Wizard is a great game of cards as it is simple enough to learn quickly, but complex enough to captivate the most serious of card players...those that play bridge! For those that enjoy card games the usual fare of bridge, pinochle, hearts, and perhaps even euchre and spades if we stretch, Wizard is a great alternative and is flexible enough to be played with any number of players 3 - 6.
From a materials stand point it is really nothing more than a standard deck of 52 cards, with 8 additional cards. 4 representing Wizards and 4 respresenting Jesters.
It borrows its format from Oh Hell. The game is played in rounds each round every player gets one additional card. Hence round 1 one card is dealt to each player, in round 2, two cards each are dealt, and so on. Until the last round when all cards are dealt, the next card atop the deck is turned up and determines the trump suit for the round.
After the cards are dealt a bidding phase takes place. Each player must predict how many 'tricks' they will win during the play. A player's score is based upon the accuracy of these predictions. The only way to collect a positive score is by an exact prediction!
The play: As is standard in trick taking games each player will play one card. Then the winner (determined by rules which I will explain shortly) collects the cards comprising the trick and leads/starts the next one, until everyone runs out of cards.
The player starting the trick (on lead) is free to play any card they choose. Subsequently each player must follow suit if able or play a Wizard or Jester card. If unable to follow suit, they are free to play any card they choose.
The winner of the trick is determined as follows:
- First Wizard played to the trick
- Highest card of the trump suit
- Highest card of suit lead
- First Jester if all cards are Jesters
This is interpreted as If a Wizard, then it wins, otherwise examine trup. If there are no trump, then the highest card of the lead suit. If no cards were of a suit (all Jesters) then the person who lead wins again.
The game is really exciting on two levels. The first is evaluating your hand to know whether you can bid aggressively or conservatively. Having Wizard and Jesters cards are very very powerful in helping one make their bid. A hand without them is always forced to follow suit which can make life difficult.
For example - Suppose in round 7, you are dealt the 4 diamonds, 5 and 6 of clubs, and the 2, 7, 9, K of hearts. And that clubs are trump. If clubs are lead, chances are your 5 and 6 will NOT take a trick, but if spades are lead, you might expect to take at least one trick since you can play a trump. Change the hand slightly, by replacing a heart with a Jester, and now the hand is a little more likely to be able to take a trick. Why? Because if clubs are played, dont get rid of one of those valuable clubs. Play the Jester and wait to see if somebody else plays spades later!
There are other factors that impact the strategy of this game. In the bidding round - the dealer bids last. By the time the dealer bids they know if the round will be a 'fight' for tricks (Sum of the players bids are more than the number of tricks) or a 'toss' (Sum of the tricks less than the number of tricks). Or he/she can make the sum of the bids work out so everyone can in theory anyway satisfy their bid. When required to bid first one doesn't have this information, cards like 10's are difficult to determine, will they win or lose. In a toss a 10 is much more likely to win a trick...of course in a toss one doesnt want to! Thus bidding becomes an art form and strategy needs to be learned as to how to manage getting rid of cards that 'look like' trick winners when you dont want to win and creating winners when you need that one more trick!
Scoring - After each hand/round is played, scoring takes place. A player making their bid exactly gets 20 points + 10 points for each trick won (bid zero - score 20, bid 1 - score 30, bid 2 - score 40 ...).
However, for each trick away from the bid (plus or minus) a player loses 10 points. The player with the highest score after the last round is the winner.
Comments - There are many things at play in this game even though the mechanics are easy to teach. For example, timing when to win your tricks. DO you save your high cards for the end....be careful somebody may have a Wizard and mess things up. It is advantageous to play last to a trick. If the person on your left has bid for many tricks, expect them to get the lead and bid accordingly. Dont be overly anxious to collect your trick with a Wizard. While leading a Wizard guarantees winning the trick, it allows all of you ropponents the opportunity to play ANY card they want to get rid of - even a Wizard which would have potentially given them a trick they no longer wanted!
IF you enjoy trick taking games, but dont have 4 for bridge, or you dont want to learn its more complext rules, definitely try Wizard. If you like strategy games over luck definitely give Wizard a try. If you'd just like to play a challenging game that moves right along with a little bit of table talk, yes even you can give Wizard a try! I have played eaily hundreds of games and will never grow tired of this winner!