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Mitch Willis
United States
Kathleen
Georgia
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Overview
Wizard is a trick taking card game for 3 to 6 players that’s a variation of Oh Hell. It was designed by Ken Fisher and the edition I’ve got is published by US Games. You are dealt an increasing number of cards each round, you make a bid, and you score points only by making your exact bid; in contrast, you lose points by failing to make your bid. The player with the most points wins the game. The game comes in 2 packages, a basic and a deluxe.

Out of the Box
The basic game comes in a small cardboard box with 60 cards (52 regular playing cards, 4 Wizards, and 4 Jesters), a score pad, and a small rulebook. The deluxe game comes in a larger box (but still small) and contains the same contents of the basic, along with 6 plastic bidding wheels as well. Play time is listed at 45 minutes; our games thus far have taken just a little longer, approaching an hour. The cards are of good stock and the artwork on the cards is similar to your basic deck of Poker cards.

Set Up
Not much to the set up; just shuffle the cards and deal out a single card to each player. If you have the deluxe edition, give each player a bidding wheel.

Game Play
The number of rounds you play is determined by the number of players; with 3 there are 20 rounds, with 4 there’s 15, with 5 there’s 12, and with 6 there’s 10. In the first round each player is dealt 1 card; in each round after you increase the cards dealt to each player by 1. For example, in a 5 player game, you’d be dealt 2 cards in the 2nd round, 3 in the 3rd, all the way to 12 cards in the last round.

After the cards are dealt, the top card from the remainder of the deck is flipped over and that suit becomes trump for that round. If the card is a Wizard, then the dealer can name trump; if it’s a Jester, then there is no trump for that round. In the last round, all the cards will be dealt out, so the last round is always no trump.

Once the cards are dealt and the trump is declared, each player will make his/her bid (i.e., how many tricks they think they’ll take for that round). After every one bids, the player to the left of the dealer plays a card, followed in turn, clockwise, by every other player. The highest card in the suit led will take the trick unless trumped. You can only trump if you do not have a card in the suit that was led; if trumped, the highest trump card will take the trick. Wizards and Jesters may be played on any trick, regardless of what suit is led or what suit a player holds. Wizards are the highest ranked cards in the game and will take any trick; if more than 1 Wizard is played in a trick, the first Wizard played will take the trick. Jesters are the lowest cards in the deck and can never take a trick, unless all cards played are Jesters; in that very unlikely case, the first Jester played would take the trick. If a Wizard or Jester is led, then the next suited card determines the suit of record for that trick.

After each round, the score is recorded. After the last round, scores are totaled and the player with highest score is the winner.

Scoring
Scoring is pretty straight forward; if you make your bid, you get 20 points plus 10 points for every trick you took. By making your bid, you have to take exactly the number tricks that you predicted. You can’t take less and you can’t take more, it has to be exact. For example, if your bid was 4 and during the round you won 4 tricks, your score would be 60 for that round, 20 (for making your bid) + 40 (for the number of tricks). Unlike in Spades, there is no nil bid; if you bid zero and don’t take any tricks, you’d get 20 points (for making your bid). If you don’t make your bid, you lose points; you lose the number of tricks you either overbid or underbid by, multiplied by 10. For example, if you bid 3 but took 5 tricks, you’d lose 20 points (2 tricks overbid X 10).

Strategy
As with any card game, Wizard can be random but, for the most part, skillful play should be able to overcome the randomness. Bidding well can be tough but is essential to winning; however, it can be difficult, especially in the early rounds when you’re not sure which cards are in play. For example, in the 2nd round, do you count on a 2 of the trump suit to take a trick or not? Or how about an Ace of clubs? Is it likely to get trumped or are there any Wizards in play? You also need to consider how versatile your hand is; i.e., if you win an unexpected trick or if a trick you were counting on is trumped, can you adapt and make up the difference? In short, when bidding, you have to take into account the probability of what cards are in play and guess accordingly.

As for playing your cards, there are also many things to consider. Do I try to take my tricks early or late? If early, then can I get out of the lead once I make my bid? For what it’s worth, I tend to take my chances and wait until later in the round. It can be dangerous, however, and there’s been a couple of times recently when I lost my bid on the last trick; both times I’d saved my Wizard for the last trick only to lose it when an opponent played a Wizard before me. It’s a good idea to keep account of how many Wizards have been played, and balance that with how many might not be in play.

Don’t overlook the Jester as just a useless card; it can be a very valuable card. I like it almost as much as a Wizard. First off, you can use it to get out of the lead at any given time, which can help you from getting unexpected tricks. Also, you can use it to protect your key cards. For example, let’s say you have the Ace of hearts, it’s your only heart, and you are counting on it to make your bid. Hearts are led and a player before you plays a Wizard on it; if you have a Jester you may play that instead of your Ace (which is your only heart) and save the Ace for a later trick.

The Bidding Wheels
To any one interested in purchasing Wizard, I’d recommend getting the deluxe version with the bidding wheels. It doesn’t cost that much more and the bidding wheels add more alternatives to the game. Instead of just bidding in clockwise fashion, with bidding wheels you have a couple of different options. First, you can have everyone blind bid and then simultaneously reveal them before playing the round (our preferred method). The other option is to blind bid, play the round, and then after the last trick is taken, each player reveals their bid on the wheel. Thus, the deluxe version adds some variety at a small cost.

Conclusions
I enjoy trick taking games and, IMHO, Wizard is one of the better ones. It’s challenging, fun, and I find the increasing number of cards dealt each round, not to mention the addition of Wizards and Jesters, to be very refreshing. That being said, I think that while you can play with 3, it plays decidedly better with 4, 5, or 6; there are 20 rounds with 3 players and playing hands with more than 15 cards in the later rounds can be trying. When I was stationed in San Antonio, this was our preferred lunchtime card game at work and there was always a lot of trash talking. If you like traditional trick taking games, such as Spades and Hearts, give Wizard a try. I currently rate it a very solid 8.
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Bruce Chiriatti
United States
Boston
Massachusetts
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Very nice, even handed review... thank you!

My friends and I also enjoy wizard, in fact we have brought the wizaard idea back to our hearts games. We use the jokers as wizards, but if a second wizard comes out, it will win the trick. This makes the wizard somewhat vulnerable. This slight variant makes it a little more difficult to guage your hand and it's trick taking ability.

Also, instead of taking out two low cards, say 2h & 2d to make the number of cards even when playing with four players we deal off the two extra cards into a pile which is given to the first player that takes points. We call this "the party pack". We have a house rule that if the Qs is in the party pack (you must reveal it right away) all of the other players take 10 points.

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Ralph H. Anderson
United States
Prospect
Connecticut
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Great review; however, I disagree with you on one point. I think it is BEST as a three player game. The more players you add, the more element of luck there is in the game. Not necessarily a bad thing, justnot to my taste. I prefer a more cut-throat game devil

In any case, we agree its one of the better trick taking card games out there!
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Brett Johnson
United States
Minnesota
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Re: Bidding Wheels
I am glad that you like the bidding wheels, but I have found them to be too loose to be useful. They tend to move if you bump them, at least mine do. Are yours this way or did I get a bum set?

Good Review by the way, love this game.

Quote:
The Bidding Wheels
To any one interested in purchasing Wizard, I’d recommend getting the deluxe version with the bidding wheels. It doesn’t cost that much more and the bidding wheels add more alternatives to the game. Instead of just bidding in clockwise fashion, with bidding wheels you have a couple of different options. First, you can have everyone blind bid and then simultaneously reveal them before playing the round (our preferred method). The other option is to blind bid, play the round, and then after the last trick is taken, each player reveals their bid on the wheel. Thus, the deluxe version adds some variety at a small cost.
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Mitch Willis
United States
Kathleen
Georgia
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bishop007 wrote:
I am glad that you like the bidding wheels, but I have found them to be too loose to be useful. They tend to move if you bump them, at least mine do. Are yours this way or did I get a bum set?

Good Review by the way, love this game.


Thanks, I love this game as well. Sounds like you might have gotten a bum set...all 6 of the bidding wheels in my set are pretty tight and make a clicking sound when you change bids. You might want to contact the publisher (I'm guessing it's still US Games). Most game companies seem to be pretty good at replacing defective parts.
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Ed Holzman
United States
Seffner
Florida
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As grey traces of dawn tinge the eastern sky, the three travellers, men of Willowdale, emerge from the forest's shadow. Fording the river, they turn south, journeying into the dark and forbidding lands of The Necromancer...
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My bidding wheels are like Brett's...they spin freely and frequently move when bumped. We have generally abandoned the wheels and just use scraps of paper to scribble a bid on each hand.
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Mitch Willis
United States
Kathleen
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Bearcat89 wrote:
My bidding wheels are like Brett's...they spin freely and frequently move when bumped. We have generally abandoned the wheels and just use scraps of paper to scribble a bid on each hand.


Looks like maybe I was fortunate with the bidding wheels in my set. Each of the 6 will lock in the bid with no spinning at all...
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Ken Fisher
Canada
Pelham
Ontario
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The old wheels have been replaced by wheels that do not slip but click into place. Although expensive the new "Bidding Coins" are superior to the wheels in keeping track of tricks and bids.and really sdd to the enjoyment of the game.
However if you play "Delayed Reveal Bidding" you may want to stay with the "wheels"
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Gregory Swarthout
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Tooele
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I found that after a handful of games, we stopped using the wheels altogether and reference the written bid on the scoresheet when necessary.
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