Este artigo é a versão em inglês da resenha sobre o jogo Wiz-War. Se você se interessa por jogos de tabuleiro eu recomendo ler a resenha em português publicada aqui.
I have always enjoyed playing board games, but like most Brazilians of my age (and those that came before and after us) I grew up with the limited options available here that, generation after generation, populate the game sections of toy stores along puzzles.
If you’re reading this in English you probably had more options than us when it came to board games in your childhood, but here in Brazil our list of board games was limited to The Game of Life, Monopoly, War, Picture This, Combat… and that’s pretty much it. I’m probably forgetting a few games and I’m purposefully leaving a few of the more childish ones out of the list (Pop-Up Pirate and Operation, I’m looking at you) but that list was pretty much what me and every friend of my own age had at home to entertain us when it rained during our holidays and we couldn’t play outside, and that’s why I believe a lot of people of my age have abandoned board games as an entertainment option as playing the same thing over and over again gets old fast.
Thus it is not uncommon today when I invite a “non initiated” friend to play a board game to get a characteristic roll of eyes and a quick “no, thanks!” as an answer. I know it by heart now, I’ve done it before to friends and I’ve gotten that answer countless times by now. No one wants to play Monopoly anymore (even if I was never able to finish a Monopoly game myself).
I don’t know what the problem seems to be in the Brazilian market, but after all these years when I visit the game aisle looking for games to present my daughters with I’m greeted by the very same games I’ve mentioned before. Yes, the boxes look a bit different, sometimes there’s variation on a theme (like Spongebob Monopoly, The Simpsons Monopoly, or WAR Rome) but they’re still the same games.
However, even with the grim scenario I’m picturing, it was inevitable that the “modern board game revolution” would find its way into Brazil. I knew larger city centers in the country already had gaming groups dedicated to them, groups invariably created by people who had travelled abroad and returned home marveled at the sheer amount of options available in the board game industry out there and with a few games inside their luggage, but I had never met anyone who played these games where I lived (until I met Charlie a couple of years ago but that’s something for another article).
My first contact with the new board games came in one of my trips to participate in a Warhammer 40.000 tournament. At that time I had travelled to Curitiba in Brazil to a tournament organized by the “Tropas Polares” gaming club, and as I had arrived a day in advance a friend called Thiago Penteado invited me over to play a few games introducing me to different gaming options I had never heard about (if memory serves me right we played Dominion and Family Business back then). A few months later I visited the friends from CGW (“Clube Gaúcho de Wargames”) for another tournament and there I got to play board games again being introduced to the concept of what was an “Euro” game (with the great Puerto Rico game) and what’s my firm favorite board game genre, the “Ameritrash”, with Battlestar Galactica.
I was hooked and ever since my board game collection has been growing at a steady pace and I have been playing more boards a lot more frequently with my friends in my hometown whenever I visit (hey! I’m even playing board games in the small town I’m currently living in!), which brings us to today’s article, where I introduce board games as yet another subject to the blog with our first board game review about a game I’m quickly getting very fond of: Wiz-War.
Wiz-War first came into my radar when we recorded the board game episode of Papo de Mesa Podcast (unfortnatelly only available in Portuguese) during which the participants talked about their favorite boards and recommended some of them to our listeners. One of the participants, my mate Daniel Lustosa, artist extraordinaire, was quite adamant about Wiz-War being a fantastic game back then, so when I had the opportunity I promptly bought myself a copy of the current edition by Fantasy Flight.
As the name lets on Wiz-War is about combat between magic users, with the winner becoming the master of a prestigious arcane order.
The characterization of the game couldn’t be simpler, getting a single paragraph in the rulebook and the same simplicity is evident in the game’s mechanics where the players (2 to 4 players) controlling different magicians take turns wandering through a labyrinth trying to steal each other’s treasures or blast each other into oblivion in order to emerge as the winner (by being the first to accrue two victory points either by stealing two treasure chests, killing two opponents or a mixture of said conditions – being the last wizard standing also means you’re the winner).
Each player’s turn is divided in three phases, the first of them, called “Time Passes” can be described as a maintenance phase where active spells are checked and other conditions asserted before the game can move on, the second of them is when action really happens when players get to move around the labyrinth and cast their spells (he can cast any number of them, but gets to attack the other players only once) and finally the “Discard and Draw” phase where you get rid of spells you don’t want and draw new tricks for your sleeve from a common spell deck shared by all. This gives us a very dynamic turn, filled with tension as you never know if you’re going to get your spells off as your opponents could be holding a counter spell just to thwart your plans.
But do not let the apparent simplicity of the game fool you. After a couple of games I’m still amazed at the countless strategic possibilities of this game through the infinite combinations between the magic spells from seven different schools (Cantrips, Alchemy, Conjuring, Elemental, Mentalism, Mutation and Thaumaturgy – 168 spells in total) and their effects which drastically increases the game’s replay value. Something I also found very entertaining is the fact that the labyrinth isn’t static and can be altered by the player’s actions as the game unfolds, with walls being destroyed, new walls being created, the board’s position being changed and with perils being added to it.
The game has two expansions, also by Fantasy Flight, the first of them “Malefic Curses” offers the players the possibility of including a fifth player to the base game (and so is a must if you have a large group you play games with) as well as 3 new magic schools (Hexcraft, Curses and Necromancy), while the second “Bestial Forces” not only adds another 3 magic schools (Mythology, Totem and Draconic) but also lets players conjure creatures to fight at their service in the labyrinth.
So even if the game is highly dynamic and strategic, Wiz-War still relies heavily on the luck factor when it comes to drawing spell cards for your magic hand (the luck reliance gets even higher when you add more cards from different magic schools to the spell deck – the game suggests you use three magic schools but there’s an optional rule encouraging you to add all magic cards to the spell deck). That reliance on luck is bound to make some gamers out there frown upon Wiz-War, but it doesn’t bother me a bit (after our first couple of games my friend Ivan did complain about how he would like to have greater control about the spells he’d have in his hand by customizing his own deck of spells – Euro game lover detected I guess).
Another thing I really enjoyed about Wiz-War is that the game uses miniatures, which in my opinion greatly increases the immersion in the game (miniatures are always a welcome bonus in any game if you ask me). Yes, they could be easily replaced by markers or cardboard cutouts, as I believe the first versions of this game used, without altering the gameplay or the amount of fun to be had, but being such an idiot about miniatures I couldn’t avoid mentioning how cool the models in this game are.
It is also worth mentioning how beautiful the game looks as all the artwork in it is exquisitely made. From the manual to the gaming boards and especially the spell cards and tokens, everything is lavishly illustrated which also greatly enhances immersion in the Wiz-War universe.
I was surprised to find out the Fantasy Flight version of the game is its eighth version, with prior editions of the game being published by Chesses and Jolly Games the game’s creator, Tom Jolly, own company. With so many editions Wiz-War is considered by many a “classic” game and if you’d like to read a little more about its creation I’m sure you enjoy Tom Jolly’s article entitled “A brief history of Wiz-War”.
I honestly couldn’t be happier about Wiz-War and about how much fun it is to play. I guess you could say I’ve been charmed by it, and if there’s something bad about it I’m still to find them out. Overall I am very pleased with it.
I’ve recently played a couple more games and I’ll agree with some opinions I read online that the game is even better if you play with some of the original game rules that are now optional with Fantasy Flight’s edition. The “Deadly Treasures” and “Permanent Creations” optional rules made the game a lot tenser and even more entertaining.
And I guess that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the review and if you have the chance to play this game, waste no time and get those spells flying!
Over and out!