May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
All of my 'Light Reviews' aim to offer a brief overview that allows people to get a good feel for what the game may offer them, the options involved and general flow of play.
Game Type - Card Game
Play Time: 20-30 Minutes
Number of Players: 2
Mechanics - Bidding, Hand Management, Simultaneous Action Selection
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 10 minutes)
Components - Very Good
Release - 2003
Philippe des Pallières - (The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow)
Image Courtesy of Traulen
In Shazamm! YOU are the Hero (Fighting Fantasy anyone? ) Well actually you are a Wizard and as luck would have it you had just got yourself your own lava bridge and then some other upstart Wizard comes along and thinks it’s their bridge.
So the only way to sort this out is an old fashioned Wizard Lava Bridge Duel to the Death!
If that sounds a little ridiculous that is probably because it is. The premise is fine in truth but the game pretty much takes the mickey out of itself (something Z-Man Games are quite happy to do) with the story opening.
The reality is that Shazaam! is a 2-player card game which sets the scene for a duel of sorts. Each Wizard must make the best use of their limited Mana reserves, which are needed to power the many spells at their disposal. The aim is to push a Firewall that stands between the two adversaries back towards the other, in the hope that it will force their nemesis to fall off the crumbling bridge to the lava below!
Shazamm! does a good job of offering up good components that are easy to store in the box and help evoke the theme.
Board – The board is a brightly coloured affair, which pretty much goes for all the components. Depicted is the lava canyon complete with its flagstone bridge suspended above the pit of death. The other major feature is a dragon, whose body segments feature the numbers 50 to 0 and serve to help the players keep track of their remaining Mana.
Image Courtesy of EndersGame
Mana Dials – Two large cardboard pockets serve as Mana Dials. They offer 2 dials that allow each player to secretly select how much Mana they will use in a given attack. Despite featuring a small dragon illustration, these dials feel more practical in nature than an outstanding component.
Image Courtesy of EndersGame
Spell Cards – Each player is given a deck of 15 Spells. Both decks are identical in nature with the exception of a green or red coloured phial, which is held by a dragon on the back of the cards and helps determine whose deck is whose.
Each Spell only features once in each deck and they are numbered as such, which plays into the timing of card play during the game. Each Spell also has a unique name, text to outline its use and artwork. All of which helps to support the theme pretty well without ever really making your eyes pop.
Image Courtesy of Rococo_Zephyr
Wizards – The Wizards are depicted using cardboard stand-ups. Each Wizard wears either a red or green robe, to complete the colour matching of the components. Each player also receives an old school wooden pawn in their colour to track their Mana reserves on the board.
Image Courtesy of EndersGame
Firewall & Flagstones – The components are completed with the inclusion of the Firewall and the collapsed flagstone tiles. The Firewall also gets the cardboard stand-up treatment, whilst the flagstones represent sections of bridge that have fallen away into the lava below.
Images Courtesy of EndersGame
All in all Shazamm! provides a good set of quality components that support the theme and are visually appealing. They will not blow too many players away either but for a game of this size and stature (filler game) they are on the money.
Image Courtesy of Choubi
Set-up is as simple as placing the Firewall in the center of the bridge and each Wizard starting 3 flagstones away from the Firewall. Each player places their Mana Pawn on the 50 spot of the Mana Track and each player then shuffles their Spell deck. Each player draws 5 cards, which is added to their Feint Card to make a starting hand of 6, and the game is ready to begin.
Shazamm! is all about pushing your opponent back on the ever unstable bridge. It’s unstable because at the conclusion of each round a flagstone falls into the lava below and thus shortens the bridge for each Wizard. Through the careful selection of spells each adversary hopes to gain a critical advantage.
The game flow is pretty straight forward –
Select Spell(s) – Both Wizards are required to select the spells they will use in a given round of combat and at the start of the game the players will have 6 to choose from. This is because they drew 5 from their Spell Deck and add the Feint card, which acts as a bluff.
The players must always play at least 1 Spell Card per round of combat, but because they may choose the Feint Spell (which is returned after each attack), they can keep spells up their sleeve to use later in the battle.
It is also important to note that players can hide the number of spells they are playing behind\under their Mana Dials or choose to openly show how many there are. This is another form of bluff that the game allows the players to engage in.
Determine Spell Strength (Mana)… – Each player must then select the amount of Mana they will commit to the current attack. This represents the amount of magic power they will commit to their spells and thematically it represents the power of the attack.
The Mana Dials range from 0-50 but a player must always spend at least 1 Mana. They cannot ever spend more Mana than they have left on the Mana Track located on the board.
Reveal Mana Totals and Cast Spells – Once both players have selected Spells and chosen how much Mana to use, they reveal their decisions to the other. First the spells are resolved.
Resolve Spells – Now it is time to resolve all spells that were played.
Any duplicate spells (same spell cast by both players in a given attack) are immediately discarded without effect.
The remaining spells are then resolved in numerical order, from lowest to highest value. This can be very important for timing effects and many spells can have a direct impact on other spells if played in the same attack.
Once a spell is used it is discarded and cannot be used again in the same game. Because each card only features once, timing becomes all important, especially for those cards that can impact on the cards of the other player.
Result of Combat – Once all spells have been resolved it must be determined as to which Wizard actually won that bout of the duel. This is determined by the highest attack value, which is initially represented by the amount of Mana spent. However Spells can help to boost a player's Mana total or even turn the tables and declare the lowest Mana total as the winner of the attack.
Should both attacks end up being equal, neither Wizard has gained an advantage and the Firewall does not move.
Losing an Attack Bout - Losing a bout results in the Firewall being pushed 1 flagstone towards the losing Wizard. Should the Firewall ever be moved to hit a Wizard, it results in the end of the Round.
Ending a Round – A single round will come to an end when both Wizards have spent their last Mana point or when the Firewall hits a Wizard.
When one player is out of Mana, the other player can spend 1 Mana point to move the Firewall 1 flagstone and this can continue until the Firewall hits the other Wizard or they run out of Mana.
Ending a round takes its toll on the bridge due to all those powerful spells whizzing around. A Lava Tile is placed on both ends of the bridge to represent its crumbling nature and both players return their Mana Pool to 50. The Firewall stays where it is but both Wizards are placed 3 spaces from the Firewall again to represent their new starting positions.
Both players also get to draw 3 additional cards to add to their hand but this is the only way new cards can be acquired, thus it becomes apparent how important it can be to bluff at times and save important spells for just the right moment!
Game Over – The game will come to an end when one of the Wizards finds the flagstone they are standing on fall out from under them...resulting in a plummet to a fiery death as they hear the maniacal laughter of the victorious Wizard.
The Final Word
Shazamm! is a decent little game. It really is all about those variable spell powers and the meta-game of managing your Mana to gain small but important advantages.
For me it definitely falls into the filler category, which are good for a play every now and again, but not something I find particularly fulfilling and want to come back to again and again.
I’ve never really been a big fan of 2-player games where both players have the exact same deck and therefore the timing becomes all important. They just feel a little cheap and simple to me. For that reason I didn’t find Minotaur Lords or Scarab Lords by Reiner Knizia all that compelling either. But if you are fans of those games then there may be something here for you.
At a point in time when there are some great 2-player games on the market (Omen: Reign of War and Revolver to name just a couple), games like Shazamm! look like stocking filler to say the least.
I do like the Mana mechanic as you have to carefully manage your Mana total and that leads to some bluff and double bluffing. It is very rewarding to pick the mind of your opponent and play a spell that total negates one of their powerful spells but it hurts just as much when it happens to you.
All in all I’d say give Shazamm! a look if you are a big fan of 2-player dueling games (I am curious to see how this compares to Duel). There may also be more mileage here for younger gamers too as the theme is likely to appeal and the mechanics are light enough to not warrant too much parent support. If you're over the age of 16 though you may be like me and think that the brightest thing about the game are the colours of the components.
Till next we meet may all your spells fizz and dazzle and your enemies take a hot lava bath to oblivion.
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- Last edited Tue Mar 4, 2014 1:13 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:30 am
Re: Shazaam! - A Light Review
Neil Thomson wrote:
I’ve never really been a big fan of 2-player games where both players have the exact same deck and therefore the timing becomes all important. They just feel a little cheap and simple to me. For that reason I didn’t find Minotaur Lords
or Scarab Lords
by Reiner Knizia all that compelling either. But if you are fans of those games then there may be something here for you.
Thanks for the neat review of this game! One minor quibble: The two "Lords" games actually feature unique decks for the two players.
As I wrote in my review, I think the level of enjoyment hinges on the extent to which you enjoy blind bidding/bluffing games, because the real fun of the game lies in trying to outguess your opponent. I happen to enjoy that style of game a lot, and have been enjoying Shazamm quite a bit after we pulled it out again recently.
Another solid review Neil, thank you!