Battle for Magical Dominance in ‘Wiz-War’

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Have you ever wanted to have a wizardly duel within the confines of a stone labyrinth? Or unleash your magical prowess on others to prove your mystical superiority? Then Wiz-War is a must-play game for you, where you compete against other mages in an attempt to be the first to steal their treasure or defeat them in this classic game of magical mayhem!

What Is Wiz-War?

Wiz-War is a light-hearted PvP between competing mages who are trying to filch each other’s treasure chests, or just outright disintegrate one another. It’s for 2-4 players with a recommended age of 14+ (although I have seen younger children pick it up), and each game takes approximately 30-60 minutes. In full transparency, Fantasy Flight last published the game, but it is currently out of print. So after I convince you that you need to try this game, you will either have to purchase it on the secondhand market or make friends with someone who already owns it.

Wiz-War Components

Cardboard tokens. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

Inside the box you will find:

  • Rulebook (complete with colored graphics and examples, as well as an index and glossary for easy referencing)
  • 4 Double-sided Sector Boards
  • 4 Plastic Wizard Miniatures
  • 4 Plastic Wizard Bases (1 red, 1 blue, 1 green, and 1 yellow)
  • 5 Plastic Transformed Wizard Figures (for when you shapeshift)
  • 4 Cardboard Life Dials (1 in each player color)
  • 139 Cardboard Tokens, including:
    • 47 Object Markers
    • 4 Portal Markers (what wizardly game would be complete without some teleportation)
    • 8 Treasure Markers (2 in each player color)
    • 20 Crack Tokens (used to represent damage to walls, doors, and other objects; not drugs)
    • 26 Energy Tokens
    • 24 Hat Tokens (6 in each player color, to track spells)
    • 10 Stun Tokens
  • 168 Magic Cards (24 per magic school)
  • 1 Cardboard Random Direction Overlay (used with specific spells)
  • 1 Four-sided Die (also only used with specific spells and in conjunction with the random direction overlay)
  • 4 Plastic Portal Stands
Wizard miniatures. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
Alternate forms miniatures. From left to right: Werewolf, Big Man, Slime, and Golem. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
Portals and life tracker. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

Magic Cards

In Wiz-War the magic cards are divided into seven schools of magic:

  • Cantrip: These are common spells that are known to all wizards in the game.
  • Alchemy: This is the school of creation, specifically, magic stones that will empower you with special bonuses. But beware because they are susceptible to fire, which will destroy them, potentially damaging you in the process.
  • Conjuring: This school specializes in the creation of inanimate objects, like walls… which are very useful to seal someone in a room or block an escape route.
  • Elemental: As its name suggests, these spells focus on the four elements of air, water, earth, and fire. And it also contains everyone’s favorite spell… fireball!
  • Mentalism: This field of magic is the mastery of mind manipulation, allowing you to draw more cards or even steal spells from another player.
  • Mutation: These spells transform a wizard’s physical appearance, allowing him to turn into mist or alter one’s shape.
  • Thaumaturgy: Spells of this discipline have a wide range of effects, and include such classics as invisibility and counterspell.

In addition to the schools of magic, there are several types of magic cards. These are not limited to any individual school but are scattered throughout each one. Types include:

  • Attack Spells: As the description states, these spells deal direct damage to an opponent or object. A player is allowed one attack per turn, which can be in the form of an attack spell, or you can choose to just directly punch an opponent for a point of damage. You know, for those times when a fireball is overkill.
Attack spells. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
  • Counter Spells: These include magic to negate spells or avoid damage. This might be accomplished by creating barriers, becoming incorporeal, or teleporting. This is the only type of spell that can be cast on another player’s turn.
Counterspells. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
  • Energy: Cards with energy symbols on them are used to boost a spell’s damage or duration of effect. The number shown is added to the base value of the card. Additionally, one energy card can be used per turn to boost a player’s base movement.
Energy cards. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
  • Items: A wizard may conjure magical items that are then placed on the table in front of him as carried items. These provide permanent bonuses unless dropped or destroyed, and count against a player’s maximum hand size.
Item cards. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas
  • Neutral Spells: These spells comprise the majority of the magic cards, and a player can play any number of these on his turn. Chaining several spells together to pull off fantastical feats is one of the joys and satisfaction of the game.
Neutral spells. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

Overall, the components are rich and beautiful. The cardboard sector boards, life counters, and tokens are made from thick cardboard stock, and covered with beautiful artwork and symbology, yet clearly understandable and easy to read. Each wizard miniature is also unique in appearance and form so that you feel like you aren’t playing a generic character. In addition, I like the fact that Fantasy Flight included miniatures for the five creatures that you can morph into. Thus, if you transform into a werewolf, simply swap your wizard figure with the werewolf mini on your colored base. And speaking of the bases, each one has a slot to hold a treasure chest token so it is obvious when a player is carrying one. Lastly, the artwork on the cards has a fun, vibrant tone that reinforces the light-heartedness of the game. This is less of a serious duel to the death than it is a crazy, chaotic, no holds barred throw-down where anything can happen.

How to Play Wiz-War

Board Setup

Begin by each player choosing a wizard miniature and starting color. There are no special starting powers, so pick whichever sculpt you prefer. Along with the chosen mage, each player will take the matching color base, sector board, life tracker, treasure chest tokens, and hat tokens.

Then shuffle the sector boards and lay them out with similar sides up to form the battlefield. Depending on the number of players, the board will be laid out differently. In a 2-player game, the board will be a rectangle; in a 3-player game, it will be L-shaped; and in a 4-player game, it forms a square. Use the two sets of portal tokens to connect boards and/or sides not adjacent to each other so that there are equal connections to all players. The portals are similar to Pac-Man, where you can exit one sector board and appear on another at the opposite end.

Next, each player will place her spellcaster in the center of his board, the treasure chest tokens on the treasure symbols, and set the life tracker at 15 health. Separate the various tokens into piles and place them within easy reach (or leave them in plastic baggies, like I do). This completes the board setup, but before you can begin, you must prepare the spell deck.

Board setup. Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

Preparing the Spell Deck

To set up the spell deck, the basic rules recommend shuffling magic cards from the Cantrip school along with three other schools of magic. However, for a truly chaotic game, I recommend using the “Giant Book of Spells” variant in which you shuffle all the spells together into one big deck. Regardless of which path you choose, after comprising the deck, deal five starting cards to each player. You are now ready to begin.

Player’s Turn

Beginning with the starting player and continuing clockwise around the table, each player performs the following phases:

  1. Time Passes Phase: At the beginning of the active player’s turn, she will check for any active effects. This includes resolving any ongoing spell effects; removing energy tokens from maintained temporary spells, indicating that time has passed; and/or removing any stun tokens from herself.
  2. Move and Cast Phase: The player may move up to three spaces. This base speed can be altered by transforming and/or boosting your speed with an energy card. Movement is allowed before or after casting spells and may even be interrupted to cast spells. Additionally, a player may cast any number of spells with the exception that only one attack (either a spell or punching) may be performed per turn.
  3. Discard and Draw Phase: At the end of the turn, the player may discard any number of cards, and then draws up to two cards, as long as she does not exceed the hand limit of seven cards (this includes any item cards already played).

Objective

Play will continue until a player scores two victory points, by either successfully pilfering and placing the other wizard’s treasure chests onto her home square, or by killing other mages. You gain a victory point for each of these actions; however, if a treasure chest is removed from your home square, then that victory point is lost.

Optional Rules

In addition to the basic rules, the rulebook provides alternate rules, such as the “Giant Book of Spells” previously mentioned, that can be employed, slightly changing the gameplay. I recommend testing them out to see which are your favorite.

Why You Should Play Wiz-War

Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

From the moment that I was taught this game many years ago, it has been one of my favorites. The game is quick to teach to those familiar with modern board games, and the premise is simple and enjoyable right out of the gate—steal your opponents’ treasure and/or destroy them by any magical means necessary.

I have played this game at 3 and 4 player counts, and it is a blast at either. The compact board size means that everyone is involved in the action within a turn or two. And that’s where the fun is—interaction with other players. The smaller board size also means that games truly do last the 30-60 minutes advertised on the box. So if you find yourself suddenly trapped in a room, hoping to draw a “Wallivore” spell, it won’t be long before you either conjure your way out, or someone wins and a new game can begin.

All these other great qualities aside, though, the real bread and butter of this game are the magic cards. Discovering how to use the cards to their greatest advantage is where this game shines. Finding card combos that let you quickly traverse the board, create massive amounts of damage, or completely alter the board state is what makes playing Wiz-War so hilariously fun and satisfying. Additionally, the energy cards add strategy and flexibility to the gameplay, allowing you to boost your spells or speed. Saving these for the right moment can be the difference between victory and defeat. And the ability to customize the spell deck means that Wiz-War offers great replayability. Each game’s strategy will be different, depending upon the schools of magic included in the spell deck and what spells you draw.

So shuffle up those spells and get ready to battle it out in Wiz-War! Let me know what your favorite spell combination is. I once combined “Around the Corner” and “Stretch” to reach 9 spaces around a 180-degree turn and nab a treasure chest!

Photo: Michael G. Pistiolas

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Disclosure: This is a game I purchased—it is from my collection. 

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