Review: Wizard Kings – welcome to fantasy battleground
Country Eruthia is caught up in state of war. It started quite innocently. One day an undead man named Rall went to local marketplace, just like any other day. This time, he wanted to buy potion ingredient from a magician, but he did not like the price and without warning pierced the magician on the spot with his long curved sword. Throughout the land, a wave of unrest rose, wizards called for the punishment of the guilty, while zombies pointed out, that they are blackmailed and conspued by the society.
Before long, the conflict spread to other races as well. And as the cry spread, the king made the worst decision, he could. Army intervened. He tried to separate each side of the conflict and succeeded in pushing each one of other side of the kingdom. There are many places now, where malice ferments and matures. Once it overflows built walls, group of nasty opponents will clash. There is no doubt, that the war of races has started and it is only a matter of time, when and where will it happen.
Let’s go together to a focal point of battle. Let’s try to negotiate with these nations and try to unite them. What? Peace is not an option here. Okay, then select side, you want to fight with, and bloody bloodbath can begin.
Wizard Kings game is subtle and little-known fantasy war game produced by Columbia Games Inc. Its authors are Tom Dalgliesh and Grant Dalgliesh. Wizard Kings first emerged already in 2001. But we have a second, revised edition, tuned and published in year 2007. There is not much fantasy war games on the market, because these token games (usually GMT) deal with real conflicts set in human history. The one, we had the opportunity to review, is not very entertaining and quite simple Battle of Four Armies (review). The more were we curious, when Wizard Kings hit our table.
Packaging is unusual – blue nondescript cardboard box inserted sideways into the colored cover, where we can see war raging among many races. The fire-breathing dragon breaths fire, while elf standing nearby shoots at him and there are many simmering struggle across the valley. So the game is removed from the container, like from some drawer. And then you open the lid, which hides four maps numbered from 13 to 16.
Below them, there is a sheet with stickers, rules booklet, perforated cardboard distributable into eight parts, and especially bag full of hardwood tokens, presented in eight colors. For each race, there are exactly eight pieces, creating armies of the various types.
Now the first challenge awaits you – carefully put stickers with unit pictures onto the square pieces. Each race has its own unique units (five or six types). Around this picture, there can be found stars in different numbers – on the first side, there are four of them, on the other three, then two and the last contains none. This may of course vary for some differently strong units, because these stars represent unit strenght and life at the same time. They both decrease with every hit. The number of stars corresponds to the number of dice you throw in case of attack.
Each character apart from that also contains name in the upper left corner, price for its recruiting to the left and another piece of information can be found in the lower right corner – units maximum movement in one round. Following the number, there is also an icon indicating, which environment is homeland for the character – mountains, forests, deserts, cities, but it can also be water creature, amphibian or flying.
And in the remaining corner, there is one pair of letter + number. We will talk about it a little bit more, because its very important stuff. At first glance, it could remind you of some coordinates, but in fact, each of these two characters have different meanings. The letter specifies the initiative in the fight. It determines, when the unit can attack during a battle. For these purposes, there are three quickness levels – A, B and C, where A attacks first and C last.
And what about the digit in the end? This one determines success of the attack. We already know, that for every active power star, you roll one dice during an attack, but how do you know, you hit? The results of all throws must be compared with this number and all values less or equal to this value are considered hits.
We are left only with four white ivory dice and also one sheet of square tokens numbered one, two, five, ten. They are used to indicate money from occupied cities. Thus we can conclude component breakdown and finally can get to play.
However, we go back to the maps for a moment. They show the different parts of the kingdom, filled with meadows, paths, and lakes. In all these environments, your army will fight, defend or retreat. But what is most wonderful is the fact, that these maps can be combined together in any way you imagine – they always stay connected and create a cohesive landscape, which is pretty to look at. It’s just a pity, that they are made out of paper folded in half and not from more thick material, which would truly suit this kind of game.
Less experienced players can choose from one of the prepared scenarios. The first one takes place only on one map, and its used like a little training. It’s called Dead island and it is designed for one or two players. Great thing is, that this scenario also incorporates rules for units behavior, because it can be played only in one player. Creatures are then controlled with an algorithm. They simply attack anything in range, go after you when you are far and run away, when they get weak. But its enough and creates interesting experience.
The rest of the maps can be played in two players and some in more. There are four different scenarios in total found here, including the already mentioned and they contain also layout for each race involved. The first training scenario includes not only a list of units and their power, but also their distribution in cities. Other then leave their positions up to you. Each map contains a number of cities marked with a gold dial – number representing their income.
While the first two scenarios take place only on one map, next two are finally composed out of two maps. Players are randomly throwing the dice for a right to choose map. In each of the prepared stories, you also know why you fight and you always have a particular predetermined force. You only decide, where will be which unit.
Each scenario has its own specific additional rules, which are always clearly described. All these descriptions are, of course, in English, which may be an obstacle for some players. But in that case, you would not be reading this, right?
In addition to the scenarios, you can also play completely your own game, where just randomly determine maps, connect them and choose a race, you want to fight for. This race owns also one magic card, which can you take for yourself, so you are aware of spells to use. This is same in scenarios, although we have not mentioned it yet. Then you finally begin recruiting your forces – this is in addition to scenarios, where the forces are strictly given. Now you have to purchase units with a total of fifty gold. The units have a price written in the lower left corner of the wooden stone.
But if it was final price, you could buy almost a whole box for fifty gold. Instead, this price is repeated for each step of the power (life) of a unit, which you add. Now you see that sheer buying of units is very challenging for tactics and without the right decisions and looking at the map and future possible situation on the battlefield, you are decreasing your own chances for victory.
After you purchase your units, you divide them into groups and distribute forces to defend all your cities. The rules specifically say, that each city must contain some garrison at the beginning of the game – at least one unit. Of course, at this point, their identity is hidden from opponents. So they do not know, how strong forces you have where and even cannot tell apart types of units. This results in many interesting situations in the battle, that occurrs in every war game. It is the same in Wizard Kings.
The entire game consists of moving. At the beginning of each round, all players will moved (if they wish) their units. They walk as many pieces of the map, what unit speed allows them to, but of course it can be less, than that maximum. At the beginning of this phase, players throw the dice and thus determine the first player to begin whole movement. Player can move some or all of his units, followed by the player on his left, and so on, until everyone had a chance to move – if the game involves more, than two opponents.
The movement is influenced by the environment. At the entrance to the forest, swamp or desert your movement ends immediately. Units cannot cross rivers or mountainous areas everywhere, only through designated paths. The effect of these environments varies of course depending on what race you are playing – like amphibians do not stop in swamp and even have a bonus to their fighting abilities, when battle is happening there. Each field has a fixed maximum number of units and other specifics, that make each different maps into different strategic experience.
In a situation, when you step on the hex with one of the opponent’s units, you can slowly prepare yourself for a battle. It will occurs in a moment, now your unit only ends its movement and none of the parties involved can run away from this place. Unless one side has domination, in which case they can withdraw as many blocks, so equilibrium is reached. All units will complete its move and then combat commences.
Players will reveal the strength of their troops, which remained in confidentiality until now. Fight gets evaluated according to iniciative of all units and their side. First to fire are defensive line of type A, then attacker‘s A, and in the same way B gradually over to slowest C. Clash can be played up to a maximum of three rounds, after which the attacker must retreat with defender firing into his back.
We have already indicated above, that each unit has a fighting force denoted by golden stars. Behind each of them is hidden one dice to throw and attack. You count all stars and roll that many dice. You hit your target only in case, when you roll less than or equal number to your own offensive capabilities. Whenever you hit some of the enemy units, it must be rotated ninety degrees to the side with fewer stars. This makes it weaker for next rounds.
At the end of the round, you first calculate income from cities, your army controls. If the number is less than 15, the game continues. Otherwise, you know the winner. You can now recruit new units from the backup for these raised funds, whether it is a previously defeated or completely new character. Each map has a total value of 10 gold, although cities are always spaced differently. To win, you therefore need to fill at least half your opponent’s cities and still defend your own.
The second way the match of Wizard Kings can finish is a specified number of rounds played. On their end, players calculate their controlled cities and the one with the higher value wins the game. Its not K.O., but its still a win.
Wizard Kings is a fantasy war game, which contains everything, what should make such a battle game fun. And it does! The main guarantee of great fun is superbly sophisticated rulebook, with many nice ideas. Game features terrain, you can rearrange and occupy neighboring fields after winning a battle, transport your troops by sea or surprise opponents with spells.
Players never know exactly, how strong the attacking army is. This creates a constant tension in game and makes it really nice and still leightweight simulation. You can expect to find snares and carefully thought-out attacks, which are made just to cover their true intention.
Besides interesting scenarios, you can play the game in any map composition. Players then buy the units, which is another very important element of the whole strategy. Buying more weaker or less strong ones? Additionally, other scenarios are available to download directly to the manufacturer’s website. And there are dozens of various stories and other ideas for the game in each of them!
And there are spells! You can use them, because each army has a wizard among its ranks. And this magic can make a huge difference in a tight and equalled match. So watch out for magic wands!
Wizard Kings game length varies depending on the scenario you play. But most fights do not last longer than an hour, and often it is even a shorter period of time – around 45 minutes. Such combat quickies excel with really interesting experiences, while you have an hour to be completely overwhelmed.
The only drawback Wizard Kings game has is the number of units inside the basic box. You have a great total of eight armies, usually eight units each. If you would like to be able to choose, which forces should you send into battle, you need to buy some expansions. These are available in two variants – either full, which add new races or randomly mixed up ones. This Wizard Kings reminds trading card games in this way.
For the basic combat fun, even those eight units are enough. So you can play many matches, before you really desire to build your own army. In such a case, you can make an alliance of two races and build the assembly from two colors. This is the way we have done it.
Wizard Kings are excellent fantasy war game. It contains a pile of tension and even though at first glance, it does not look so much appealing, great fun is hidden beneath the surface. Final judgement is influenced only by its high cost and more money for expanding armies. And every demanding player will get there to a need to buy. But if you do not care about the costs or you could have fun with the basic box, then you can increase the rating a notch – from good to excellent.
Review: Wizard Kings – welcome to fantasy battleground
Wizard Kings is a war game accessible easily to all players and not just the ones with enough experience, like its usual in this kind of games. You might get little disappointed with its looks, thin paper maps and propably price tag too – its quite high (at least in Czech Republic). Moreover, if you like to enjoy real army building from the start – and its really nice mechanic for it – you must also buy some expansions. But these boxes are filled with random mixture of warriors, one for each army. There is precisely eight nations to choose from (in regular game, more in expansions), which can be lead into battle with you in their front. Every race has not only unique units with their own stats, but also nation-specific abilities, you can say spells. Important role is played also by terrain in the whole game. Until the first battle, your unit identity and strength is hidden from your opponent. The stronger the unit, the more expensive it is to recruit. But with every blow, its getting weaker and you have to rotate it accordingly, with stars corresponding to its state. Units have power determining number of rolled dice, but also a blow effectivity – number, which you have to roll on dice to get a hit. Wizard Kings are going the other way around, than other games – instead of armor on each enemy, you know precisely, what you need to roll to hurt enemy unit. Alltogether, Wizard Kings brings enormous amount of different scenario, each with a story and even ones, which can be played solo. All those tales should guarantee epic experience.