The Average Gamer
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Friday Night Unplugged #17: Epic Spell Wars

Welcome back gamers, one and all. Last week we realised a childhood dream and piloted X-wings and TIE Fighters in a battle for the galaxy. This week we’re realising a similar but radically different dream.

Have you ever wanted to be a wizard? I’m not talking Harry Potter style, namby-pamby wizards. I mean a real wizard, a wizard so awesome your spells literally blow your opponents’ minds. I know I have and thanks to the brutally-named Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre I can make that come true.

ESWLogo

The Basics.

Epic Spell Wars is a competitive round-based card game for 2-6 players. Players draw cards and play spells to attack their opponents with the goal of reducing their 20 health to zero. When only player remains they get a “Last Wizard Standing” token. Matches are played until any player has two of said tokens. First person to get two wins the game.

  • At the beginning of a round all players draw up to the maximum hand limit of 8 from the spell deck.
  • Players then build a spell from the cards in their hand and play it face down but there are a few things to bear in mind.
  • Spell cards are split into 3 types. Sources are the start of your spell and affect the whole spell. Quality cards are the mid part and can have a variety of effects. Deliveries are the end of a spell and often deal damage to one of all opponents in some way.
  • A spell can have a maximum of three cards, a minimum of one and you can’t repeat a card type. So no spells consisting of Quality+Quality or a deadly Delivery+Delivery+Delivery. Although some cards allow you to cheat around this rule.
  • Players take it in turns to reveal and resolve their spells. Spells with one card go first and three-card spells last. If there are multiple three-card spells in play then each Delivery has an initiative number on it and players reveal from the highest first.
  • This is where it starts to get fun. In their best wizarding voice, the player revealing their cards reads out the name of their spell. Personal favourite include “The Death Fairy’s Inferno-Tastic Meatier Swarm” and the awesome “Gore-nado” delivery card.
  • Each spell has an elemental symbol in the bottom left corner. When a card asks you to make a power roll. you roll one die for each symbol in your spell that matches that cards element, so a maximum of three dice.
  • Players draw back up to their hand limit and rounds continue until all wizards but one have been beaten into submission.

That’s pretty much it. Of course there are plenty of cards in your spells that let you break these rules and there are various treasures you can gain that give you bonuses or just sit there doing nothing at all.

Let’s Play

We know you love playthroughs and so do we. Like X-wing, Epic Spell Wars really doesn’t suit a full rundown. Explaining each spell would take too long and some matches can have 5-6 rounds before a clear winner comes up. We are working on something awesome plus another double special with another Eclipse style walk-through coming up soon so you keep your eyes on this space.

We’ve just drawn our cards and set our spells for what looks to be our last round of the game. We each have one Last Wizard Standing token from previous matches so whoever wins this round takes the game. Fi is at 4 health, Josh at 5 and I am at 4. Everything is set to reveal so let’s jump right in.

Fi:

With an initiative score of 18 Fi plays her spell first this round and with her best (read: worst) wizarding voice reveals Bleemax Brainiac’s Festering Pact With The Devil. Her Bleemax Brainiac source resolves first asking her to reveal two cards from the top of the deck and add any with a glyph that match any glyphs in her spell to her spell. Sadly none of the symbols match so she can’t add any. The Festering Quality resolves next, targeting Josh as he is her strongest opponent and forcing him to discard the Quality card from his spell. Lastly Pact With The Devil resolves and asks for a power roll. Because Fi’s spell has 2 dark glyphs she can roll 2 dice; she rolls a 7 and it deals 2 damage to Josh as he is still Fi’s strongest opponent leaving Josh on 2.

Is that a brain in a jar?

Is that a brain in a jar?

Josh:

Because Josh was forced to discard his Quality he gets to resolve his spell next as a 2-part only. Josh flips and reveals Scorchia’s Nuke-u-lur Meltdown. The Scorchia part of the spell is the Source and resolves first, dealing 3 damage to his strongest foe which just happens to be myself. Nuke-u-lur Meltdown resolves last, targeting his strongest foe which is now Fi. Both Josh’s cards are Elementals which means he gets to roll 2 dice for this power roll. Rolling a 10 he checks the number against his card and deals 5 damage to Fi taking her out of the game. As a side effect it deals 1 damage to me for being the only player adjacent to her, which kills me.

"Extreme Cartoon Violence" Yup, seems about right.

“Extreme Cartoon Violence” Yup, seems about right.

Lewis:

I’m dead so I didn’t even get to play my spell. Bummer.

What happened there: Fi attempted to take out Josh and Josh surprisingly killed 2 birds with one stone. Everyone playing their spells face down at the same time means nobody knows what anyone else played. Just about anything can happen as a result.

Just 2 of the available character sheets. They don't really have a point but the art is kind of awesome.

Just 2 of the available character sheets. They don’t really have a point but the art is kind of awesome.

What is it

Epic Spell Wars is a card game for 2-6 players and produced by card game experts Cryptozoic Entertainment. Cryptozoic have produced everything from DC and Penny Arcade deck-building games to World of Warcraft Trading Cards and much much more. The box is sturdy, the cards stand up to a vast amount of shuffling without any problems and the rulebook sits in laminated glory. Games can play out from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the luck of the draw. We’ve had a few ridiculous hands that have created situations where a round has been over after the second set of spells have been played.

What we think

The most obvious thing about Epic Spell Wars (ESW) is its theme. Everything from the art to the spell names is deliciously over-the-top. Delivery cards like Testikill literally depict a giant, tentacled testicle pulling apart a body. The Cat-a-strophic quality card has a picture of a cat with snakes spewing from its mouth, flying around inside the spell. What do you really expect from a game that has a warning on the back for “Spicy” language and “Extreme cartoon violence”? Treasures such as Lady Luck’s Panties serve to push it from poo jokes and fun into the realms of slightly creepy but for the most part the humor manages to stay on the right path. Characters include characters like the obviously Bender inspires Pisster the Pissed Wizard and Fey Ticklebottom the Enchanter.

Some of the treasures toe the line between comedy and creepy. Just look at that Wizards face.

Some of the treasures toe the line between comedy and creepy. Just look at that Wizards face.

ESW is one of the few games where we all agreed on it being a good, fun game. Its playtime is short enough not to drag on. The random nature of the spells always keeps things fresh and like all good games it does have some tactical depth. Playing faster single effect spells over full 3-part spells is sometimes the right choice.

One of my favourite things about ESW is the Dead Wizard cards. Let’s see you get taken out early in a match in a 3-player game. At the start of the next round, instead of drawing spell cards you get to draw a Dead Wizard card. These add bonuses at the start of the next match or even allow you to jump back into the game, albeit with a fraction of life. You’re never truly out of the game, which is great when the focus is on player elimination.

Blowing up your enemies is fun. Loading them up with extra treasures then dealing damage to them per treasure is even more so and the graphical style of ESW makes Adventure Time look tame. At its core it’s a quick, fulfilling lunch-break or icebreaker game for the start of a night or a quick playsession. Epic Spell Wars knows its target audience and I’m not sure whether all its assumptions are particularly healthy. There’s only so many times you can see a ball gag or shit joke before you start to realise it’s just not as funny as it was the first time. I won’t even get started on the inherent problems behind cards like Lady Luck’s Panties as that’s a different article for a different day. Mostly though it’s a light, over-the-top cartoon-based battling game with some hilarious results.

The artwork is by a fellow called Nick Edwards. He has a blogspot!

The artwork is by a fellow called Nick Edwards. He has a blog, go check it out.

Final Word:

Epic Spell Wars takes the sometimes boring world of fantasy gameplay and throws all the tropes in a blender along with a tablespoon of ass-kickery. The result is an incredible, sometimes weird blend. Definitely one for the collection, you can grab it from Travelling Man for £22.99

Things we said:

“My Furicorn is gonna kick your ass” -Fi

“Wait, is that wizard actually sniffing those?” – Lewis

“Midnight Merlin’s Ballsy Testikll. Best. Spellname.Ever.” – Josh

Next week:

After the past few weeks of simplicity we’re ramping up the complexity and continuing the wizarding theme. Battling it out in a 3 year long tournament, summoning familiars and creating magical items from the elements themselves, we’re playing Seasons. Come back next week and check it out.

You know you can read all the previous Friday Night Unplugged articles on this handy tag, right?

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