Kickstarter Tabletop Review: ‘Lizard Wizard’

Recruit wizards, build towers, cast spells, and summon familiars in the land of Astoria!

What Is Lizard Wizard?

Lizard Wizard is a game for 2 to 5 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 90 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $49 for a copy of the game; there’s also the deluxe tier for $89 that includes metal coins, player mats, and wooden reagent tokens, or you can select add-ons individually. The game is similar to Raccoon Tycoon but adds a few more things, so it’s a slight step up in complexity, but the rules are still fairly easy to learn.

Lizard Wizard was designed by Glenn Drover, published by Forbidden Games, and was illustrated by Annie Stegg Gerard and Jacoby O’Connor.

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

Lizard Wizard components. (Screenshot from Tabletop Simulator)

Lizard Wizard Components

Note: My review is based on a limited prototype copy and through playing it on Tabletopia, so it will include a mix of photos and screenshots, and some things will change between the prototype version and the final game. Stretch goals may add more components to the game, though I do not have a full list of those yet.

Here’s what comes in the game:

  • Game board
  • 210 Reagent tokens (30 each in 7 types)
  • Start Player token
  • Gold Coins (in denominations of 1, 5, 10)
  • Mana coins (in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20)
  • 28 Wizard cards
  • 28 Tower cards
  • 35 Familiar cards
  • 52 Spell cards
  • 54 Reagent cards
  • 51 Dungeon cards
  • 5 Player Screens
  • 20 Achievement tiles
  • 4 Summoning Circle miniatures
A few of the wizards. Thaumaturgy must be the school of magic that involves cheating at bowling. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The components should be pretty similar to Raccoon Tycoon: the Wizard, Tower, Familiar, and Spell cards are all tarot-sized cards, which show off Annie Stegg Gerard’s detailed illustrations of the various lizard wizards and their familiars. There are 7 classes of wizards, each represented by a different lizard and each favoring a different familiar. The portraits look like they’d fit well on the covers of a fantasy book series, and have a classical fine-art style.

The bottom half of the board is wonderfully illustrated, but is covered by cards during play. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The dungeon cards and the board itself are (I think) illustrated by Jacoby O’Connor, in a more cartoony style. This is similar to Raccoon Tycoon as well, and although I do like both styles, I don’t necessarily think they really fit with each other, particularly the dungeon cards. Also, the tower cards all have identical illustrations, just with a different color to match the wizards—it would be nice for those to have unique artwork since everything else in the game is individualized by magic type. [UPDATE: I was informed after the review was published that the tower cards were placeholder artwork and will be replaced in the final game with Annie Stegg Gerard’s illustrations. The dungeon cards may also get new artwork as well—follow the Kickstarter campaign for the latest!]

Various treasures can be found in the Dungeon. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I believe the reagent tokens will be cardboard in the base game and printed wooden tokens in the deluxe game. The coins will be cardboard in the base game and metal in the deluxe game; those who didn’t like the paper bills in Raccoon Tycoon will be happy to see this replacement. And if this meets the same funding levels as Raccoon Tycoon, then the start player token will likely be an enormous wooden meeple again, this time of the blue lizard wizard seen on the cover.

How to Play Lizard Wizard

I don’t have a full rulebook link, but the Kickstarter page has a summary of the rules, as well as a “detailed gameplay” section. You can also try it out on Tabletopia.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to score the most points—through wizards and towers, matching spells, and collected gold and items.

Lizard Wizard starting setup. (Screenshot from Tabletop Simulator)

Setup

Set up the board in the center of the table. Place one of each reagent at the bottom of the corresponding mana track. Depending on the number of players, you will remove certain wizard cards, tower cards, and familiar cards. Shuffle the wizard deck and reveal the top 2. Set up the tower deck and the familiar deck so that cheaper cards are on top and more expensive cards are on the bottom. Reveal 1 tower and 2 familiars. Shuffle the spell deck and reveal 4 spells. Shuffle the dungeon cards and set them face-down.

Create a supply with all of the reagent tokens, mana coins, and gold coins.

Shuffle the reagent cards, and deal 3 to each player. Each player starts with 20 mana. Finally, the start player takes 1 reagent of their choice, the second player takes 2 reagent, and so on. Give the start player token to the first player.

Gameplay

On your turn, you may take one of the following actions:

  • Gather reagents
  • Convert reagents to mana
  • Recruit a wizard
  • Research a spell
  • Build a tower
  • Summon a familiar
You get to take 3 reagents shown on the top of the card, and increase the mana value of the reagents on the bottom of the card. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Gather reagents: Play one of your reagent cards. You take three of the reagents shown in the top section of the card. You also gain one reagent for each wizard you have, as noted on the wizard card. Then, for each reagent pictured in the bottom section, that reagent moves up one space on its mana track. (Draw back up to your hand size.) You may have a maximum of 10 reagent tokens at the end of your turn, and must discard down immediately if you have too many, though this limit may be increased by towers and spells. After gathering reagents, you may cast one spell.

The top half of the board tracks the mana values of all the reagents. (Screenshot from Tabletop Simulator)

Convert reagents to mana: Return any number of one type of reagent back to the supply. You receive the current mana amount for each token spent. Then, the mana level decreases 1 for each token sold.

Each wizard has a magic type, as well as a reagent specialty. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Recruit a wizard: You may choose either of the two available wizard cards and start a wizard’s duel (known in muggle terms as an auction), bidding with mana. Bidding continues until all players have passed, at which point the highest bidder pays the mana to the supply and takes the wizard card. Note that if you do not win a duel that you start, you get another turn, which may be used for the same or different action. Draw a new wizard card and place it face-up.

Some spells give you ongoing effects once cast. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Research a spell: You may spend 5 mana to take one of the face-up spells. If you have the reagents to cast it, you may cast it immediately. Otherwise place it face-down near you to indicate that it hasn’t been cast yet. Some spells are cast once for an ongoing effect; some may only be cast once per game, and some may be cast multiple times. Draw a new spell card to refill the offer.

Ideally, you want sets of the same magic type; here’s an example of several Enchantment cards. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Build a tower: You may spend reagents or gold coins to build the available tower, placing it in your playing area. Reveal a new Tower card. Note: Your reagent storage increases by 1 for each tower you own.

There are multiple copies of each familiar, but they get more expensive as the game progresses. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Summon a familiar: Spend the mana shown on a familiar card to summon it. Each familiar immediately lets you take an action, chosen from these four:

  • Refresh the spell offer: put the face-up spells on the bottom of the deck and reveal four new spells. You may take one of them for free (and then refill the offer).
  • Gather reagents and cast spells: take the reagents shown on the familiar card; you may now cast any number of your spells that you can afford.
  • Gain gold: Gain 1 gold per card that matches the magic type of the familiar (including itself). Cards that can match include wizards, towers, familiars, and spells (whether or not they’ve been cast).
  • Enter the dungeon: draw cards from the dungeon until you’ve taken 2 hits (by drawing monster cards) or you decide to stop. If you take 2 hits, you don’t gain any of the dungeon cards this turn and everything is shuffled back into the dungeon deck. If you stop, you gain gold for any gold cards drawn (and discard the gold cards), and keep any item cards drawn. Monsters are shuffled back into the deck.
Monsters have classifications, each of which has a few different types. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

During your turn, if you meet any of the achievements, you may take the corresponding tile. Achievements include acquiring a number of a reagent, magic type, wizard, tower, and so on.

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Game End

The game end is triggered when the wizard, tower, spell, or familiar deck runs out. Finish the round so that everyone has had the same number of turns, and then the game ends.

I managed to collect a lot of spells matching my wizard-tower pairs, but failed to grab any achievements. (Screenshot from Tabletop Simulator)

Score as follows:

  • Every matching wizard-tower pair is worth 10 points.
  • Every non-matching wizard-tower pair is worth 5 points.
  • Any leftover wizards or towers are worth 1 point each.
  • Every spell card  that you’ve cast that matches a wizard-tower pair is worth 3 points.
  • Gold coins are worth their value in points.
  • Some spells are worth points if they have been cast.
  • Players score points for having the most items from the dungeon: 10 for most, 5 for second-most.
  • Achievements are worth 10 points each.

The highest score wins—ties go to the player with the most money.

Some spells will earn you more points if cast. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

What’s New in Lizard Wizard?

As I mentioned before, Lizard Wizard is built on the same system as Raccoon Tycoon, but it’s not a simple re-theming of the game, and it introduces a few new twists. You can read my review of Raccoon Tycoon here, and I’ll start with an overview of what’s different.

Some of the card types are roughly equivalent to cards in Raccoon Tycoon: railroads became wizards; towns became towers; buildings became spells. Instead of commodities, we have reagents. Mana is currency instead of dollars (though Lizard Wizard also includes gold coins). However, when it comes to the gameplay itself, only the reagent cards (comparable to the price & production cards) function exactly the same way: you play a card to gather resources, and then increase the value of the resources on the bottom of the card.

Wizards do not have minimum bid values, and you’re no longer collecting sets of the same wizard type. Instead, you’re trying to pair up wizards with matching towers and spells. It’s similar to the way railroads were worth more when paired with a town, but now the magic types come into play. In addition, there’s a synergy that happens if you focus on a particular magic type: the wizard gets you more of that reagent, which is used both to build that particular tower and in casting those types of spells. And the familiars—new to Lizard Wizard—can either get you even more of those reagents or help you score points for having cards of that type.

The spells are somewhat like buildings, in that they give you various benefits, from ongoing abilities to end-game bonus points, but in this case they cost mana to purchase and reagents to activate, so it’s a little trickier to get them into play.

Some spells will help you gain more from dungeon delving. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The dungeon is totally new and doesn’t have an analogue in Raccoon Tycoon, adding a little press-your-luck element to the mix. So far in my few plays of the game it hasn’t played a significant role yet, but depending on which spells come up for offer, there are plenty that can make dungeon delving more advantageous.

The achievements are also new to Lizard Wizard, awarding points to the player who can be the first to collect enough of a specific thing. The achievements are worth 10 points each, so they definitely affect the demand for the four different requirements, which can change how the game feels. For instance, if the 100 mana achievement is in play, players will have to decide between hoarding mana (which will probably result in a lot of collecting and selling reagents) and spending mana on wizards, spells, and familiars.

Finally, your resources are entirely hidden from other players in Lizard Wizard, so they can’t tell how high you’ll be able to bid on a wizard, or whether you’re about to cash in a stack of reagents for a bunch of mana. [UPDATE: I was incorrect: your money is hidden, but your reagents are not.]

Why You Should Play Lizard Wizard

Lizard Wizard takes the core concepts of Raccoon Tycoon—a resource market where players drive the values—and adds some new ingredients to give it a magical spin. The set collection has shifted from acquiring several of the same railroad to focusing on schools of magic across the different types of cards. It’s not enough to just play the market and build up currency so you can outbid the other players for wizards; now you need to pay attention to matching towers and spells, and then use familiars to score big once you’ve built up a big collection. I like the way that wizards help you collect the reagents that benefit their magic type: ideally, this means that recruiting a wizard gets you a leg up in building the matching tower and casting spells of its type.

The familiars and dungeons—the two new elements in Lizard Wizard—don’t simply add a couple more things to collect, though. They broaden the scope of the game so that you have to consider other possible means to score.

Each magic type has a specific familiar associated with it. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The familiars themselves present you with four choices (only 3 were printed on the prototype cards). Entering the dungeon could be worth a lot of points, because having the most items is 10 points, plus whatever gold you manage to collect; of course, you could also have bad luck and score nothing at all because you take 2 hits. Using a familiar to collect reagents and cast spells could be great if you haven’t been able to get the right reagent cards in your hand, but is it worth the mana cost? You can use a familiar to wipe the spells offer and then take a new spell, but that may be more useful as a defensive move, if there are spells that you don’t want other players to have, but you don’t feel like buying them for yourself.

Using a familiar to get gold is the only function that guarantees you score points, but the value will depend on how well you’ve already built up that magic type, whether through wizards, towers, spells, or even other matching familiars. If it’s the first card of its magic type that you acquire, it’s only worth 1 point (not 2, as on the prototypes). On the other hand, if somebody else has built up a big collection of Alchemy cards, maybe it’s worth grabbing that Alchemy familiar before they have a chance.

In the games I’ve played so far, dungeon delving hasn’t been quite as popular, but I’ve tried it a few times. There are several spells in the deck that can help you get more out of the dungeon, whether by protecting you from certain classes of monsters, or letting you take extra hits, and so on. There is a limit to how much you can score from the dungeon, though: monsters typically will get shuffled back in, which means the dungeon gets worse and worse as more treasures are taken from it. Also, you don’t score per item, so once you have more than everyone else, the only additional benefit you’ll get is from finding gold coins. Dungeons probably aren’t enough to win you the game, but they could make the difference in a close game.

Some spells let you attack other players. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Lizard Wizard also allows for some direct player interaction in the form of spells. There are various spells that let you play nasty tricks on your opponents like stealing things or destroying things or even shutting you out of the dungeon entirely. There is at least one protection spell in the deck, so if you’re worried about your rivals, you may want to stock up on sulfur so you can cast it. If your gaming group isn’t a fan of the direct attack cards, the rulebook provides a list of them so you can remove them from the deck.

Other than the spells, most of the player interaction is simply in the supply and demand of various cards and reagents. If you sell a reagent and tank its value before another player can, then you deprive them of mana, which can then help you outbid them on a wizard. Getting your hands on a tower, familiar, or spell that could benefit somebody else is another example of that. And, of course, there are the wizard duels, where all the various auction tactics come into play, including driving the price up on something you don’t really want. The achievements also create a race for certain things: they can raise the demand for a particular magic type, or for spells in general, or players might be tempted to hoard mana instead of spending it.

Is it worth getting Lizard Wizard if you already have Raccoon Tycoon? If your gaming group is happy with Raccoon Tycoon and doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything, maybe not. Or, if you simply prefer the world of rail barons to wizards and you don’t care for the magical theme, Lizard Wizard may not be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you like Raccoon Tycoon‘s system but want to see more variation, Lizard Wizard is a step up in complexity, and has enough tweaks to be its own game. I thought at first it would feel like just a thematic reskin, but it does feel like it opens up the game in a few different directions. I’m not necessarily good at it yet, but I like that extra challenge.

For those who haven’t played Raccoon Tycoon at all, I think Lizard Wizard is easy enough to learn that you can dive right in; the rules themselves are pretty simple because you only take one action per turn. There are a few more options to keep track of in Lizard Wizard (especially since the familiars themselves are four different actions), but each individual action is pretty straightforward.

The gameplay and the theme mesh in certain parts but not in others. Gathering ingredients to cast a spell or convert them into mana makes sense; increasing and decreasing the mana value of ingredients seems a little odd. And who sends a party of just wizards into a dungeon, right? Parts of it do feel a little more like an economic game, though it’s hard to say how much of that is colored by my own previous experience with Raccoon Tycoon.

Due to lockdown restrictions and some difficulties with Tabletopia on my old computer, I was only able to play Lizard Wizard a couple of times so far, and I definitely think it would be easier to play a physical version than the digital, simply for all of the manipulation of the resources and coins. Even so, my fellow players and I have all enjoyed the game and found it engaging—it encourages competition and can get pretty cutthroat, depending on your gaming group.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Lizard Wizard Kickstarter page!


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This post was last modified on July 31, 2020 7:24 pm

Jonathan H. Liu

Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit. I can be reached at jonathan at geekdad dot com.

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