It’s time to dust off your robes and ready your wands, as the creators of the hit game Racoon Tycoon are back with a game for all us lovers of magic and fantasy! But is rising up above your rivals to become the greatest Arch-Mage in the land of Astoria all its cracked up to be? Let's check out Lizard Wizard.
Clear Your Schedule - Astoria Is Calling!
Lizard Wizard is an aesthetically pleasing game, that pitches 2-6 players against each other to gather resources in the form of reagents, convert these reagents into mana, recruit wizards, build magical towers and gather familiars, all with the aim of becoming the most powerful Arch-Mage in Astoria!
In Lizard Wizard, players take it in turns to perform one of six actions on their go, in the hope of being the Arch-Mage with the most victory points when the game ends. Victory points are earned by pairing wizards with towers that are from the same school of magic, casting spells from this school and by collecting gold and gathering the most treasure from trips into the dungeon. Be warned however, your fellow Arch-Mages can challenge you for the wizards you want to recruit, and delving into the dungeon can leave you vulnerable to monster attacks! The game ends when you exhaust all the cards in one of the four available decks - Wizards, Towers, Familiars or Spells.
We initially played this game as a 2 player, followed by a few games with 4 players. The game is modified for player numbers by removing certain cards from the decks. Despite this, we still found this to be a long game. The box suggests 90-120 minutes per game, however we found that even with 4 players, we were closer to the 180-210 minute mark… Now that being said, it has taken us a few plays to try to iron out our strategies and figure out how best the game should be played. We are a competitive family who love strategy and player interaction, so we often mull over our decisions in an attempt to thwart our rivals, however I still feel that despite this, you should know that becoming the top Arch-Mage in Astoria is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint.
The Wizard Of Wall Street?
Gathering reagents (the ingredients needed in Astoria to cast spells and make mana) takes the form of a stock exchange. Whilst collecting these invaluable resources is essential in your quest to become the most powerful, your actions could also help and influence your competitors around the table, as taking reagents will result in the value of other reagents going up! I found this to be a really interesting mechanic as it forces players to focus not only on their own goals, but how their decisions my be influencing other players, as there is nothing more painful than watching a rival Arch-Mage cash in 10 Eyes of Newt for 120 mana… Mana, which is needed to research spells, gather familiars and most importantly, recruit wizards!
It’s Time To D-D-D-Duel!
Nothing in life is free, and Astoria is no different. To recruit a wizard to your team, you must engage in a duel with your rivals and hope to come out on top, proving yourself as worthy of their alliance. This takes the form of a round table bidding war, with mana being the currency. Starting with the player who initiates the recruitment drive, each player takes it in turns to either bid mana or pass. The player who bids the most wins the favour of the wizard! I found this to be a really entertaining mechanic as it brought out a different type of player interaction than I’m used to. It also ended up in us bidding for our wizards using voices like you would hear in an auction or cattle market, but that just added to the fun and the madness!
Familiars are supernatural entities which help wizards in the practice of magic. These beautiful creatures help your wizards to cast spells, gather reagents, find gold and venture into the dungeon in an attempt to find treasure. If you are brave enough to journey into the dungeon, you reveal cards from a unique dungeon deck, keeping the gold and the treasure you find. Find a monster however, and you get a ‘hit’. Two ‘hits’ and you’re out - no treasure, no gold, just an Arch-Mage with a bruised ego. I loved the dungeon in this game. You can choose to leave the dungeon at any time, keeping all the rewards you have gained so far, or risk pressing on and coming across a monster that’s ready and waiting to knock you out with that second ‘hit’! What a simple but incredibly fun mechanic! Choosing to venture into the dungeon had our whole group on the edge of their seats, waiting to see who would be brave enough to keep revealing cards, or which of us would be foolish enough to keep on going after the first ‘hit’!
What’s an Arch-Mage without a wizard and what’s a wizard if they can’t cast spells?! Spells in this game are bought with mana and cast by spending reagents. They assist you in rising to the top by helping you store more reagents, protecting you from your rivals’ spells, aiding you when you go into the dungeon and by getting some resources for a reduced cost. They provide a fun way of interacting with the board and with other players. Each spell is selected by players from an open market, which means that everyone knows the spells that are available and in turn, the spell which you have just bought. There is a mechanic in the game where using a Familiar will allow you to “recycle” the spell market, clearing the current spells on offer and replenishing them with new ones. I liked this interaction as it was a good way to stop your rivals getting their hands on potentially powerful spells, which could help them rise to the top.
Lizard Wizard is a beautiful and well thought out game with easy to learn mechanics, clear rules and a reasonable level of player interaction (for our family, we would maybe have liked a bit more!). It is however, a long game. If you are sitting down to play, make sure to clear your schedule for the evening, as we have yet to have a 4 player game under 2.5 hours… Despite this, it is fun, thrilling and possibly the best game we own for packaging and storage (every piece fits back into the box with ease and gives my OCD heart a flutter of joy every single time it’s packed up!). I would definitely recommend Lizard Wizard to any fantasy fanatic who is looking for their next family friendly board game!