesn't call for any.


Several rooms receive runes, as specified in the scenario. These indicate that a player in that rune can pick up a copy of that rune, they will not be removed from the room they start in under normal conditions. The type 6 and type 7 runes are placed in the rooms indicated by the scenario; the other five are selected using the room deck.


The players' models are placed in the mana crystal room. A guardian is placed in the masters study, as it bears the text "place a guardian here at the start of the game". Additional guardians are placed in the type 4 and type 5 rune rooms as specified by the scenario. Finally an indicator showing the mana crystals current mana token (in this case a die) is added to the mana crystal. The players are ready to begin.


That completes the description of the setup portion of the game. It was tempting to comment on why certain aspects are as they are as I went along, but this post is long enough without side chatter. There are some elements I like, for instance placing low level runes with draws from the room deck guarantees that the first few events won't hit those rooms, avoiding a boring game where the players have no ability to act on the world because a random event has prevented them accessing a key resource. Other elements are a bit fiddly, such as the spell setup step, but playtesting has shown that a player who's never played the game before can perform this step without error given clear instructions.

Some improvements to the components will help with these stages. Having a spellbook board with places for the runes and spells, indicating which rune and level of spell goes in each slot, will help a lot. Some things will also be easier once the cards are backed differently, I'm afraid to do this in the prototype for fear of marking the cards with unevenly cut card backings.

That's all for now. Tomorrow there'll be another general game design post and on Monday the third part of this series, 'how to play', will be posted. I plan to post a copy of the rules so far alongside it, but whether that works out will depend on how much I end up changing them over the next few days.
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