Apparently, being a wizard isn’t all the fun and games that our good friend Mr. Potter has shown us.
Sure, he had to face off and defeat He Who Shall Not Be Named, but he managed to do so while not using one bad word or double entendre.
But that’s not the wizard reality!
I know this, because I’ve played Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre (yes, that is the whole name, and yes, I didn’t want to make the URL of this review take up the entire tweet by putting the whole name in the title).
Designed by Rob Heinsoo and Cory Jones, with art by Nick Edwards and published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, this card game for 2-6 players pits player wizards against each other in…well…epic battle against each other.
You do this by playing spells against each other, and hope that you can get your spell off before you die.
And that can happen quite quickly sometimes.
Each round goes until there is only one wizard left, who then takes a “Last Wizard Standing” token.
Players draw 8 cards and then each person forms a spell that consists of 1-3 cards. The three aspects of the spell are Source, Quality, and Delivery. You can only have one card of each aspect.
The Source is played first, then Quality, then Delivery and together it makes a wonderful spell! And sometimes a hilarious one as well.
Of course, you should say, in your best showman’s voice, the name of this spell you’ve produced. It only adds to the fun (and to the looks you get if you’re playing this in a fancy restaurant).
The order of spell completion is determined first by how many cards each player has used. The fewer cards, the faster your spell goes off. But any ties are determined by initiative (the little red circled number on the Delivery card). Your initiative is zero if you don’t have a Delivery card, and highest initiative goes first.
Some aspects of your spell will require power rolls. You roll a 6-sided die for each card of the same glyph in the bottom left corner of the card (there are two Arcane glyphs in the spell above, for example). You then see the card for what the result is.
Some components of your spell will give you a treasure, and these can be used for the rest of the round. Some will give you one-time benefits and others ongoing ones.
As with the rest of these cards, some are kind of normal and some…are a little risque.
Each player chooses a character at the start of the game (there is no material difference in them, so just choose the one you feel is coolest) and you start at 20 hit points. Wizard spells will do damage to you and if you reach zero hit points, you’re dead!
If you manage to get yourself killed, you take a Dead Wizard card which will (mostly) give you some benefit in the next round. You also draw another Dead Wizard card each time spells are cast but nobody has won the round.
And sometimes when you draw one, you just have to deal.
The first wizard with two Last Wizard Standing tokens wins the game!
Does this game win the war, or sue for peace?
The first thing I have to say about Epic Spell Wars, before anything else, is that it’s not for the timid.
I don’t mean that it’s hard, but if you’re easily offended, then this game is definitely not for you. None of the artwork or terminology is obscene, of course, but it can be risque and a bit off-putting if you’re of the sort who would be put off by that sort of thing. There are a couple of bad words on the various cards and some of the concepts are not to everyone’s taste.
“Crass” is the best word I can think of for it.
That doesn’t bother me at all. I actually find it all quite funny. Yes, I am still 13, why do you ask?
The game is also very random, if that is not your thing either. The cards come up randomly, of course, but also there are dice involved. Sure, you can mitigate that by making sure you have enough of the same glyph so that you’re rolling three (or four) dice, but it’s still pretty random.
But it can make it hard to cast a spell if your hand of 8 cards has 8 Source cards in it.
That doesn’t bother me either. I love random! It’s the only time I can win, it seems.
But I digress.
So if I don’t mind either of those things (though you might), what is my main problem with the game?
This game plays 2-6 players. There is no way in Hell I would play this 5 or 6 players. Even 4 players can take much longer than it really should. We played a 4-player game yesterday (granted, with two new players), and it took an hour and fifteen minutes, and that’s only because it took three rounds before I won. There are a maximum of 5 rounds in a 4-player game (first to two tokens wins, remember).
That is way too long for what really should be a quick card game. I’m not saying that it has to be a 20-minute game or anything, but it does often wear out its welcome before you’re actually finished with the game.
Bad taste jokes can only carry you so far.
Secondly, and thankfully I haven’t had this happen too often, it is possible to have a lot of downtime if you get taken out early while everybody else has high hit points. You can even get killed in the first round, before you get to fire your spell off.
So you not only don’t get to use your spell, but you sit there watching the others play for a little while until the round is over and you can rejoin.
Thankfully, most of the games I’ve played have had wizards eliminated in the same round or within another round of each other, so our downtime hasn’t been bad.
But it’s possible, and it would be terrible if it happened to me.
Well, it would give me time to go to the restroom, but I don’t necessarily like games with built-in restroom breaks.
Finally, what’s with the cardboard mountain that comes with the game? Thematic, sure. But why not use it? (Yes, I’m aware that the expansion does use it)
I don’t want to be totally negative in this review though, because I do really enjoy playing Epic Spell Wars. It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it would make a great drinking game as the yelling out of the spell names gets progressively louder.
Your sense of humour also heads to the toilet sometimes the drunker you get.
You do need to know your fellow players, though. It’s not a game for everybody.
Consider this a qualified recommendation, but only with 3-4 players (I don’t really care for it with two players either).
With the right players, this is the perfect game with which to have a wonderful time.
(Review written after 7 plays)