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Subject: 4VP REVIEW - Wiz-War rss

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Mike Harrison-Wood
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Now, let’s get this straight, this game is no pissing contest - this is Wiz-War. This is a game where strength, ability, knowledge of the game, experience in wizardry, intelligence, wisdom, the height that you can piss up a wall, means nothing. ALL OF THEM mean NOTHING. This is Wiz-War, and in this game wizards live and die by the magic in their fingers.


You win-Wiz-War by scoring only two measly points, and there are only two ways to get those points:
1) Stealing a piece of enemy Wiz-treasure and dropping it in your Wiz-base (every player starts with two of their own Wiz-treasures, which they will want to defend in some measure)
2) One point for every player that you eliminate, i.e. reduce their health to zero, i.e. kill, i.e. splat their Wiz-brains across the Wiz-wall with a Wiz-bolt of Wiz-lightning. Wiz.

Right off the bat, I hope you can see that this game is confrontational, and that’s putting it mildly. The only way anyone can get ahead is by directly taking that advantage from the other players.

Now, you wouldn’t be a very good wizard if you couldn’t throw off a couple of spells every now and again would you? And so it is in Wiz-War, the sparks will fly. There ARE limited things you can do without spells (you can run around, pick things up or if you really have nothing better to do you can punch someone next to you for one damage, but as a wizard I like to think I’m above that sort of shenanigans), but the spells are what rule the roost.

Everyone gets five spells to choose from in the form of a hand of cards. It’s all your standard spell fare, some spell types (purple) counter others, some types (red) can only be cast once a turn, some (yellow) become items and some (green) you can cast as many of as you want.

The hand size is five, and at the end of your turn you can discard as many as you want before drawing up to the hand limit. As such you find yourself burning through cards very quickly. There are many cards that are only useful in very specific circumstances, and many cards that are much less powerful than others. By having the draw deck so big and varied (more on this later) the urge to get new cards, new spells, new combos is formidable, meaning players are even sometimes seen throwing away their entire hand because sometimes you’re dealt a hand of festering rubbish.

Whilst three of the spell types are constantly used throughout the game, there is one type that I found myself discarding every time I picked up a new one. The problem with the yellow item cards is that once played, they remain part of your hand, just placed face up on the table. This means to wield one of these items your hand limit is now one fewer. Since the temptation in the game is to constantly change up your spells, no one ever seemed to bother doing this, simply discarding them to get more useful ones for the next turn.

Some of these spells ARE very useful and some of them are very powerful. You can be a very good wizard by getting very lucky and churning out all these powerful cards one after another. The BEST wizards, however, the BEST wizards use the correct cards in the correct order. Some of these cards will make you face-palm and roll your eyes. Some of them might even contribute to the feeling that you are a contender for first place in the “Miss Terrible Hand” competition but then something will click and you’ll notice that if you play this terrible card AFTER these other two, it will become very good indeed.

Some of the cards do work very well together, and part of this comes from the way that the spell deck is arranged. All wizards draw their spell cards from one HUGE deck which is made of one small deck of essentials that goes in every time and three out of a possible six “flavoured” decks. All of these extra decks feel incredibly different on their own, so changing up even one deck in the huge stack of magic changes the flow of the game.

These possible six “flavoured” decks are:
Elemental - This is your basic fireballs and lightning bolts. Lots of damage, very confrontational, and lots of fun.
Conjuration - This is also a lot of fun, creative instead of destructive, allowing for traps, escapes and subterfuge.
Mentalism - Just as confrontational as Elemental, however it abandons the all-out damage approach in favour of what we like to call “Beard Magic”. Lots of complexity and clauses. Control and conquer.
Alchemy - This provides a lot more yellow item spells and as such our group never seemed to thrive with these cards. Using the suggested rule variation “Uncluttered Minds” (items don’t contribute to hand limit) would make this deck much more powerful.
Mutation - Similar to alchemy, except instead of items, this focuses on changing your wizard into a “creature” of sorts. This might make you quick, fierce or poisonous. Fun to play, but suffers from the same problems as Alchemy.
Thaumaturgy - This is an all-rounder, a bit of everything to add gaps that may be missing from other combinations.

These six decks combine in strange and interesting ways and a game with more confrontational decks (e.g. Elemental, Mentalism and Mutation) will lead to a completely different game than a deck with the other three. There are also more specific interactions between decks, one example being that Elemental throws a curveball to Alchemy. Any fire spells (mostly seen in Elemental) cast on a character instantly destroys any Alchemical stones they might be carrying.

What makes different games fun is that no matter whether the game is full of explosions or full of running away, it’s always interesting. The explosions are fun, but so is eating a wall in order to jump out of the way of an oncoming magical onslaught.


The one drawback of all this fun is that it’s all very unpredictable and almost impossible to plan. Some people thrive on this spontaneity, but other may despise it. It is, dare I say it, “magical” (sorry) when a plan comes together, combining three or more spells in one awesome combo. Unfortunately whether or not this happens is just as much up to luck as it is to planning. To some extent you can make your own luck by selectively discarding the less useful cards, but ultimately the deck ends up being so large that you can easily cycle through rounds and rounds of unusable garbage.

The ultimate bad news is that you can have a game in which you do nothing wrong tactically, socially or foresight-wise, and still end up losing. Horribly. Zero points at the end of the game or even worse, dead. And this is not fun.

Whether you find the mechanics fun or not, you’ll be equally torn with the design. Everything about it is over the top, sacrificing ease and smoothness of flow for extra richness in theme. In one part there millions of different token (ok, maybe 50). These are a hassle to sort through and keep track of. But then each is very specific and accurate.

For example, my wizard just blew a hole in this wall and now there is no wall. And the token for that is perfect in not only summing up that you may now run through this gap, but also that it was exploded apart.

And for me, the tokens best summarise this game. Fun but clunky. The game takes an age to set up and pack down in comparison to the sometimes incredibly short game time. Whilst this is easy to admit, it is also easy to admit that when we have played this game we’ve never played it just once. Simply the amount of stuff in the game makes you want to play it again, partly because there’s just so much to experience (you’ll never use all the tokens in one game, ever) but partly because there’s so much stuff you have to pack away at the end. That was fun; we might as well play again. This time with a different deck!

Buy Wiz-War if:
You like games where each play through is so drastically different that you can have no idea what’s going to happen at any point. Not even on your own turn. It is chaotic. It is unpredictable. It is magic. It is Wiz-War.

- Mike Wood

For more reviews by Mike Wood and others, http://4vp.tumblr.com/Board
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Ian Allen
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Quote:
The hand size is five, and at the end of your turn you can discard as many as you want before drawing up to the hand limit.


You start with 5 cards, but the hand limit is actually 7.


Quote:
Whilst three of the spell types are constantly used throughout the game, there is one type that I found myself discarding every time I picked up a new one. The problem with the yellow item cards is that once played, they remain part of your hand, just placed face up on the table. This means to wield one of these items your hand limit is now one fewer. Since the temptation in the game is to constantly change up your spells, no one ever seemed to bother doing this, simply discarding them to get more useful ones for the next turn.


There are many items that are called Stones. They are almost all worth taking up one of your 7 card slots in order to have on the table. The Speedstone lets you get extra movement. The Spellstone lets you draw 2 spells instantly and increases your hand size. The Visionstone lets you cast spells through 1 obstacle such as a wall or door. Etc. etc.

Also there is the Universal Solvent. This will destroy something someone conjures or even burn a hole through a wall or door. It is extremely useful.

There are a couple of marginal items like a rock that you can throw, that I might discard for something else, but the majority of items are useful and worth keeping.

Quote:
Some of the cards do work very well together, and part of this comes from the way that the spell deck is arranged. All wizards draw their spell cards from one HUGE deck which is made of one small deck of essentials that goes in every time and three out of a possible six “flavoured” decks. All of these extra decks feel incredibly different on their own, so changing up even one deck in the huge stack of magic changes the flow of the game.


Changing up decks every time you play makes set take too long. I took out about 20 counterspells and threw everything else together in 1 big deck. Plays just fine this way.


Quote:
The one drawback of all this fun is that it’s all very unpredictable and almost impossible to plan. Some people thrive on this spontaneity, but other may despise it. It is, dare I say it, “magical” (sorry) when a plan comes together, combining three or more spells in one awesome combo. Unfortunately whether or not this happens is just as much up to luck as it is to planning. To some extent you can make your own luck by selectively discarding the less useful cards, but ultimately the deck ends up being so large that you can easily cycle through rounds and rounds of unusable garbage.


Throw out about 20 counterspells and you will have a lot less unusable garbage to worry about.

Quote:
The ultimate bad news is that you can have a game in which you do nothing wrong tactically, socially or foresight-wise, and still end up losing. Horribly. Zero points at the end of the game or even worse, dead. And this is not fun.


This is quite fun. Winning or losing is not that important in a medium weight beer-and-pretzels filler game. Having crazy things happen and telling stories about the match for years afterwards is where its at. Who cares if you win or not if you turn the corner, cast a lightning bolt that reflects back and forth through 2 opponents in a short hallway 2 or 3 times, shredding them up really well, then cast a wall between you and them so they can't fire back on their turn and running off the other way?

Quote:
Whether you find the mechanics fun or not, you’ll be equally torn with the design. Everything about it is over the top, sacrificing ease and smoothness of flow for extra richness in theme. In one part there millions of different token (ok, maybe 50). These are a hassle to sort through and keep track of. But then each is very specific and accurate.


If I want ease and smoothness of design I would go play Through the Desert. If I want to melt someone's face with a fireball, exploding all their Magic Stones, then steal 2 of their cards and duck through a stone wall into an adjacent corridor, then rotate the tile i'm on so that they are far away from me when their turn comes round ... I play Wiz-War.

And just because the game has a pile of tokens doesn't mean you have to keep track of them. The last time I played I dumped the pile beside the board and during the course of the game we pulled out 3 or 4 destroyed wall tiles, 4 trap tokens, and a dust cloud. Most games go like that. You don't use or need to keep track of every token in the pile, just be slightly familiar with which token is which in case you need it. The Rose Bush looks like a Rose Bush, the Dagger looks like a Dagger, the Wall of Fire looks like a Wall of Fire, etc.


Quote:
And for me, the tokens best summarise this game. Fun but clunky. The game takes an age to set up and pack down in comparison to the sometimes incredibly short game time.

...partly because there’s so much stuff you have to pack away at the end. That was fun; we might as well play again. This time with a different deck!


You take each players treasures and character base and drop them in a bag. Then you take the deck and drop it in the box. Then you scoop all the tokens into a big baggie and drop it into the box. Then you throw the boards on top and close the lid. It literally takes all of 30 seconds to pack this game up soup to nuts in the box.

Quote:
Buy Wiz-War if:
You like games where each play through is so drastically different that you can have no idea what’s going to happen at any point. Not even on your own turn. It is chaotic. It is unpredictable. It is magic. It is Wiz-War.


Buy this game if you like short, nasty, in-your-face, confrontational Ameritrash games with no dice rolling but lots of random chaos in the card draw.

Don't buy this if your idea of a good time is pursuing the "buy corn" strategy in Puerto Rico.
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Chris MacLennan
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Looks like you got counter-reviewed, Mike.

I'm just struggling to remember if we've always played with too small a hand or we just did it in that last session...

Also, RE: Puerto Rico (which I love): Who could bear to stick to corn when you could become a wealthy tobacco and coffee merchant? LOSERS, THAT'S WHO.
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TS S. Fulk
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I have to agree with Ian that dying in a strange and horrible way is usually good for a laugh in Wiz-War. Don't take this game seriously, since it is not a serious game.

Use Plano-esque boxes from your local hardware store to store the tokens in. Mine are always well-sorted and clean up takes only seconds. We used to use the schools and I found that I didn't like sorting the decks. So now we just throw everything together.
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Mike Harrison-Wood
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Thanks for the comments, Ian. I was completely wrong about the hand limit, didn't realise it was 7 cards. My group's definitely going to have to come back to this game and try playing it correctly!

I daresay that with the two extra cards the alchemy deck becomes a lot more powerful, but then that's totally our fault for the misinterpretation.
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Chris MacLennan
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I already liked the alchemy deck, even with five cards. Especially Brainstone, although hat was made extra valuable by playing with a lower hand limit in general.
 
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Ian Allen
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http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/803845/why-the-new-versi...

Check out my comments on this thread.

I love Wiz-War and have played it for many many years, but I feel like the new version needs a little tweaking to maximize it's potential.

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Mike Harrison-Wood
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Nice review there Ian. Having been introduced to only the newest edition of Wiz-War, it's a bonus to see what it feels like from a long time fan. I also agree with what you're saying about the new edition of the game being too race based instead of relying on the conflict. In all the games we've played I think only two people have EVER been killed (in comparatively quite a lot of games). Your house rule suggestions should make for a more explosive game and are definitely worth a try. Oh and getting the hand size limit right, of course!
 
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