Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre


Welcome back to Tabletop Tuesday!  This week we played Cryptozoic Entertainment's Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.

How's that for a game title!?

And this game is just as crazy and fun as the title implies.  In this post, I'll tell you a little bit about how the game is played, what I like and don't like about it, and how it fares as two-player game.

Hit the link to learn more about Battle Wizards!



Battle Wizards is a pretty straightforward turn-based spell casting card game.  It was released in 2012 and is recommended for 2-6 players.  If you like the artwork of many recent Cartoon Network shows, you will enjoy the aesthetic of this game - the artwork is by Nick Edwards, who has worked on Adventure Time and Uncle Grandpa.

The Game
The game is played in rounds, with each player taking one turn per round.  Each player takes on the role of one of the Battle Wizards.  There are 8 wizards to choose from.  I like to play as Lady Lazervere of the Space Kingdom or as Princess Holiday & her Furicorn. (I wish I had a Furicorn IRL...) The wizard a player chooses has no influence over the game, does not grant the player any special abilities, and does not change the outcome of any spell cards.

Four of the eight playable characters

Each player starts the game with 20 hit points. These are kept track of on the back of the character cards, with players adding and losing points as spells are cast. The game is over once there is only one wizard left with any hit points.  That wizard is awarded a Last Wizard Standing chip, and the next game begins. The rules suggest playing until a single wizard/player wins two Last Wizard Standing chips. That player then wins the match. Depending on the number of players and how the random attacks go, this could mean a match is over in three games or five, or even more, and makes for a fun afternoon of gaming.

Hit Points and Last Wizard Standing Tokens

Each player turn consists of casting a spell. This is done using the Spell Cards in the player's hand. The base spell can only consist of a maximum of three parts: one Source, one Quality, and one Delivery. The spell can be any combination of one of each of these card types, and a spell can consist of a single card of any type, two cards of any two types, or one of all three.

Spell Cards

The only way a spell can have multiple cards of a single type (Source, Quality, or Delivery) is if the card text on one of the original base spell cards calls for additional cards to be added.  For example, a Source card might call for the player to draw a few cards off the deck and add any new Source or Glyph cards to the spell, creating a longer, more deadly spell.

The Spell Cards a player uses also determine who goes first in a round. The Delivery component of the spell includes an initiative number - the highest one goes first. The number of cards played also influence this order, with players using fewer cards casting their spells before those using more (players with only one Spell Card to play go before players with two, who go before players using all three Spell Card types). Special Spell Cards can also supersede these rules and let a player go first in a round.

Sample Spell, with Glyphs, Card Type, and Initiative marked

Each spell element is categorized under a specific Glyph, or power type. These include Dark, Elemental, Arcane, etc. and make a spell more powerful.  If a card calls for dice to be rolled to determine damage, the Glyph type will determine how many are rolled.  The card text can also call for damage to occur according to how many Glyph types are present within the spell.  It is up to the player to use these Glyphs strategically, pairing their Spell Cards to maximize damage to their foes.

Sometimes a player will receive a Treasure Card as a result of a spell. These items give the player additional abilities, such as adding dice to a roll, allowing a re-roll, or adding Glyphs to a spell.

Treasure Cards

The third kind of card players will encounter in this game are the Dead Wizard Cards. Since Battle Wizards is played in a series of games, at the end of a game the winner receives their Last Wizard Standing chip and everyone else gets a Dead Wizard card.  These cards grant additional health, Treasure cards, or other boosts to the players who just lost, giving them a bit of an edge at the start of the next game.

Dead Wizard Cards

Battle Wizards as a Two Player Game
Since we often have trouble finding groups of friends to play board games with, The Boyfriend and I like to buy games that work well for two players.  Battle Wizards, unfortunately, is not balanced for two players, even though the suggested number of players is 2-6.

Problems with a two-player game:
The game ends when one person is out of hit points, and this happens much faster when all of the damage is picking away at a single player's pool of hit points.  Game elements like initiative have less influence, since there is only one other player to beat for the coveted first turn during those crucial, game-deciding final rounds when everyone's health is low.  I have been bested in three rounds before simply because The Boyfriend got to cast his spell first each time.

Playing with three or more players helps mitigate these problems, since spell damage referencing specific players (the player on your right, your strongest foe, etc) is divided among the foes and not focused on a single player.

Balancing a two-player game with extra characters

With this in mind, we have started playing our two-player games as four-player games - with each of us commanding two wizards. We orient our characters so they are side-by-side, like in the image above. This layout makes it possible to hit our own second character as well as the other player's. We also play until a single character has two Last Wizard Standing chips, not just the player.

Of course, we try to use Spell cards that limit the damage to our second wizard, but sometimes it is inevitable and this makes the game seem like it is weighted a bit more equally.  The games also last longer - we use half the deck of Spell Cards for each round on average when we play this way.  It's a bit more complicated, but loads more fun.


Conclusions:

Replay Value: This game has a high replay value, since winning takes luck and strategy. A poor hand can quickly turn a game in another player's favor. The variability in spell combinations and number of players also contributes to the replay value of this game. The humor or artwork might be off-putting to more conservative players, though.

Price: The game retails for $30.00. This seems on par with similar card-based games. Considering how portable, easy to learn, and replayable it is, I think Battle Wizards is very fairly priced.

Learning Curve: This game is very easy to learn. The rules are a little hard to read, due to the art style and font, but you shouldn't need to reference them much once you have a few games under your belt.

Overall, I think this game is a lot of fun and I am glad we bought a copy. We will be keeping our eyes out for possible expansions, and are looking forward to playing this with The Boyfriend's brothers. Because of the humor involved, I am not going to blindly recommend it - instead I will say, if you like what you saw in this post, you will probably enjoy the game, and if you are on the fence, then maybe you should research it (look up card images?) before purchasing.

Thanks for reading! As always, please comment with any questions or suggestions you may have, and until next week... GAME ON!



Parental Advisory - 
The content of Battle Wizards is a little raunchy, and not appropriate for all ages. The recommended age on the box is 15-years and up, but some middle-schoolers could probably play this and have it appeal to their sense of humor and maturity level. There are puns referencing genitalia (eg. the Testikill) and other elements of potty humor, as well as drug/alcohol based jokes (eg. Methy-ion's Backpack of Speed). Basically, if you have kids, use your best judgement.

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