Published on March 21st, 2015 | by Colin0
Cardcore Gamer: Wizard Dodgeball Preview
There have been many attempts to adapt sports to the table top, but is this game one to be caught, or dodged?
Sports games are nothing new in the world of board gaming; from Blood Bowl to Dreadball, Kaosball to Grind, many companies have tried to capture the speed, skill and tactics of various beautiful (and occasionally ugly) games. Wizard Dodgeball from Mind the Gap Studios differs from most by offering a clean, simple and faithful filler-weight translation of the titular all-American school classic. With wizards. And fireballs. And a turtle.
The game is simple – each player forms a 5-player team from either a randomly selected or drafted pool of wizards and tries to grab balls from the centre of the board and blat the opposition in their wizardly faces to knock them out. Each wizard activates once in a set order with play alternating in an ‘I go, you go’ fashion and any eliminated wizards are skipped over, forcing their controlling player to miss a turn. Where the magic happens is…well, it’s when the magic happens isn’t it? Each player selects a hand of spells up to the combined total of their teams’ magic statistic and can cast them gleefully on friends, foes and balls during play.
So far, pretty straight forward and if that is all that Wizard Dodgeball had up its capacious sleeves then there’d not really be much to write home about, but the game’s charm comes from a near perfect balance of simplicity, game length and card play. For example, once a spell is cast it stays out of play until the end of the casting wizard’s next turn, meaning that you have to be very careful as to when you play a card, as you won’t get it back for four more turns. You might want to teleport a wizard to the centre line to grab a ball on turn 1, but you might kick yourself when you later find a player stranded and out of spherical ammunition. Several of the spells are nifty buffs and de-buffs, too, but as each wizard has but two actions to perform per turn you have to balance the relative worth of, for example, magically shielding a vulnerable team mate with taking a pot-shot at an exposed opponent’s silly hat.
I mentioned earlier that each wizard is unique, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be overwhelmed with stats to learn. Throwing, catching and the casting and resisting of spells are all covered by the number and colour of custom dice that each wizard uses; at a glance you can see the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team member and plan accordingly, without referencing anything beyond their individual cards. The game also provides a bunch of tokens for each spell effect to remind you who has ‘butterfingers’ or magical speed and of course which balls are on fire.
Wizard Dodgeball hits the exact right spot for a filler game – easy to teach, fast to play and entertaining with neither too much depth, nor none at all, but it is still rather rough around the edges. The cards and rules are rather patchy with their use of terminology and didn’t cover several interactions and situations which arose during my games (the designer kindly gave his time to answer my questions on Twitter), also I can’t shake an odd, nagging feeling that certain parts of the design, such as line-of-sight don’t really add much to the gameplay as it stands. I feel that some of the decisions in the game are quite obvious, such as attacking an opponents weakest player, or trying to knock out their next player to force a skipped turn in which you can repeat the process and deny multiple turns. I’m not at all a fan of games which make you skip your turn, but the latest version of the rules introduces a much better elimination-free variant which weakens your play, rather than negating it entirely. Finally, I think that spells that don’t target an opponent should have a fixed minimum number to roll dice against and I would love to see more variety in the spell cards, though I understand that the designer is working on an expansion to remedy this.
All in all, Wizard Dodgeball achieves exactly what it sets out to do – it’s a light, tactical filler game with an interesting theme and twist on a very familiar and popular sport. It won’t tax your brain, but, much like Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice it is genuinely good fun for the small investment of time it requires. And it does indeed have wizards playing dodgeball.
One of them is called Archibald Von Sassypants. He is a cat. SOLD!
Wizard Dodgeball is in the final days of it’s Kickstarter and features artwork and graphic design that is massively improved from the already adequate print-and-play version I have put to the table, why not go and see for yourself?
Disclosure: A print-and-play edition of Wizard Dodgeball was kindly provided by Mind the Gap Studios for the purpose of this preview.