Fsssshhooooow! From the other end of the dark corridor, a fireball whips straight at you. With a whisper, you raise your staff just in time to cast your shield as the blazing inferno shatters on the translucent field. Suddenly the wall next to you explodes revealing another wizard readying his own attack. Thinking quickly, you transform yourself into an enormous golem, smashing through everything in your path with one hand as you clutch a small treasure chest in your other.
Wiz-War pits up to 4 wizards against each other within a mysterious underground chamber in a test of skill, power, and cunning. Wizards rush around the underground maze, casting and deflecting spells as they seek to capture their opponents treasure first, or at least survive long enough to be the last wizard standing.
How it Works:
Each player controls a single wizard on a board divided into a square grid. Each turn, players may move their wizard, play any number of utility spell cards and item cards from their hands, and make a single attack using either their bare fists, a weapon or item (usually enchanted), or by casting a powerful spell. At the end of their turn, players get to draw new cards to refresh their hand.
The goal of the game is to sneak into your opponents home base, steal a treasure, and bring it back to your home base. Each treasure captured is worth 1 point. In addition, you can earn a point by killing another wizard. The first player to 2 points wins the game (or, alternately, the last player standing if all other wizards have been killed is the winner.)
The goals are straightforward but nothing comes easy, as each player has a host of spells, magical items, and enchanted weapons to help them accomplish their tasks and make things more difficult from the other players. Spells range from summoning stone blocks to block up a passageway, to floods or walls of fire, to self-transformations into stronger, faster, or sneakier forms. Some spells are permanent; others instantaneous. Some affect the whole board while others require line of sight. Some are direct attacks, others allow for escape via invisibility or simply by jumping through solid walls.
How it plays:
Wiz-war is delightful. Delightful, I say! It is colorful, action-packed, fast-paced – everything you would expect from a game about an underground Wizard duel.
The game lasts about 30 minutes or so if all players are experienced; definitely less than an hour, with teaching, for newbies. It’s just so simple and straightforward, there aren’t too many “tricks” or finicky rules. It’s the spell cards, which are clearly written and excellently illustrated, which offer all the twists and turns.
Okay, I do have one complaint about the rules. Because in a sense, there a couple finicky rules; and one that, if ignored, is a game breaker. Picking up any object requires 1 movement point; however, when picking up a treasure, this immediately ends your “move and cast” phase, so no more spells or movement. Without that rule it’s way too easy to zip in and out with a treasure and it breaks the game, but since it’s unique to Treasure, it’s an easy rule to miss. There are a few other finnicky things, but every game has something, and nothing else is as game-breaky if you do it wrong.
The problem here really is in the rulebook, not the rules. Fantasy Flight Games isn’t exactly known for the best rulebooks in the world, but this is one of the worst I’ve seen. Not because of misprints or confusing rules; the problem is, it’s way too long. Now a lot of games have long rulebooks and I’m not against that as a rule, but in this case it’s longer than it should be. Did you notice how I explained this game in about 3 paragraphs? About half a page. The 20 page rulebook for Wiz-War is so messy and so wordy, it becomes really easy to miss small-but-important rules like the aforementioned taking-a-treasure-ends-your turn rule that totally broke our first game. When writing rules, conciseness is as important as clarity, and sometimes those little rules can make the difference between a game that is fun and a game that is stupid. Rulebooks don’t need to be packed with flavor; especially in a game like this, where the art, cards, tokens, and minis fill the gameplay with all the tastiness you need. I know I’d rather not be in and out of the rulebook during play; Even a concise summary with callouts to the finicky rules could solve most of the problems, but it’s just not there.
Okay, end rant. Once you get the rules down (or at least 1 person gets the rules down, after which they can explain them much more easily to everyone else), the game is a blast. The spells available are creative and often interact in interesting ways. The game keeps up the pace so things will be blowing up left and right and Wizards race for the victory. The goodies packed inside are tip-top FFG quality that you would expect. You’ve got plastic minis with interchangable colored bases to represent the wizards and the various forms they might turn into; dozens of tokens to represent items, markers, obstacles, and destruction; convenient dials to track health easily and a wide variety of colorful cards. Even the board comes in 4 pieces, double sided, allowing you to change up the map (slightly) – not just during setup but midgame with certain spells as well. Different spell decks can be used to switch up the types of spells that pop up during the game to add re-playability. And despite my complaints about the wordy rules, the last page before the index includes a nice list of variants or optional rules to switch things up – also a common feature in FFG games.
You’ll get to do some pretty cool stuff during any given game; flinging fireballs, stringing a slew of neutral spells to concoct a crazy escape with your opponents treasure, or concocting a clever trap for your enemies. You’ll be laughing and shouting as someone pulls off some zany stunt, even if it’s against your own wizard, because it’s just fun.
My major complaint about the gameplay itself is that there is player elimination. This is one of my least favorite elements in ANY board game; however, Wiz-War plays fast enough that most eliminations will happen right near the end of the game. In fact, killing off another Wizard hastens the endgame. It awards a point to the attacking Wizard AND leaves an entire home base unguarded for that wizard to snatch up a treasure and make it home for the win (remember, it only takes 2 points to win the game). 2 points may seem like a low score, but it makes the game last just long enough; eliminations aren’t painful and the game often ends just after a perfectly timed climactic moment. It shows up quickly, makes a scene, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
If you’re into slow, thoughtful euros, or long tactical invasions with enormous armies, this may not be the game for you. But if you’re looking for an action-packed combat experience with humor, color, and a variety of cool powers, Wiz-War hits on all fronts.
Side note: I have never played earlier editions of the game, although some of the variant rules are marked to indicate that they are from the original version of the game. If you like the original, you have the rules to play it that way, but it appears to me that many of the new rule changes reduce elimination and increase the level of strategy. But that’s just a face value judgement.