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Subject: Wizard Kings rebooted rss

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Seth Owen
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It's interesting to see a game "rebooted" and head off into new directions.

It's a risky move for a game company, because it often tends to alienate people who liked the first version and it's hard to lure back players who didn't like the first version and have them give you a second chance.

Some reboots fall kind of flat, like the AH edition of Cosmic Encounter, which few fans think was an improvement over the Mayfair edition.

So the reintroduction of Wizard Kings, styled 2.0, by Columbia Games is an interesting experiment. Wisely, Columbia kept the component changes relatively small, so anyone who invested in Wizard Kings 1.0 could still use most of their stuff.

And the changes that were made were not wholesale concept re-imaginings, so players didn't need to relearn the game. But the changes were important, nonetheless, and changed the focus of the game significantly. Among the most important changes were stacking limits, the economic/build systems and the elimination of one race (the Ferkin warboars) for another (the human Feudals).

The original edition of Wizard Kings was essentially a two-player wargame, conceptually a magicked-up version of Victory: The Blocks of War. The base game had two armies, Elves and Goblins and players had the option for adding more by purchasing additional armies of Ferkins, Dwarves, Undead, Amazons and/or Barbarians; reinforcing forces of Chaos creatures with their own spells and more maps. The biggest weakness of the base game was that there wasn't really a good scenario and many players complained it seemed kind of boring.

Online scenarios soon popped up and many of those were creative and interesting. And many took advantage of the fact that there were seven different armies to play to create viable multi-player scenarios. Feeding off the resurgence in multiplayer gaming caused by the growth of euros, I think this became the preferred way to play for many people.

The 2.0 version of Wizard Kings is, at heart, a multi-player wargame. All seven races are now in the base set with small armies and there is just one kind of expansion set Heroes & Treasures, which adds two new units for each army and stickers and blocks to give each army one additional special unit such as a chaos creature (stripped of their old spells) a treasure or other item such as portable gold and silver treasures caches.

There's a "collectible" aspect to these expansions in that the exact contents are random and vary between boxes without being known to the purchaser beforehand. This is mitigated by the fact that all units are valued on the same basis in the game system without any strange rarity or overwhelming power.

The focus of the scenarios (in the base game, four 2-player battles) is now on short, sharp actions, instead of the longer, full-scale wars encouraged in 1.0. The reduced stacking and hexside limits have the effect of increasing the power of the stronger pieces because it's harder to swarm them with lots of low value units. Because the battles are smaller, there's also a bigger luck element and more chance for extreme results.

It appears that this reboot has been a success. There seems to be renewed interest in Wizard Kings. The 2.0 version seems a better match for the theme and the game's potential.

For more game comments see my blog at http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
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Rob McFadden
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Dear Seth,

Very clear and concise. I was waffling on buying this one... your review has cleared it up for me.

Regards,
Rob
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Dave Ramsey
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Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?
 
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Merv D
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Opeless wrote:
Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?


Not sure about rule tweaks, but this problem could be overcome with a good scenario. Asymmetric powers - - give the attacking force more units, more starting gold. If multiplayer, 3v2, 2v1 is good. Also, army limits or map size to allow lots of maneuver would help. And a time limit for the attackers, say 6 turns, would force the issue.
 
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Seth Owen
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Opeless wrote:
Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?


I've read this complaint quite a bit on various forums about all the block games to varying degrees. Much of the time I think it's a problem of tactics more than anything else.

Attacking is harder than defending, but that is how it should be. I think many players make the mistake of thinking you can successfully attack frontally like you can in many other kinds of wargames. The block wargames do not reward that kind of approach.

Remember that in every case block games are primarily games of maneuver. Whenever possible you should be initiating battles with an advantage. If the opponent is "turtling" then that implies he is not maneuvering and you, as the attacker, should be working to turn that to your advantage. Concentrate your forces against a portion of the enemy. This is true whether the game is Wizard Kings, Hammer of the Scots, EastFront, Napoleon or Quebec 1759.

If you find yourself engaged in a slugfest then that is a sign your maneuvering has failed. A lot of people have trouble wrapping their minds around it, I think.
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Brad Miller
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Con Man wrote:
Opeless wrote:
Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?


Not sure about rule tweaks, but this problem could be overcome with a good scenario. Asymmetric powers - - give the attacking force more units, more starting gold. If multiplayer, 3v2, 2v1 is good. Also, army limits or map size to allow lots of maneuver would help. And a time limit for the attackers, say 6 turns, would force the issue.


And this is the big problem I have with the game. There just aren't that many good scenarios. And most of the existing scenarios all use maps from the 1.0 or expansion pack releases...
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Seth Owen
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Windopaene wrote:
Con Man wrote:
Opeless wrote:
Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?


Not sure about rule tweaks, but this problem could be overcome with a good scenario. Asymmetric powers - - give the attacking force more units, more starting gold. If multiplayer, 3v2, 2v1 is good. Also, army limits or map size to allow lots of maneuver would help. And a time limit for the attackers, say 6 turns, would force the issue.


And this is the big problem I have with the game. There just aren't that many good scenarios. And most of the existing scenarios all use maps from the 1.0 or expansion pack releases...


Just substitute the maps. Don't be afraid to generate your own scenarios. If you can't comne up with your own idea at first, then riff off an existing scenario. Most of the scenarios are not relying on a particular map to be effective. All the maps have 10 GP of cities (unlike Victory, which does have some under-resourced maps) so there's no reason not to substitute them.
 
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Kevin Long
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yah! i spend $100 on the base game and expansions and then version 2 comes out. Meanwhile i played some scenarios that had lots of bottlenecks and got no where. I hope if any of the rule changes alleviate these problems then they will be available for the rest of us suffering "bad scenarios"?
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Richard Young
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I've always had a soft spot for this game as I like the Columbia block system for the "fog of war" aspect it provides and the combat system is clean and gives you the somewhat unpredictable "friction" element as well. Plus, I'm partial to fantasy settings so much preferred this to Victory (essentially same game system set in Axis and Allies trappings).

I liked the different races and the optional Chaos units which added some spice to the mix. A revision to the rules was probably warranted but I never thought there was anything terribly wrong with the original. However, I'm happy to try the revisions.

But, what I'm hard pressed to understand was the apparent need to do a total "re-branding" by changing some of the races (a lot of folks really liked the Lycanthrope Chaos units for example), and changing the way the sets are distributed. The "collectable" aspect is something I find particularly objectionable and if I didn't already have a full set of 1.0 materials I would not go near this game in its present form. Thankfully however, I have all the maps, all the 1.0 races and chaos units, so all I would need are the 2.0 rules (and I'm not totally convinced I even need those).

I'm not sure what the rationale for all this was and only time will tell if the new presentation will be a plus for the game overall (obviously I have my own serious doubts)...
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Seth Owen
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With so many flyers, amphibian and aquatic creatures I'm at a loss at how bottlenecks form in this game. There seem to be many ways to get around them to me.

They are somewhat more of a problem in Victory, but if you recognize a potential bottleneck on the map one aspect of your strategy needs to be how you get around it.
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Joshua O'Connor
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wargamer55 wrote:
Opeless wrote:
Our biggest problem with this game, and I did really want to like it, is that attacking a unit was really hard. The defender got a bonus (or rolled first or somesuch) so it lead to turtling strategies where the incentive was to build up rather than to go on the offensive.

Have any of these mechanics been tweaked at all?


I've read this complaint quite a bit on various forums about all the block games to varying degrees. Much of the time I think it's a problem of tactics more than anything else.

Attacking is harder than defending, but that is how it should be. I think many players make the mistake of thinking you can successfully attack frontally like you can in many other kinds of wargames. The block wargames do not reward that kind of approach.

Remember that in every case block games are primarily games of maneuver. Whenever possible you should be initiating battles with an advantage. If the opponent is "turtling" then that implies he is not maneuvering and you, as the attacker, should be working to turn that to your advantage. Concentrate your forces against a portion of the enemy. This is true whether the game is Wizard Kings, Hammer of the Scots, EastFront, Napoleon or Quebec 1759.

If you find yourself engaged in a slugfest then that is a sign your maneuvering has failed. A lot of people have trouble wrapping their minds around it, I think.


Yes. Can you explain more about how this maneuvering works? I don’t see how you can maneuver much when you can only move a small number of armies over a hexside. So I think you’re talking about a specific kind of maneuvering. Can you explain and give concrete examples?
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Brian Williams
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Seth unfortunately passed away in January, but I’m assuming he was referencing a need for a coordinated attack across multiple hexsides, possibly (in the case of Wizard Kings)using a Wizard to cast an effectively timely and potent spell. Also, again in Wizard Kings, some blocks can fly into battle avoiding hexside limitations. This helps (through maneuvering)to enter an enemy hex with superior force. Of course, strategically you have to ensure that the right blocks are used (higher combat ratings to overcome the priority given to the defensive blocks), and that they have been (re)built to as close to full strength as possible.
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Chris Rice
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WarGame Blockhead wrote:
Seth unfortunately passed away in January, but I’m assuming he was referencing a need for a coordinated attack across multiple hexsides, possibly (in the case of Wizard Kings)using a Wizard to cast an effectively timely and potent spell. Also, again in Wizard Kings, some blocks can fly into battle avoiding hexside limitations. This helps (through maneuvering)to enter an enemy hex with superior force. Of course, strategically you have to ensure that the right blocks are used (higher combat ratings to overcome the priority given to the defensive blocks), and that they have been (re)built to as close to full strength as possible.


Ah, that's very sad. I was completely unaware Seth had passed away. I'd noticed his website hadn't been updated for quite some time but just assumed that he was busy with other things. He was a great contributor to this site and the hobby in general. My condolences to his family and friends.
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