Epic Spell Wars: The Most Ameritrash Game in Years

Epic Spell Wars: The Most Ameritrash Game in Years Hot

3874   0

Wiz War? BAH! This is the real deal.

I have more than a slight bias against card games, generally speaking, so I am generally skeptical that I will like any given card game, no matter how thematic or "elegant" it may be described as by others. Because of this bias, when my "dear friend Bootyanus", or rather, Mark Thomas of Hot Seat Games (designer of several good games) told me that Epic Spell Wars was the undisputed King Shit I was, as usual, incredibly skeptical. As it turns out, he was not only right, but right to a degree that I can just barely comprehend. The game is ridiculously fun.

There isn't really a "setting" to the game, as such, but rather it's sort of like you're in this nebulous wizard duel with other players, basically beating the turds out of one another with bat shit crazy spells. There's not a "point" to the game, it's pretty just slaughter, sold wholesale, and whomever happens to walk away alive is the winner. The theme, however, ah yes, the theme is straight up fuckery. That's probably what I love best about the game, and everyone I've played with tends to agree. It's just a nasty, cut-throat business. It's easily as nasty as Cosmic Encounter but much faster-playing and with much more energy.

The basics of the game are as such: you start with a hand of cards which depict the beginning, middle, or end of the spell, and you must then table one, two, or three cards, none of which can be the same 'part', in order to deliver the spell. The end part has an initiative value which determines which spell is fired first, and then, in order, each player resolves the spell. Last guy standing wins the round, and the first person to 2 wins is the grand wizard, pointy hood not required.

It's incredibly simple, which is a nice change, and it only takes a few minutes to learn. That said, there's a ton of shit going on between the lines, like one-card spells always fire off before two-card spells, which come before three-card spells. If a wizard is killed and there's more than one wizard left, each round she will get a "Dead Wizard" card which grants a small bonus for the next round; a kind of catch-up mechanic, so to speak. There's also treasures that can be had which grant really bad ass powers, but only for the round.

Again, it appears on the outside to be just a dumb, silly game where you play cards and chuck dice, but there's a lot of strategy in the game as well. Knowing what kinds of spells to play at certain times is just as important as rolling well. Yes, there's a bunch of luck in the game, but it's not blind luck because you can mitigate bad luck, to an extent.

You're probably sitting there wondering what the hell I'm on, to like such a dumb, simple game. I'm still in awe myself, to be fair, and especially considering that it's a pure card game. I'm not going to lie to you, pretty much everyone I've played with has been swayed, perhaps unduly, by the egregiously violent and funny art. It's like Sergio Aragones  smoked some crack with the Adventure Time art staff, and then made a game.  This is not for young kids, for sure, but for later teens and adults, it's a total blast. Everyone I've played with totally digs it, and I've never been turned down for a game. At this point, I've played at least 40 matches and I'm still amused by the card combinations and artwork.

Now, there's two sets as of this writing, and while they both stand alone and rock, together they're like motherfucking Voltron combining to cut off some alien monster heads. The second game adds some new mechanics like persistent cards that stay tabled between hands, and "blood" which acts almost like a currency that you can use to boost some spells. If I were to buy one, I'd probably buy the second, but honestly, I bought the first at Origins this year and then after playing maybe 10 times, I knew I had to get more. Not because it was stale, but because I just wanted to see what fucked up shit the artists would come up with next.

The long and short is that if you have between three and six people who are mentally deranged, even a little, this is the perfect way to spend about an hour playing a game that I can't envision disappointing you. If we have any complaint, it's that it may be a bit too light for a "main event", but a little too long for a "filler". It kind of sits in a weird design space from an end-user standpoint, but if you can deal with playing a light-skewing game for a "main event game", then this is a winner. Maybe the art has gotten to me, and really everyone at the Circus, but I'm convinced that the game's merits are what make it so special.

Why Mt. Skullzfyre's Epic Spell Wars Are Magical:
- The art is infinitely entertaining and creative
- Fast play keeps things moving
- It plays good with two, great with 3 or 4, and epic with 5 or 6
- There's so much more strategy here than meets the eye
- This game is exceedingly nasty, and hurt feelings are the norm

Why It's Is King Turd Of Shit Mountain:
- Kitschy is a good word to describe the game, although it works so well
- There's meat on the bones, but it does skew pretty light
- There are some vulgarities, so this is definitely 16+

We love this game. There's a depth that's unexpected in such a light package, so don't let the very light rules dissuade you. This game is the real deal if you're an Ameritrash fan.


Check out this series here, because it's awesome:

Epic Spell Wars: The Most Ameritrash Game in Years There Will Be Games
Log in to comment
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 06:25 by hotseatgames #211553
hotseatgames's Avatar
Great review. Every now and then the game will outstay its welcome but for the most part it ends when it should. I'm now wishing Adult Swim would license it for an animated series. Mark Hamill could be the Bloodomancer. Actually he could play all the characters.
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 10:36 by Egg Shen #211584
Egg Shen's Avatar
I've had great success with this game as well. People just tend to love it and request it frequently. It might be one of the best designed "take that" card games. It's so confrontational, but it manages to do it in a way that doesn't make people feel like shit. It has to do with the clever way the spells target players and how you get bonuses for dying quickly. Plus like Pete says, there is lots of stuff to think about. Do you go all out and hope to cast a nasty 3 card spell? Do you need to heal before everyone else attacks? It's not just play cards and see what happens. When choosing a spell you usually are thinking about a few different things based on the current state of the game.

Nice review, this game doesn't get talked about too much anymore.
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 11:29 by SuperflyTNT #211591
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
This Miniature market thing has kind of been detrimental to the Circus because my new job is much more of a time sink than my last. I'm going to try to do at least one a week and post it here as well.

It feels good to know that we were missed!
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 11:36 by quozl #211592
quozl's Avatar
Your Wiz-War line at the start makes me wonder how this compares. Why do you think this is better than Wiz-War?
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 13:30 by Egg Shen #211602
Egg Shen's Avatar
For me it doesn't surpass Wiz-War because it lacks the board/spatial element. A big part of what makes Wiz-War tick is figuring out how to use the spells and board layout to best mess with everyone else. Did Jack just run down a hall with no exits? Time to warp over near him and encase him into a wall Edgar Allen Poe style. Is Max standing next to a wall of flames? Presto! Mind control and force him to saunter back and for through the flames until there is nothing left by a smoldering hat with a celestial star pattern on it. It's the combination of positioning of the wizards, items, creatures PLUS the spells that give the game a seemingly endless array of choices to make each turn.

At times Epic Spell Wars feels like the card game version of Wiz-War. Since you can combine all sorts of different spell cards it gives you that same, lets see what happens when I do this feeling as Wizzy. Given the choice, I don't think I'd ever choose to play ESW instead of Wiz-War. However, if I'm in the mood for card game where I get to chuck dice and shoot flying testicles at people...well I know what game to play.

Another thing that really makes ESW sing is the lack of rebuttal or counter cards. If I can recall correctly I don't think there are many instances where you can block incoming spells or anything like that. It gives the game some teeth and it's really one of the most confrontational games out there. Still it has this Cosmic Encounter type thing where sometimes it's hard to pick on the leader. Your cards might only let you attack the person to your left or the weakest wizard. So the gang up on the leader thing isn't as pronounced. It really makes quite a few smart choices from a design standpoint.
Posted: 29 Sep 2015 13:53 by boothwah #211607
boothwah's Avatar
Love, love, love this game. it is full of buggery. I vote to drag it out whenever we have a lull between big games.

There are a few guys in my gaming circle that usually shy away from "take that" games and really any confrontational mechanics - The kind that always want to play solitaire type euros or worker placement where they can stay in their own headspace. This is good for toughening those namby pamby types up. Like the guys that think taking the last warehouse in Puerto Rico is super confrontational, or freak out when you play intrigue cards on them in Waterdeep.
Posted: 01 Oct 2015 08:04 by JonJacob #211687
OldHippy's Avatar
I had enough money for one more game on my pre paid credit card and this is what I chose (Flick 'em Up was the other), thanks for the review Pete. Nice work.
Posted: 01 Oct 2015 10:35 by The*Mad*Gamer #211710
The*Mad*Gamer's Avatar
Sounds like my kind of game! On my buy list!
Posted: 01 Oct 2015 10:42 by SuperflyTNT #211711
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
Egg Shen wrote:

At times Epic Spell Wars feels like the card game version of Wiz-War.

Posted: 04 Oct 2015 19:25 by Frohike #211867
Frohike's Avatar
After reading this I saw the game pop up on a math trade and threw a bunch of trades at it. Fingers crossed.