The Wizard Always Wins
- Designer: Prospero Hall
- Publisher: Big G Creative
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30-40 minutes
In The Wizard Always Wins, players will choose a new role for themselves each round. There are many possible actions to choose from, but the goal of the game is to be the Wizard and to draw out a gem matching your player color. If you can do this, you’ll win! (And, yes, the Wizard always wins in this game because this is the only victory condition…)
In the game, there are seven role tiles, numbered 1 to 7. They are laid out on the table for all to see. There is also a Bag of Fate which starts the game filled with 25 element tokens, 3 Add-a-gem tokens and 3 Level-up tokens. Each player takes a Level Dial in their color and makes sure that they start the game on Level 1. Each player also gets a supply of 8 gem tokens in their color; these are stacked on the central board. There is a turn order track at the bottom of this board. The turn order markers are randomly placed on the track to start the game to determine the player order in this first round. The deck of Element cards is shuffled and each player is dealt a hand of three cards.
The game is played in a number of rounds. In each round, there are two phases: the Action phase where players will take turns choosing a character and then doing the action of that character and the Clean-Up phase where things are cleaned up and the game is set up for the next round.
Turn order is always determined by the chart on the central board. Players with a lower order number will play first in the round. The initial order is determined by random draw; in later rounds, it will be determined by the role chosen in the previous round.
When it is your turn, you choose any available character (i.e. one that has not yet been chosen by any other player). Take the tile into your area and then read and perform the action on the tile. The options are:
1] Queen – Draw 1 card and then play 1 card face up in front of you
2] Oracle – Look at the top 3 cards, keep 1 of them and discard the other two. Play a card face up.
3] Trader – Draw 1 card. Play 1 card. Then trade one face up card or token with another player.
4] Apprentice – Draw tokens equal to your level. Once you have finished drawing, apply their effects.
5] Farmer – Draw 2 cards and draw 1 token. Then play 1 card.
6] Hunter – Draw 1 card and draw 1 token. Then play 2 cards.
7] Wizard – Draw tokens equal to your level. If you draw your own color gem, you WIN the game. Otherwise, return all tokens to the Bag of Fate
After you do the action of your character, you have the option to turn in Element sets – this can be any combination of icons on tokens and on cards. You need different numbers of icons to accomplish different things:
4 Flowers: Gain 1 level
5 Snails: Place one of your Gems in the Bag of Fate
6 Bones: Gain 2 Levels
7 Mushrooms: Gain 1 Level AND place one of your gems in the Bag of Fate
8 Potions: Place 2 of your gems in the Bag of Fate
Then, the next player in turn order according to the chart takes their turn. When all players have taken their turn – all players return their role card to the center of the table. As they do this, move your turn order marker to the numbered space matching the role that you are returning. This will determine the order for the next round.
The game ends as soon as someone chooses the Wizard and is able to draw out one of their color gems as part of the Wizard action. I suppose this could happen as early as the second turn of the game, but it has been happening around round 6-8 of our games so far.
My thoughts on the game
As you have likely noticed, a lot of my recent reviews are of games that are coming to the US market via Target. The Wizard Always Wins is another game in this crop, and based on the design credit – Prospero Hall – I was expecting this one to be more on the strategic, Euro-game side of things. After a few plays, this one is proving to be a decent introductory level action-selection game.
The actions of each character are easy to grok, and the simple endgame condition helps focus even the most novice of gamer. In the end, you need to get your gems in the bag, and then get lucky to draw them.
The game doesn’t last that long, probably the longest game we’ve had yet has been 30 minutes. However, our first game only lasted four rounds! It’s definitely mathematically possible for a fluke win to happen – and in that first game, a player managed to get a gem into the bag on his second turn (I believe by drawing a token that allowed him to place a gem in the bag). As he was the only player to have a gem in the bag, he then endeavored to take the Wizard every turn until the situation changed. As luck would have it, he drew it out (when there were about 20 tiles total in the bag) on his second try, he drew a single gem, and he won the game.
But… even not counting the fluky wins, the game really doesn’t last that many rounds. There are only 31 non-gem tokens in the bag to start with, and in our games, it seems like there is a token coming out of the bag at a rate of at least 0.5/turn. Later in the game, as people increase their level, the Apprentice action can lead to a whole bunch being pulled out.
So – being the gamers that we are – we were keeping track of the number of tokens in the bag. And in my first game example, we had pulled out 11 in the first 4 rounds. At that rate, the bag is nearly all player gems by round 7 or 8. And then, at that point, it’s a race to see who can be the Wizard to try their luck. Of course, when you choose the Wizard, you end up last in turn order, and it could be awhile before you get to choose the Wizard again – but that helps keep the game going.
You do have to decide when to start trying to pull for the win – and then when you’re not doing that, making a decision between trying to put more gems in to increase your chances versus moving up in the turn order sequence so that you can choose to be the wizard again! Either way though, it’s helpful to know that game just doesn’t last that long – so you have to be ready…
The components are fairly well done. I think that the player reference card could stand to be bigger, and because of the miniscule size, some of the icons of the cards are easily confused. Whether larger icons or different colored icons – this could have been designed maybe a bit better, especially with the target audience being casual gamers.
As I said, games play quick, and the possibility of a sudden lucky win generally keeps everyone involved in the game. The way the rules are set up with – the game pretty much forces everyone into getting a gem into the bag at some point early on. And, once you’ve got at least a single gem in there, you’re a threat to win the game!
I think this game (and the Bob Ross game covered yesterday) are great attempts to introduce real gaming mechanisms to the general public. Both will probably never be staples for “veteran” gamers, but they are enjoyable enough, and I think they will likely remain in the game closet somewhere to be used as entry/gateway games when people are looking for something more than PayDay or Monopoly.
My rating below is Neutral – because, for me, this game isn’t one that I’m really going to play a lot, nor would I suggest it with my gaming group. But…. For its role in possibly introducing this sort of game to the public, it’s closer to the top of the scale.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
John P – Dale’s last sentence sums this up nicely. Approached as a family game it’s a nice 30 minute (at most!) diversion. It can show non-hardcore gamers an introduction into action selection and probabilities. As this kind of game it works admirably and that’s why I like it.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. John P
- Neutral. Dale Y, James Nathan, Karen M.
- Not for me…