I was asked by a friend to pick out one of my favorite games to share with him, and without hesitation I ran to find Wiz-War by Fantasy Flight Games. While it is not always the first game I pull out at parties, it has been one of my favorites to play and continues to inspire me to this day. Imagine if you will, a Fight Club of sorts, full of underground and back alley brawls, but instead of tired blue-collar joes throwing haymakers, it’s highly skilled wizards throwing fireballs, conjuring magical shields, and summoning monsters.
The object of the game is simple: be the first to earn two victory points by knocking out opposing wizards or stealing their Treasure. The real depth of the game comes from the nearly infinite ways you can accomplish this. Each wizard begins in his or her own section of the labyrinth, full of narrow passages and abrupt turns, with two of their own Treasure chests. Additionally, there are six different schools of magic (12 if you include expansions) that players will choose three of to use during the game. Schools represent different styles of play, with Elementalist focusing on powerful earth, wind, water and fire effects, and Conjuring creating walls to block movement or traps to spring on enemies. There is even a Mutation school of magic that allows players to turn themselves and others into powerful and grotesque creatures. Combining these schools by choice or even randomly can make for a very unique experience each time you play.
Wiz-War really excels from its emergent gameplay. One moment, your enemy has conjured a bed of thorns that you laughingly teleport through, the next, you’re blown directly back into it by a cyclone of wind from another wizard. There was a game once where a friend of mine created a column of fire none of us dare pass close to in fear of being incinerated. My friend grew so tired of us ignoring his wall of death and destruction that he mind-controlled me directly into it. Not once, not twice, but three times I was forced by the power of the opposing wizard to walk through the magical column taking massive fire damage with each step. When his turn finally came to an end, I was nothing more than a pile of ash, and lost the game moments later as he stole the last of my treasure. Despite the vicious defeat, I could not stop laughing at the idea of what had happened. The whole game was full of wacky, and foolhardy ploys to destroy and foil one another, and that is exactly what makes the game so fantastic.
The game does come with its own share of shortcomings, which can make it particularly difficult for less experienced gamers to get into. While the diversity of all the magical schools and individual spells can make for wildly different experiences, it can take some time for players to learn and understand each of them and how they interact. It does not help that icons are used to identify the range, speed, and duration of each of the spells, which makes for yet another thing new players will have to memorize. There is also a system that allows wizards to augment the power of their spells with Energy cards, but not all spells can be improved in this way, and it’s not always clear which ones can.
At the end of the day, despite a few barriers of entry, Wiz-War is a phenomenal game full of endless possibilities. The components alone are a thing to marvel at, printed and sculpted on high quality materials in vibrant rich colors. Mounds of uniquely illustrated cards and tokens fill the box along with stylish dials and detailed labyrinth tiles to wage your wizardly wars on. Whether you are having a four player free for all, a team skirmish, or a one on one wizard’s duel, you will always walk away with stories to tell and a desire to play again and again. So dust off your arcane tomes and get ready to magic missile your friends ’til the dragons come home.
If you don’t believe me, check out this spell-binding teaser from Fantasy Flight Games!