The Wandering Towers
- Designers: Michael Kiesling, Wolfgang Kramer
- Players: 2-6
- Age: 8+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Played with copy purchased at SPIEL 2022; 5 times
Die Wandelnden Türme or The Wandering Towers was a new release with a fair amount of buzz at SPIEL 2022. ABACUSSPIELE is usually good for a solid euro-game, and they are one of the stands that I usually try to see what they have each year. In this game, your goal is to fill up all of your magic flasks (by trapping opposing wizards within a tower) and then getting all of your wizards to the Raven Castle. The first person to do that wins!
To setup, put together the circular board (of 16 spaces). The Raven Castle starts on the designated space, and then the 9 regular towers start on the 9 clockwise spaces from the Raven Castle. The magic spell tiles are set near the board. The deck of movement cards is shuffled, and each player gets a hand of 3 cards. Each player chooses the meeples of their color and the matching potion flasks, being sure to put the flasks on the empty side up. Beware that the colors do not have equal numbers of components! For instance, if you are playing a two player game, you MUST choose blue and yellow as your player colors…
To finish setup, players place their wizards on towers, starting closest to the Raven Castle. Wizards are placed until a castle maximum occupancy is reached (indicated by the blue ghost lights on the space), and then the next castle is used.
The game will now be played in a series of turns until someone reaches the win condition (all flasks filled and all wizards in the Raven Castle). On a turn, you get to take 2 actions (with a few exceptions). To take an action, play a card from your hand, execute the move on the card (moving a wizard or moving a tower). Do the same with the second action. As an exception, if you move a wizard into the Raven Castle on your first action, your turn ends. Also, if you cannot or choose not to play cards, you can discard your whole hand to then draw a new hand of 3 cards. You also get to move one tower of your choice ahead by exactly one space.
There are 3 kinds of movement cards, each with their own rules
- Wizard cards – you move one of your visible wizards ahead; always clockwise. If the card has a number, move ahead that many spaces. If the card has dice shown, you have up to that many rolls to roll a d6 and accept a result. If your move ends directly on a tower, you land on it – but only if there is space in the tower (max 6 wizards). If you end exactly on the Raven Castle, you enter the castle and remain there for the rest of the game. When a wizard enters the Raven Castle, the Raven Castle then moves clockwise to the next empty space that has a Raven Shield on it.
- Tower cards – Move any tower section clockwise. You may not pick up a tower to peek at what is underneath. Once you designate which tower you are moving (or if you start to lift it), you are committed! If the card has a number, move ahead that many spaces. If the card has dice shown, you have up to that many rolls to roll a d6 and accept a result. If you choose a tower that has other towers (or the Raven Castle) on top of it, you move all the towers on top as well. If the tower’s move ends on a space with another tower, it lands on top, and any wizards which were visible underneath are now “locked up”. If you lock up any wizards on your turn, you can fill one of your magic flasks -flip it over to the filled side.
- Wizards or Tower cards – you have to choose one of the two options shown, following the rules above
So, one of the goals is to lock up other wizards, as you need to fill your flasks to win the game. If one of your own wizards is locked up, you will need to remember where it is! You can free your wizard on a later turn by removing the tower section directly above your wizard!
On your turn, if you have a filled magic flask, you can also expend it to use a magic spell. You can only use one per turn. There are 8 different spells, but in the basic game, only the Move a Wizard one space and the Move a Tower 2 spaces are available.
The game continues until one player has filled all his flasks and put all of his wizards into the Raven Castle. The current round finishes – so that all players have had the same number of turns. If multiple people achieve the victory condition, ties broken in favor of the player with the most filled flasks remaining (i.e. not spent on magic spells).
My thoughts on the game
Die Wandelnden Türme is a game that a number of folks were talking about at SPIEL 2022, and I was motivated to get a copy and bring it home. It has had fairly good reception here with most people enjoying their plays. The game is an unusual combination of a race game, a take-that game and a bit of a memory game sprinkled in. Each game can be slightly different based on the number and combination of spell tiles included in the setup.
Games seem to follow a predictable pattern – early on, players try to hide wizards under towers to fill their flasks. It is much easier to do this at the start of the game when all the wizards are concentrated in a single area, and the towers are close to each other as well. Heck, you can even burn one of those random cards that moves towers with a die (because when else would you really ever want to play a card with a random die that makes it impossible to plan with) as the likelihood that you’ll be able to bury some poor unsuspecting wizard is pretty good at the start of the game. For what it’s worth, the rules even tell you that this is the way to do things…
When your wizards get hidden, do try to remember where they are. It is harder than it looks (at least for me) – and it’s a bummer to spend wasted actions picking up towers trying to remember where your last poor wizard has been hidden!
Once a few flasks are filled, you can start to look for ways to get a wizard into the tower if the cards line up right. Try not to do this with your first action as this will short circuit the rest of your turn; and that’s not very efficient. Keep an eye on the spells; you’ll likely only get to use spells two or three times in the game (most cost at least 2 flasks), so you should wait until the time is right. At the start of the game, probably best to closely examine them and try to know ahead of time when you’ll want to use them.
Interestingly, this is one of those games that requires you to play with specific colors at specific player counts – only certain colors have enough wizards for particular player counts. Though I know that things are more expensive in 2022 due to supply chain issues and whatnot, it’s kind of a bummer to have players be disappointed that they can’t use their favorite/usual color because a total of 6 extra wooden wizards weren’t included in the box. Certainly not a game breaker, but a puzzling decision from my standpoint.
The basic rules are pretty straightforward, though there appears to be some confusion on the timing and applicability of multiple spells in the more advanced version. Apparently a FAQ is to come soon. We’ve tried the advanced version, and man, it just added a LOT of overhead and timing issues and took a pretty light and fun 20 minute game into the not-so-fun 45 minute game with interrupts and people overthinking the game. We don’t need to wait for the FAQ because I’m pretty sure that we’re not going to play the Master Wizard version at any point going forward. If I want that sort of complexity, I’ll just choose a different game (with less confusing rules).
When I first played this game, I thought – this could be a contender for Spiel des Jahres. It was easy to teach/learn, it had a nice table presence with the stackable towers, it comes from a “major” publisher, it has an incredible designer pedigree, etc. After a few more plays, the shine has come somewhat off the game – I still think that it is a very good game, but maybe not one to make the finalist list – more likely a recommendation… The confusion with the rules doesn’t help. I think that brief and clear rules are still a prized thing with the jury members, and the Master Wizard rules questions will not clear this hurdle. It’s fun, but after five plays, it feels like I’ve seen everything there is to see. I’ll still love bringing this out to show new people; but I don’t know how much I’d clamor for this on a regular game night.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, John P
- Neutral. James N, Mark J
- Not for me…