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Subject: WIZARD KINGS: A Cardboard Carnage Review rss

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Derek Anderson
United States
Ennis
Montana
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There is nothing better than playing board games with my 4 sons!
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There is nothing better than playing board games with my 4 sons!
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WIZARD KINGS
A Cardboard Carnage Review

Aside from my normal gaming group that met once or twice a month, most of my gaming is done with my boys. I have 4 sons, the two oldest of them are into gaming, so a lot of fun is had a home with them. One afternoon, we decideded to start a series of Wizard Kings games, this is a game we got awhile back and hadn't had a chance to really dive into it yet.


Photo Credit: Duglis

I am more of a World War II era gamer, but have recently gotten more into the fantasy type of games, and my 13 year old is into that theme too (he loves Lord of the Rings), so Wizard Kings looked like it could have a lot of promise for me and him for many reason.

The games I tend to play last a full day (or two), and the complex ear games of that length won't hold the boys attention, so the faster game play Wizard Kings promised would be another positive factor for us. It is actually difficult to find games that appeal to us all.

I purchased the entire first series as well as 16 of the new (2.0) expansions, plus all available maps, a combination of a trade with a gamer here an an ebay deal realy set us up with a lot of stuff for a great price.


Photo Credit: mothertruckin

I am not going to get into a review on the game mechanics, and how the games works step by step because there are plenty of reviews here on that, instead I'll get into the game review from our point of view on the game itself and game play.... The point of view of a Father and his teenage son playing a game they both enjoy.

The game itself is wonderfully done, at first I thought the blocks were huge (compared to other block games I have, such as GMT's Europe Engulfed or The Bulge), but after spending a little time with the blocks, sorting them by army, organizing the forces, etc., they actually are not too big and seem to work well with this game. I must say, the components are very nicely done, the layout of the blocks are easy to understand and the artwork is decent (Side Note: The second series stuff does have nicer artwork).


Photo Credit: flyinghogfish

My son quickly found an attraction to the forces of evil, he loves Orcs and Undead armies, so we quickly divided the armies up into "his" (bad) and "mine" (good)... This also seemed to fit in well with his interest in things such as Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, the blocks (units) were pretty easy to get sorted and understand what was going on.

We decided rather than both looking at what each army had to offer, or trying our first game with the tiles 'revealed', we though we might as well just jump into it with the whole "fog of war" thing from the start, which is a big point of this game to begin with. This probably needs to explanation, but essentially it prevents you from seeing what pieces your opponent has coming into the battle before the fight begins... You know they are there and you know that you are heading into an encounter, but you are not quite sure what you are going to be facing until you actually get there.

This worked out nicely, especially since neither one of us was really familiar with each other's armies at the start of the game... as the gaming went on, we both got a feel for what each of us had, and we both began to find some 'favorite units'. Even after a few games and our learning curve of getting to better understand the rules, we still found that there were many blocks we haven't yet used, so even as we got more fimilar with the armies, we found many surprises still to pop up as the games went on (this comes from the blocks not used in previous games making an appearance, or the occasional addition of the Chaos units that are added in from time to time to spice things up).

We initially played with older 1.5 and 1.6 rules since I had recieved those in the mail first and read through them in advance, but quickly decided to change up to the newest 2.0 rule set with some minor changes and house rules to carry over some things we didn't like...


Photo Credit: henk.rolleman

For example, having a stacking limit of only 4 didn't allow for the larger 'epic' feel we both liked, so we agreed that each side could have one unit of blocks lead by a wizard exceed the 4 limit, and increased it to 6. So it was kind of neat seeing one large force gather and work it's way across the board, which also added to the game strategy and excitement because in seeing that large force you knew the enemy had a Wizard in there, this actually seemed to 'feel' right to us, because it made sense that a larger army like that would have a valuable commander leading it through the land.

This change then lead to the house rule of the limited turns in combat (I think it is supposed to be 3 or 4? I can't recall as I write this review, so I apologize), but we banished that because we could never finish a fight in the time limit, especially if storming a city that was heavily reinforced or if our largest army was involved. Changing this rule didn't 'break' the game for us, it actually seemed to make it more strategic and fun because we found that one of us would occaionally become over-eager and remain in a battle a little too long for our own good, or actually remain long enough to make a break through when the original rule for that would have forced us to retreat ahead of time. Essentially this put the feeling of 'commanding the army' in our hands rather than the hands of a rule.

With the 2 or 3 minor house rules aside though, I'd say we played the game by the rules about 95% as close to 2.0 as possible, only altering the rules I just stated as well as a few other minor adjustments.

For anyone not playing with the 2.0 rules, I urge you to try them out. Being able to transport gold from city to city, or city to front line, certainly made the game much more strategic and more fun than it was when we first started playing. Also the addition of magical items, weapons, artifacts and new units/troops (including Clerics that heal and Special Heroes) also has been more exciting for the game, so 2.0 is the way to go in our opinion.

The game play has gone very well, I am very surprised at how fast the game moves and also how quickly the turns go, there were no long periods of waiting and no boring 'down time' between turns like in some of the WW2 games I have been playing (the long down time between turns is a big reason why my oldest son doens't have as much fun playing those games, kids his age get bored waiting 1/2 hour or more for someone to make a move), this is NOT a problem with Wizard Kings. The few times one of us did have to 'wait around', the amount of time was minimal and you didn't have time to get bored... you were constantly looking at your army and trying to decide what the next move was, or what new units to purchase and what current units to improve, etc., while at the same time watching the moves from your opponent.

As an experienced war gamer, I was quite pleased with how Wizard Kings played and the level of strategy it actually had. I found myself only "going easy" on my son a few times when we first started, He caught onto the rules very quickly and has developed some great strategy and tricks. After only a couple of games, I found myself no longer holding back on him, in fact, I actually felt like he had such a good understanding, I actually had to struggle a few times in the game to keep up with his game play.

This tells me the games rules are easy enough for him to fully pickup in a short time, yet complex enough to offer good strategy for me.

On time he had a massive force moving in on one of my high production cities, and I sent in units to reinforce to hold the city, at the same time he had some small units working their way down another part of the map at less important cities. It was only after he had distracted me long enough that I realized the large army was a decoy, he used our house rule of 'over the stacking limit in one army' to send a decoy army filled with strength 1 foot soldiers and an expendable wizard... the decoy worked as I had diverted many of my forces to meet and defend against this huge army (I could only picture an army of hundreds of farmers with pitch forks attacking)... meanwhile on the other size of the board, some highly powerful chaos units had unleased an attack on several smaller cities, one of which I ended up losing... Imagine my surprise when my main forces basically held off against the lowest possible level guys in the game, and a Dragon attacked a city that was for the most part unguarded (two low level guys). Sigh.


Photo Credit: ecasco_online

The above example clearly illustrates the 'fog of war' element of the game, and how it can work to someone's advantage.

As for how I rate this game... the overall game itself is decent, the maps are good and made of high quality paper with nice graphics, the blocks are not bad, I did notice some variations on the colors, nothing major and nothing that could 'flag' a unit or 'mark' it as something you would recognize at a later date (Such as "oh, here comes that lighter green block, I remember what that is")... I would say that the game itself is great.

It is not something I would pull out in my standard gaming group, as I don't think it would fit into the group of WW2 gamers I play with, but it is something that I can have a lot of fun with playing it with my son. He loves the game, and while thought it is not his favorite (cough cough Runebound cough cough), it is surely one of the top 10 games that will be played at my house now.

I have recently ordered "Victory: The Blocks of War" from Columbia Games, which seems similar to this in a more WW2 type setting, so that will probably be another game that will soon see a lot of table time.

As for Wizard Kings, our campaign is well under way (using the rules posted here in the file section), only time will tell who will win, but currently my son's Forces of Evil are ahead slightly in the campaign (I think he now leads by 2 points), so there is time for my Forces of Good to pull off a victory. I will write a session report on the whole campaign as time goes on and we get closer to finishing the first part.

My rating on a scale of 1 - 10 is going to be: 8.5


This raiting is mainly for the playability that I have with it here at home with my son, if it was a game for my gaming group only, I think it would have gotten a much lower rating - not a 'bad' game, but not for that group of gamers. The components are excellent quality (blocks, stickers, maps, etc), and the game theme is a standard fantasy theme that can be reimagined into any well known fantasy theme with a little imagination and home made fluff.

D-Rock
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Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
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The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
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An old review, I know, but very helpful. Thanks! Here's a modest GG tip.

Now, what happened in that campaign?

:-)

Cheers.
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Derek Anderson
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Ennis
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There is nothing better than playing board games with my 4 sons!
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There is nothing better than playing board games with my 4 sons!
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Thanks for the read and tip!

I think I actually wrote a report on the campaign, but posted it to my blog. I'll see if I can dig it up and get it posted here, thanks!!

D.
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Richard Smith
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The story of your campaign would be interesting. Warm regards, Rick.
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