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A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/58777/index
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Wizard Academy Puzzles #6

Greg
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Original Post

This post contains the solution to the final puzzle of this run, dimensional sciences which was written to take advantage of the density of solutions in the game. I touched on the subject yesterday when I wrote about the variety of problem solving tools players have access to.



In the early days of wizard academy games would sometimes hit a situation where a troll would disable the entire game. It was sometimes the case that a single rune glyph (Runes are called glyphs now as rune and room are almost homonyms and that caused some problems. I’m having trouble getting used to it, but I’m sure it’ll be natural to brand new players.) was a necessary component of every attack spell. When this occurred, if a troll sat on the rune glyph it would become inaccessible to the players. If they hadn’t saved one up then they’d have no way to remove the troll without the rune glyph and no way to acquire the rune glyph without removing the troll. This lead to games that were no fun, as the players were essentially locked out of the spells that were supposed to be their main problem solving tool.



There is a degree of randomness in the game setup, spells appear in random places, the threats faced by the players vary from game to game and those are good things. The game gets more variety in a way that emphasises some of its important strengths. Finding a way to cobble together a solution out of the tools that you have is going to be more fun the first time you’re facing a given problem with a given set of tools, so switching these things up is important. However it does mean that there’s no way to prevent situations like “All of the attack spells are on the same row and the enemy is trolls.”

Rather than preventing it, I decided instead to embrace it. I moved the game away from “This is the solution to troll and if you don’t get it you’re stuffed” to “These are the ten solutions to trolls, you’ll only get some of them, work out which is best to apply in your situation”. Some spells won’t occur in a given game, some rooms won’t be accessible in a given moment of a given game and some characters won’t be chosen in a given game, but if there are enough solutions it becomes vanishingly unlikely that there won’t be something that the players can do.

Of course as the players get more options the game needs to get tougher to still pose a challenge, so I had to adjust how threats worked to compensate. How that was achieved is probably a full post in its own right, but the important point is that efficiency became important. The players get three actions to every threat card played; playing well is often the art of maximising the impact of these actions. Often action efficiency comes at some other cost, for instance an action spend to cast “create fire” could kill many more trolls than an action spend to cast “lightning bolt” but only at the cost of creating a problem for the future. This leads us to dimensional sciences, which is, at its heart a puzzle about how to obtain the best action efficiency, regardless of other concerns.

Dimensional Sciences Solution



Susie uses her magic action to cast “Recall” teleporting herself to the mana crystal. She is a dimensional wizard so she is able to boost the spell and does so, giving Nyvetta the option to teleport to the mana crystal. Both players are now in the mana crystal.

Susie uses her room action to activate “last resort” losing a mana and bringing the group a step closer to defeat in order to swap two adjacent rooms. The “Planar Rift” and “Library” are swapped.

Susie uses her room action to perform a brief but energetic dance.

Nyvetta downgrades her magic action to a room action and uses “last resort” again to swap the “Scrying Chamber” and “Unstable Room”.

Nyvetta uses her room action to activate the increasingly inaccurately named “last resort” a third time to swap the “Hoard” and “Workshop”.

At this point the objective has been completed. The pair have recklessly expended half of their lives rather than take an extra turn to get this job done, but that’s not a part of the puzzle. Nyvetta is more serious minded and uses her move action to walk towards the newly open runes glyphs.
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