Game Review: Battle Wizards

My favorite game publisher isn’t one of the huge ones (although they are fairly prolific thanks to licensed properties). And they’ve made a few great games but nothing that’s blown up to huge proportions (though that may change thanks to Wil Wheaton’s show Tabletop playing a game of theirs in an upcoming episode). You may not recognize their name or any of their content (yet), but in my humble opinion they offer some of the most fun and funny gameplay in modern gaming. This is the first of their games I have reviewed, but it certainly won’t be the last. Not Mayfair. Not Steve Jackson. Not Parker Brothers, God not Parker Brothers. And not even Rio Grande! The publishing company I love the most (besides Proud Mammal (in potentia) of course) is Cryptozoic Entertainment.

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And their logo is cool too.

This love affair with Crytozoic started with the game that I’m going to review today. Already, before I’ve even mentioned what game it is (aside from the title of the article), you can tell that I’m going to be giving this game a big thumbs up, but don’t worry because I’ll tell you what I think is wrong with it too. But there’s really not much for me to complain about, this game has everything that I personally want from a game. It’s simple enough to teach in 2 minutes but has complexities that only come with knowing the entirety of the game, it puts an emphasis on humor in card art and writing AND gameplay, and to top it all off… it’s fun. Welcome to my review of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.

Battle Wizards, as I will refer to the enormously titled game hence forth, is a card based combat game where the goal is to completely annihilate your opponents with silly sounding spells. As I mentioned before, the gameplay is very simple. All you have to do is pick 3 (or less) cards to add to your spell with the only caveat is that you can only have a maximum of 1 of each category of card (Source : Quality : Deliver). That’s all you need to know! First time players will need to be shown what that means, but it’s very easy to grasp and the art of the cards reinforce the order better than any rulebook ever could. There’s also some stuff about rolling dice that might need explaination, but it’s included in that 2 minute prep course, so it’s really not that complex.  It’s all very intuitively designed, just take a look at these cards.

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A thing of beauty.

But I didn’t even get to the best part yet. How damn funny the whole thing is. Some more squeamish players might not find the art as humorous as I do, but I’ve been a watcher of horror movies my whole life, I just get a kick out of over the top gore. For the person with the right sense of humor, this game will make you laugh every time you draw a card. And there’s one more cherry on top of this sundae… “Wizard Voice”. This is the rule that will let you know if you should be friends with the people you’re playing with (or if you should no longer be friends). Players, when they cast their spell, have to assume their best “Wizard Voice” and it’s just the best when people really get into it. It’s enough to give everyone a laugh every time someone plays a spell, which could potentially be every 45 seconds if the game is moving swiftly. Which is damn good for a combat based game. See below for an example of Wizard Voice (kind of).

I can’t remember a time when I played Battle Wizards and didn’t have a great time. It’s a perfect game for beginners but can get really cutthroat if you play with a group who know what they’re doing. I love it. It’s absolutely in my top 5 games (I didn’t really think about what the other one’s might be, soooo… it could rank even higher).

That said, I’m often a nitpicky person and it’s not hard for me to find things in any media I consume that could be changed for (what I believe to be) the better. Just a short list, but here you go.

#1 Include more Health Markers and dice with the game. 1 marker and die for each character sheet would have been very convenient. The game never mentions a player limit, although the ingredients of the box limit you to 6 players. I suppose the players are limited to keep the game moving at a brisk pace or to make sure you don’t have to shuffle the deck every single round, but that burden is on the player, the gameplay itself could handle that many people and there have been times that I wanted it to, but couldn’t because there weren’t enough parts in the box. The same goes for dice, while you’ll never NEED more than the 4 that come with the game, just a couple extra dice would help the game move faster when somebody plays a card that requires everyone to roll. Which brings me to…

#2 Downtime. The game can have lulls where either players who don’t know the game well enough are trying to build spells from their hand (and everyone is waiting on them) or where you’re dead and waiting for the next round to begin. The game tries to nullify the waiting when dead problem by making you stronger the next round (via Dead Wizard Cards that boost your power in the next round), but it’s not fun to die in the first round and have to wait 3 rounds for the game to catch up to you. And when it comes to the player who doesn’t know the deck, well, just wait for them. Eventually they’ll get on level with you, but until that point, cut them some slack.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Battle Wizards. It’s a great game, from a quality company, that you should play all the time. If you have 20 spare bucks and you already own the entire Proud Mammal line of games, books, movies, graphic novels and comics, t-shirts and also have at least a six month supply of our energy drinks, then I wholly endorse giving your money to them instead.

One last thing, I want to give a shout out to the artist of Battle Wizards. His name is Nick Edwards and he does some really righteously cool shit (click the awesome picture below to link to his tumblr site).

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Nick Edwards is awesome.

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