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Let's talk about... Wiz-War

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02 Aug 2014 22:35 #183805 by Colorcrayons
I'm kinda surprised there isn't a thread like this already, since so many folk around here regard this fairly highly.

It's been two and a half years since the latest edition has been released by FFG. With one expansion that adds a fifth player, and another one which adds creatures to the mix weeks away.

How has the game fared for you in this time span? What makes or breaks the game for you?

For me, it has gotten better and better with repeated plays since buying it in feb of 2012. This shouldn't be surprising as most games only get better with repeated play. But this Wiz-War seems special. I have since printed out a set of the Ilya Baranovsky version (a work of art, most surely), so I could see what the comparative qualities between classic and FFG are. I have played 2 games prior to the reprint using one of the chessex versions about a decade ago as well, but those dim memories don't really give credence to comparison.

So the FFG version has effectively been the version I started with. I have to say that I do like the FFG version the best, concerning game play (not to mention component quality, which should go without saying). Which makes me wonder if this game doesn't suffer from Doctor Who syndrome. Being that, your favorite Doctor is always the one you started experiencing the show with (Tom Baker's scarf, bitches).

Having art on the cards has proved beneficial, not only for adding a bit of thematic flavor, but as a visual cue to the card to know what it is at first glance which is even quicker than reading the title. The icons for LoS, types, etc. seem to be a vast improvement as well, for the same reason.

The point of view that counterspells are "bad" and should entirely be removed seems rather naive to me. While I can understand, and even agree, that perhaps FFG added too many of them, and that nobody likes their turn being nullified by a single card each time they cast a spell, I just can't imagine taking them out wholesale. Without counters, then Wiz-War boils down to two cave men standing in front of each other hitting one another with clubs. Two cats in a box. *yawn* You still have essentially the same problem, and that problem is who draws the better card and can play it first.
Counters allow you that maneuvering room. To answer what your opponent casts. It's hard to balance the aspect of which counters to take and keep in the Magic Deck though when you rely on random card draw for the powers at your disposal. So I take a more ginger route when deciding what counters to axe from the decks(s).

Energy is just too powerful for speed boosts as it is in the FFG edition, and I believe that Flash Energy was a ridiculous inclusion when they could have just simply made an optional rule that all energy used to boost speed is reduced by half, rounded up. This solves a greater part of the treasure looting run problem and has worked consistently well. Which also helps make counters more relevant, since the easier win condition of thieving has been restrained. This, and deadly treasures, are the two optional rules which always get used and are no longer considered optional at all.

Some of the older cards I find pretty pointless in the Ilya version, and glad to not see them reprinted (yet anyways). I agree with Christian Peterson that effects that make a player lose an entire turn are fucking dumb. Which is why you dont see them that much if at all in FFG games. So cards like Medusa, No Spell, Trap!, Curse of the litterbug, Cease-fire, Mundane, to name a few can just be best forgotten IMNSHO. I'm not a fan of buddy either, but it can be fun in an aggravating sort of way. Better to be a Buddy than locked in a closet with Oscar Wilde.
That said, I do hope that a few more older cards make it back into the game, as I find the trend for entirely new content distressing since there is such a large pool to glean from. There are some really good cards from the past that NEED to come back. Deja-vu, Fill square with slime, Permawarp, stone to water, animate item, etc. There is a long wish list I won't bother to type out.

The color coding of the boards was a mistake on the part of FFG though, and I beleive to be likely the most egregious error of their edition. It locks out a lot of potential cards that could have been included (such as the one that allows you to switch home base squares with an opponent) and railroads players who enjoy using a specific color. A mistake which they cannot easily fix. :/
Second to that, is linen finish cards. I sleeve my cards, but linen finish wears out much quicker for those who do not sleeve, and the linen finish gives consumers a false sense of component quality. Thats very much nitpicking though, on the cards.

I love it enough that I am even making a second set of Hirst arts boards for the game (this time accommodating up to 6 players instead of just 4), since selling off my original set early last year. Which also solves the problem of color specific player boards, since my home base squares are interchangeable through the use of custom resin magic circles.

I just can't get enough of this game. There have been more laughs playing this than any other game since getting back into boardgaming 8 years ago.
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02 Aug 2014 22:54 #183806 by charlest
I love it. It's great because its over the top and very chaotic. You can do crazy shit like wall yourself in and then swap places with another player.

We play with a large chunk of the counter spells removed. Basically all of the boring ones. We also use permanent creations, deadly treasures, and don't let you move through your own doors. Also play with all of the cards mixed in.

The game is much better with these changes and I think I'd rather not play at all if we didnt use Permanent Creations and thinned counter spells.

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03 Aug 2014 02:52 #183808 by Colorcrayons
That raises a good point about the composition and construction of the Magic Deck.

I find that if you go all out with the "Giant Book of Spells" optional rule, then counters become more problematic. Not only in their use, but in deciding which to keep or axe. I've seen just large lumps of them get distributed to the point where everyone basically has counters and nothing else to do, which causes speed boost runs for treasure since they don't really have any other relevant option on their turn. What else would they do? Throw counters at each other? Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence, but the potential is still there.

It seems that counters are a lot more balanced when going the route of Magic Deck composition that FFG suggest in their current rules (cantrips and three or maybe four other schools).

I enjoy using both rules and haven't really decided which way I like better. I think I side more with the FFG version since it causes less of a headache for me as to which problematic spells to manipulate in the deck with Big Book of Spells. Removing them all is wholly unsatisfactory, and I think which counters you remove entirely depends on which of the other schools that you decide to comprise the enormous deck (assuming you are a bit selective and don't throw in every last school into the deck), which is mostly relevant and becomes more difficult to do thoughtfully, when expansions are taken into consideration.

I am still in the process of trial and error on that. Wall of earth is almost always chosen to be axed first, since it seems to be the most problematic counter regarding interactions with the rest of the cards.
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03 Aug 2014 04:05 #183810 by Gary Sax
Great original post, by the way.

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03 Aug 2014 08:16 #183813 by Jackwraith
I've recently indoctrinated 3 other people to the ways of the fireball. It's the perfect game to play in one of the local breweries around here, since it generates a lot of noise (laughter) and a lot of outside interest. I've also managed to win all 4 games (Wiz-War champion!:
), so now they have extra motivation to keep playing...

We've always played with permanent creations, giant book of spells, and uncluttered minds, which means that we end up with a board loaded down with objects and rose bushes. We've found that the speed boosts from energy generally make the game go faster, so we don't mind it. I have noticed a little frustration among the new players with the number of counterspells, so I might suggest thinning those out a bit. However, our group is so familiar with each other (and has so many ex- or current MTG players) that killing each other is, by far, the preferred method of victory, so we end up with a fair number of deaths, regardless of the counters.

I'm completely geeked about the creature expansion, although the Genie card (I have only vague memories of its presence in early versions) seems a bit OTT at the moment, so I hope there's a way to take control of someone else's creature (although, with only 4 hit points, it won't take very much effort to remove it, either.)
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03 Aug 2014 09:33 #183817 by wadenels
I have the files for the Ilya set (and another different redesigned set) that I've been thinking about PnPing. The completionist in me likes the idea that it's "done" and I'll never need to keep up with expansions or addons. But I've never played the original/redesigned versions; my first dose of Wiz-War was the FFG reprint.

My only beef with FFG Wiz-War is the same as my beef with Wiz-War Talisman: too much stuff. It's great if you like to customize and tailor the game, dig through decks and put in your favorite cards, play with lots of different options, and are generally into a customizable play experience. I'd rather just grab the game off the shelf, not have a thousand cards to deal with, and not worry about which set of options to play with. That's why I'm really happy with my 2nd & 3rd edition Talismans* and have been planning on doing a PnP of one of the redesigns of the older Wiz-War versions. From discussions about exactly this on F:AT in the past I know I'm kind of an outlier in this department.

Wiz-War is a goofy and wild game that I don't feel should be burdened by decisions on which components/cards should be included or excluded. That being said I'm glad it's back in print, but I'm weary of games that have a never-ending expansion train.



* - Full Disclosure: Talisman 2e had a bunch of expansions that I never bought. I PnP'd the whole damn thing about a year ago (which took a really long time) and play with all the stuff all the time, except I usually omit Timescape.
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03 Aug 2014 10:07 #183818 by Colorcrayons
@ Gary, Thanks. :)

@ Jack, I think Null Powder would be a good solution to the problem of an annoying Genie . But then again like you mentioned, it's only 4 HP, so its only as annoying for as long as you allow it to be. Barbara Eden doesn't stand a chance in the face of mystical white powders... Or a good punch to the Hoo-ha.

@ Wade, I know the feeling. I am not an enormous fan of serial purchases, which is why I was rather disappointed by the content given for the price asked by FFG for the malefic curses expansion. Wizwar plays really well just on its own. But I had a moment of weakness and bought it despite my inner tightwad telling me otherwise. I should have waited for the beast expansion, had I known it was going to be released at the time.
The Ilya set grows too, as fans add content to it, so you'll likely be lured in to print out more pages. I too, prefer complete things. I think you just need to draw your own lines. It's going to take some fabulous content to convince me to buy a ton of wizwar expansions (especially at their asking price), and I love the game. I am definitely their target demographic. So far, I'm not dazzled.

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03 Aug 2014 10:10 #183820 by Disgustipater
I bought FFG's Wiz-War after all the positive talk here shortly after it was released. My first game I played with all of FFG's standard rules. While I enjoyed the game, I decided to try all the "optional" rules for my second play. It made the game so much better for me. More chaos and more spells on the board. I also removed a number of counter spells and healing spells (based on a list I found online), which I feel make the game more of a slugfest.

I haven't gotten to play it since Malefic Curses came out so I have yet to see all the new offensive spells it added.

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03 Aug 2014 14:33 - 03 Aug 2014 14:34 #183828 by charlest

Colorcrayons wrote: That raises a good point about the composition and construction of the Magic Deck.

I find that if you go all out with the "Giant Book of Spells" optional rule, then counters become more problematic. Not only in their use, but in deciding which to keep or axe. I've seen just large lumps of them get distributed to the point where everyone basically has counters and nothing else to do, which causes speed boost runs for treasure since they don't really have any other relevant option on their turn. What else would they do? Throw counters at each other? Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence, but the potential is still there.

It seems that counters are a lot more balanced when going the route of Magic Deck composition that FFG suggest in their current rules (cantrips and three or maybe four other schools).

I enjoy using both rules and haven't really decided which way I like better. I think I side more with the FFG version since it causes less of a headache for me as to which problematic spells to manipulate in the deck with Big Book of Spells. Removing them all is wholly unsatisfactory, and I think which counters you remove entirely depends on which of the other schools that you decide to comprise the enormous deck (assuming you are a bit selective and don't throw in every last school into the deck), which is mostly relevant and becomes more difficult to do thoughtfully, when expansions are taken into consideration.

I am still in the process of trial and error on that. Wall of earth is almost always chosen to be axed first, since it seems to be the most problematic counter regarding interactions with the rest of the cards.


I don't like separating the schools of magic because it's a lot of extra work and it makes the game less chaotic - something that has no place in Wiz-War.

We use Ian Allen's suggestions here (halfway down the page he shows what to remove) and it's produced the best possible play experience for my group. Ian really knows the game and was a key playtester for Malefic Curses. He pushed hard to keep the counterspells in that expansion minimal.

Ian's post:
boardgamegeek.com/thread/803845/why-new-...d-my-suggestions-mak
Last edit: 03 Aug 2014 14:34 by charlest.

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03 Aug 2014 15:56 #183830 by Chaz
Replied by Chaz on topic Let's talk about... Wiz-War
I finally just played this for the first time with the wife. I dumped all the spells into one giant deck, and played with the uncluttered minds rule. I dug it, but holy shit does Slow Death put a damper on things. My wife hit me with it on, like, the second turn, and it basically killed the game for me right there. I did some fun stuff with what I had and let myself draw, but eventually my life total was getting low enough that I really couldn't draw any more cards, and my hand was more than half counterspells. She also had a homunculus and null powder on the board, so the attacks I had got nullified. Eventually, I just cast Disease on myself and chased her around trying to do damage until she threw up a wall between us. Finally, she attacked me with a spell I could've countered, but since I was down to 2 life, had no cards that would do anything except delay, and no prospects of getting new cards, I just let her kill me. Seemed more noble than conceding.

I totally dug it, but I'm considering pulling Slow Death out. Seems like the fun is in getting new cards and figuring out what to do with them, while Slow Death's card text might as well read "quit having fun unless you happen to draw a dispell card really soon." Boo to that.
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03 Aug 2014 17:10 - 03 Aug 2014 17:14 #183832 by Colorcrayons

Chaz wrote: Eventually, I just cast Disease on myself and chased her around trying to do damage until she threw up a wall between us.

...but since I was down to 2 life, had no cards that would do anything except delay, and no prospects of getting new cards, I just let her kill me.


*gurgle* "Baby! I love yooo. Give us a hug!" *gurgle*

"Ugh, you disgust me." *Calls the contractors and builds a wall*

*gurgle* Please... just kill meeee.... killlll meeee!" *gurgle*

It's one thing you can say about Wiz-War. Even when the session sucks, there is always a story.
Last edit: 03 Aug 2014 17:14 by Colorcrayons.

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04 Aug 2014 19:22 #183943 by Colorcrayons

charlest wrote: We use Ian Allen's suggestions ... and it's produced the best possible play experience for my group. Ian really knows the game and was a key playtester for Malefic Curses. He pushed hard to keep the counterspells in that expansion minimal.


We've tried those on 9 different occasions. The consensus was that there were seeds of a good idea that could blossom with some refinement.

Ian came to these conclusions after playing two games of the new version, which automatically raised a few skeptical eyebrows within our group. If a game is not fun for someone, then it simply isn't fun. That's how it goes. But the general opinion here was expressed that it was extremely naive to make a wide swathe of blanket variants after merely two games. Especially since these elements existed long before FFG's influence on the game. If anything, the inclusion of counters has been objectively toned down drastically since FFG entered the picture, which also caused more skepticism in the logical inconsistencies of his assertions.

The suggestions just weren't enjoyed by the groups I played them with, who appear to enjoy giving a game design more of a chance to work out its own idiosyncrasies with more than two games before we formed opinions about a design and decide to throw in variants to alter the experience.

Trial and error after 86 sessions so far using my copy (poor beat up thing), in addition to results of games played using their own copies, has yielded more inclusive as well as playable results for us. Though not yet so brazen as to make a public pontification as to what those changes would be, since their alteration seems so situational thus far.

But then again, after this many sessions, we have found counters on the whole to be less problematic and only add or remove them from the magic deck occasionally to fine tune the experience that we feel is already solid and enjoyable overall. Rather than the viewpoint that the game is bad because of their inclusion, as is Ian's rather oft repeated assertion.

Anyways, that's the explanation as to why it wasn't a good fit for us.
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22 Oct 2014 21:25 - 06 Nov 2014 01:04 #189126 by Colorcrayons
This is proposal for an 85 card magic deck which incorporates cards from the Malefic Curses and Bestial Forces expansions. The goal is to remove card redundancy found in the schools, ensuring some uniqueness in the magic deck composition using the expanded pool available, as well as giving a more concentrated experience for those who are either beginning or infrequent players of Wiz-War, while still being fun for vets to play.

It mimics the "big book of spells" special rule in a way, yet is more deliberate and calculated in how and with what it is constructed.
80-90 cards seems to be a sweet spot where the deck is large enough that you aren't gauranteed to see every card every game unless it runs long and the deck is reshuffled, but small enough to where variety is ensured between the 2-4 player scale, eliminating the major shortcoming of the "big book of spells" special rule, who has a more negative impact as expansions are released and the average odds of good distribution are reduced.

To facilitate this goal, with the help of trial and error, was to consider the criteria of what comprises the fundamental hook that makes Wiz-War a subjectively attractive and compelling game experience on an intrinsic and even extrinsic level.

* The expectation of a covenant formed between players for light hearted mutually assured schadenfreude.

* Static and dynamic game state manipulation at a highly interactive and creative level. (Modifying the board during the game and having a chance to respond to modifications made. From the creation and destruction of obstacles on the board, to attacking and countering in order to attempt to thwart opponents goals.)

* Granting meaningful agency on a primary level where actions are immediately resolved, that consequently allows for quicker gameplay and less player frustration at what the random card draw has granted them as choices for their actions. As opposed to secondary or tertiary level where the agency relies on specific conditions arising before the action can be instituted. (An "Add" spell which relies on multiple energy cards in hand before the choice to use it becomes relevant, for example.)

* The ratios of card types which have historically comprised the magic deck and the variety of card choices in previous editions. Its worked for years. Combined with the 84 cards of the FFG deck method which seems to give a more focused draw than more diluted decks with larger card counts.

* Unique variety offered when redundancy is drastically reduced. This is made possible with the 2 noted expansions with the increased card pool and the interesting designs with them.

With these criteria in mind, the following justifications of choices are submitted for your consideration:

The historical magic deck ratio was roughly:
Neutral 45%
Numbers 25%
Counters 8%
Attack 22%

Yet, as we see in the link above regarding ratios, its not as simple as that. We can't just throw all straight damage cards into the attack category, we have to add something less boring. Half of the attack deck wwas comprised of spells that were PITA (pain in the ass) and screwed with your opponents in interesting and fun ways. Same goes for each other category as well.

The one major departure in FFG's 8th edition that we must address is how energy has changed. You get a lot more energy through hybrid magic/energy cards now. But unless it is random energy, it never goes above 3 and averages at about 2.5 on the whole. Since you cannot combine 2 energy cards without the aid of a third to power a fourth or boost speed, and it sacrifices a likely needed potential game effect, I feel that trade-off is fair. The energy amount is still high, but manageable. This is the main reason why I only added 10 energy in 85 cards. Because 20+ other cards are hybrids.

So the ratios now look a bit like this 8th edition deck proposal:
Neutral 49% (this counts for neutral, neutral/counter, and items combined)
Energy 12%
Counters 14%
Attack 25%

This may seem like a considerable boost to the counters category, but again, the ratios only tell half the story, inside we find more utility cards such as fools gold and ward, and others that thwart in interesting ways other than merely straight denial. Its still only 12 card, about only half of which have a direct denial approach. In line with how the deck classically worked.

This gave a good starting point in which to tweak the deck to test it out. Below is the culmination of those many games in the last several months.

Neutral: 31
Around the Corner (cantrip) *
Astral Projection (mentalism)
Bone Armor (necromancy)
Boneyard (necromancy)
Booby Trap (conjuring)
Chaos Claws (chaos)
Create Door (conjuring)
x3 Create Wall (cantrip, conjuring, elemental)
x2 Destroy Wall (cantrip, elemental)
x2 Dispel (cantrip, conjuring)
Dust Cloud (conjuring)
Glue (conjuring)
Mad Dash (transformation)
x2 Meditate (mentalism)
Mist Body (elemental) *
Nevermind (chaos) *
Pass Through Wall (thaumaturgy)
Prismatic Mist (chaos) *
Rosebush (conjuring)
Rotate Sector (cantrip) *
Stone Block (elemental)
Stone Spikes (elemental)
Strength (transformation) *
Thornbush (conjuring)
Treasure Lust (draconic) *
Wallivore (transformation)

Neutral/Counter: 4 cards
Invisible (thaumaturgy)
Pain Link (mentalism)
Teleport (mentalism)
Wall of Fire (elemental)

Counter: 12 cards
Absorb Spell (mentalism)
Backlash (thaumaturgy)
Counter Curse (hexcraft)
Delay Death (necromancy)
Dispeleport (chaos)
Featherweight (transformation)
Fool's Gold (alchemy)
Full Shield (cantrip)
Magic Resistance (draconic)
Mercy of Quetzalcoatl (mythology)
Negate Neutral (cantrip)
Ward (conjuring) *

Attack: 21 cards
Brain Burn (mentalism)
Chaos Shards (chaos)
Curse of Ice (hexcraft)
Embrace of Jorogumo (mythology)
Fireball (elemental)
Fire Darts (conjuring)
Globe of Pain (thaumaturgy)
Ka-Bong! (conjuring)
Lightning Bolt (elemental)
Medusa's Gaze (mythology
Mental Force (mentalism)
Mind Meld (chaos)
Prismatic Bolt (chaos)
Prismatic Storm (chaos)
Screaming Skull (necromancy)
Siren Song (mythology)
Swap (conjuring)
Terrify (hexcraft)
Thought Steal (mentalism)
Winged Strike (draconic)
Yoink! (Thaumaturgy)

Items: 7 cards
Handful of Tacks (conjuring)
Dagger (thaumaturgy)
Fire Cloak (elemental)
Null Powder (alchemy)
Powerstone (alchemy) *
Universal Solvent (alchemy)
Wizardblade (thaumaturgy)

Energy: 10 cards
x4 "Four" (conjuring, elemental)
x2 "Five" ( conjuring, elemental)
"Six" (cantrip)
Random Energy:
x2 "D4+2" (chaos)
"D4+3" (chaos)

* Denotes cards that can be easily substituted to use the "More Summons" optional rule, adding the 5 relevant creatures (Drake, Boggart, Genie, Minotaur, Grendel) and the 4 planar calls. This is of course, to taste. Some are removed because of reduced efficacy or direct conflict with the addition of creatures.

There is also a pool of 35 other cards besides the creature group that I selected to change out the deck according to taste and whim. I won't list those as these are very arbitrary in choice for our group and you should, as always, customize this game to suit your own needs.

The only regret I have with this is the lack of utilizing the totem school, but ithe totem school is so specialized, that it is difficult to validate its presence in such a generic yet deliberately focused deck.

To save bandwidth space, as well as an even larger wall of text from being posted here, if you want to read further deck design rationale, follow this link.
Last edit: 06 Nov 2014 01:04 by Colorcrayons. Reason: deck posted was beta. corrected with the final proposal.
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23 Oct 2014 11:09 #189171 by Cambyses
You are on fire with excellent Wiz-War posts. It sounds like ~90 cards is a sweet spot for variety of draws vs. likelihood of seeing good stuff. I really like that you take a much less heavy-handed approach than "remove all counter and healing spells because they are so dumb."

Do you see this proposed deck as being your standard? As in, unless you specifically decide to change things up for a game, this is the deck you leave in its own baggie in the box, ready to go? Or is this more of a base upon which you will add and subtract each time you get ready to play?

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23 Oct 2014 11:44 #189173 by Shellhead
Dammit, I was reasonably happy with my DIY edition of Wiz War that I made ten years ago, but now I am starting to crave the FFG Wiz War and expansions despite my tight cash situation.

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