Welcome, welcome. ‘name’s Jansen. Boy look at you. Whooo man, they are gonna have a field day with…
…anyway, you’ve managed to make it to the big stage, eh buddy boy? Good for you I guess. Your funeral. If we still did funerals that is… However the hell you did it, it’ll take lot more of your whoosits to survive in the prime time. This ain’t the same as tumblin’ with some local no-name cracked-out sorcerer.
Wait, what did you ask? Where are you? Seriously?
This is Mount Skullzfyre kiddo. You’re in the elite forces now. Well, you’re here at least. Can’t say I see anything elite about you…
How- wha? Look, I’m not a storyteller sonny. I’m just the guy who gets you Battle Wizards geared up. Speaking of which, you better get ready – the next round starts in 5 minutes. Looks like the last one ended early…
In a once-normal world, normalcy no longer exists. Here, the players are well-renowned, incredibly powerful spellcasters called Battle Wizards. Battle Wizards face off against each other in perpetual competitions for glory and fame. Or just because. Players in these competitions sling their nastiest spells against the other participants to kill them off, in an attempt to be the last one standing. When players die, they’re resurrected, and the whole process starts all over again. And again. And again. And again…
Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre (yes, that is its actual name), is a card game played out over a series of rounds. As with most card games, there is very little setup. To start, each player chooses one of the named characters and sets their life total to 20. Shuffle and place each of the three card types – Spells, Treasure, and Dead Wizard – in the middle of the players. Each player receives a starting hand of eight Spell cards.
Each round, players assemble a spell to cast on the other players, hoping to kill them all off and winning a coveted Last Wizard Standing token. Players do this by combining up to three different parts of a spell together. The three parts are:
- Source – the beginning part of a spell
- Quality – the middle part of a spell
- Delivery – the end part of a spell
No spell can contain more than one of each kind of component, though there are a few special spell pieces called Wild Magic that can fit into any slot. Most spell pieces also contain one of several icons, such as Dark or Arcane, that can increase the potency of the spell later on. Players place face-down, and then they reveal their spells when everyone is ready. Player turn order is determined by:
- Players who only used one component
- Players who only used two components
- Players who used all three components
Ties for each section are determined by a red circle called the Initiative number, on the Delivery components. If there is no Delivery component, or if there is still a tie, then players roll for it.
Players take turns reading their spell and following the directions of each segment. Some parts have stated damage amounts. Other parts have you roll dice, and the potency of it is determined by the matching icons in your spell. Some spells also allow you to gain Treasure cards: powerful artifacts to aid you.
If a player is reduced to zero life, they die. They discard all cards, items, and gain a Dead Wizard card, which is a card that will help you in the following match. Players continue with casting their spells until they are the only player left. More than one round may be required for this. If so, all the surviving mages draw back up to eight cards and start again. The last wizard gets a Last Wizard Standing token. Then, everyone shuffles their cards and items back into their decks, and the whole process starts all over again. The first player to win two such tokens wins the game.
Just a Little Bit Epic
Right out of the box you should already have a solid idea what you’re getting into. When the cover art looks like a still frame out of the show, “Superjail!”, that alone should be sufficient. If the name and cover aren’t enough of a clue that this game doesn’t take itself too seriously, the two page intro in the rulebook should more than adequately do it. If you’re going to be playing with people unfamiliar with Epic Spell Wars, read those two pages out loud to them.
Now, it may not come across as a cerebral game because, really, it isn’t. Instead, what makes the game shine is its style. From the cartoon-like artwork to the random card draws, it firmly harnesses the feeling of a chaotic, spastic, deathmatch that borders on the absurd.
Then it sprints past that border like a marathon champ.
This is most evident in how the spell delivery unfolds. The mix-and-match spell mechanic allows for an expansive variety of combinations. Some of them will be more potent than others, but there are plenty that are ridiculous in their behavior, their effectiveness, or just in the names / pictures alone. You’ll rarely get the same spell off twice in a single game.
Just casting your spell is occasionally a success in its own right. You start with a table full of Battle Wizards, all ready to throw down, but if things go poorly for you (and it probably will – especially if you’ve already won a match), you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of someone’s exploding fireballs, dark magic incantations, or vorpal blade attacks. Perhaps all at once. After few turns, you’ll quickly feel like you’re surrounded by insane wizards (because, well, you are). Immersionists should certainly enjoy themselves with this.
Oh Look – There’s A Game Here Too!
Sure, Epic Spell Wars could initially come across as an irreverent fantasy-based version of social games like Apples to Apples. In reality, it exists as more of a hybrid game: one part interactive social game, one part traditional card game.
It should be no surprise that Epic Spell Wars is a Daredevil’s sandbox. Any maneuver is fair game, and they have full freedom to toss out whatever wacky spell combination they can muster. Likewise, Strikers will generally enjoy the direct competition the game presents, even if the degree of their success will hinge on what spells they use versus what spells others use.
What may be a surprise, then, is to note that the game does have some strategy. The Battle Wizards Tourism Board may disagree with that statement, but it’s true. There will be times, for example, when casting a one or two component spell instead of a full three is the best thing you can do, and so you have to pay some attention to the other players’ own situations.
There’s also the deciding who is taking a face full of disintegration.
On the surface, it doesn’t come across as a game that Tactician’s would enjoy, and some may not given the randomness of the turns and the generally chaotic decisions made. Yet there should be enough at least for a Tactician to give it a try to see if it suits their own sensibilities. That said, Architects are best to skip this one entirely. This game is all about destruction and aggression (because, you know, battling to the death and all), and that sort of runs contrary to their ideologies.
Epic Spell Wars is also quick: most rounds are over in about 15 minutes, and even if you end up doing half a dozen of them until someone gets their second Last Wizard Standing token, time will pass faster than you realize. Moreover, there’s nothing saying you have to keep going until someone ‘wins’. If things drag on too long, or you’re using it as a filler game, there isn’t the traditional sense of abandonment if the game wraps up before it’s “officially” supposed to. That’s the social gaming side of it coming through.
As with many games, time sensitivity and rules simplicity are a big factor to Socializers. Luckily for them they won’t find difficulty with either here. However, you should not play this if you are looking for a wind-down game, or you’re tired going into it. Much of the game’s entertainment value comes from a certain cadence generated among the players, and if you can’t let yourself be engaged in the silliness, then you’ll be missing out on why it’s so fun. It’d be sort of like playing Pictionary after just losing your job: you probably won’t enjoy it.
Epic Spell Wars is charmingly demented. True to form, the game delivers that combination in a compact little package. It encompasses the zany, wild antics of quick social card games like We Didn’t Playtest This At All with a bit more depth – and a lot more killing. With its modest price and no real learning complexity issues, Epic Spell Wars is a fantastic choice for a hilarious, light game with a lot of character.
Oh, and dead wizards. Lots of dead wizards.
Cardboard Republic Snapshot Scoring (Based on scale of 5):
Rules Clarity: 4
Replay Value: 5
Physical Quality 4
Overall Score: 4.5