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: