The Wandering Wizards
Wandering Towers is a game for 1 to 6 players where you move towers and wizards on a circular track using cards to be the first to get all of them in the dungeon. It sounds simple? It is, until you realise that moving a tower means moving all the wizards on top of it at the same time and that if a tower lands on top of a bunch of wizards, they're locked in until that tower moves again. Yeah, and of course, no peeking under the towers. You need to remember where your stuff is because the other players will delight in misleading you!
Oh and, the dungeon moves every time someone enters it. And every time you cover a wizard, you fill up a little flask and these flasks can be used to cast spells which will cause further mischief.
That just about covers it. After a 5 minute teach you're in for 30 minutes of non-stop laughter and whimpering.
Oops, I did it again
Just like someone playing Wandering Towers, I've misled you slightly. To win, you not only need to put all your wizards in a dungeon that keeps moving, you also need to fill up all your flasks. And the only way to do this, is to cover one or more wizards by landing a tower on them.
That winning condition really seals what is great about this game: it's fun to manage to put your wizard in the dungeon by using a clever combination of cards, spell and luck but it's delightful if you can do so by also covering your opponents' wizards.
And because everyone has to do it to win, there's certainly no guilty feeling about plopping a cardboard tower on another player's meeple. It's a very light amount of take that brings the table together. There are no alliances and no mercy. The towers will cover whoever is unlucky enough to be where it lands. It feels naughty and mischievous and harmless at the same time which means no hard feelings or at least... not for long! Any wizard stuck under a tower can be easily freed by moving the tower or towers that's covering them
You lucky wizard!
The state of the game changes so quickly from player to player that it doesn't make a lot of sense to plan your turn carefully — you're better off spending that time praying a tower doesn't fall on your head. So while this is not a game that will reward planning, it will reward paying attention. Because I guarantee you, you will lose your wizards. They will disappear under a tower, and a bunch more and they will be moved around the board with complete disregard for your attention span. Look at the board or you will have to use some luck to find out where your wizards are hiding.
In the same way, you are only given three cards to move stuff on the board and you can only use two per turn. These cards are random and allow you to move either a tower or a wizard by a fixed number of spaces. There are cards that depict both a wizard and a tower and these simply give you the choice — you can't do both.
Some of those cards have one or more dice on them. For each dice depicted you make a roll and you can choose the result you like the best.
All these elements of chance mean that again, playing Wandering Towers is mostly reactive but it's also about making the best of what you've been given to get closer to victory or out of trouble. In the worst case scenario, you can probably find a wandering wizard that could benefit from being covered by a heavy ton of bricks...
That luck can be mitigated somewhat by using the spell mechanic. There are spells available for all players at the beginning of the game and each player can spend the flasks they've filled up to use them once per turn. They allow you to move wizards and towers by a fixed amount but sometimes that's just what you need!
Since you can only move your own wizards and that wizards inevitably share space and towers, it's hard to really dig at one player even if you control the towers. This way, the game avoids becoming a never-ending kingmaking nightmare — if you're lucky enough to have the cards to stop someone else's plan, that won't be for long.
You know I said you couldn't move other player's wizards... well that's not quite true... there is a spell that allows you to move ANY wizard by one space forward. And that means you could move someone a little just so you can land a tower on them!
Still, in the 10 games or so I've played, this hasn't really been an issue. The amount of control players have is finely balanced so that even someone close to winning cannot be accurately enough to be consistently annoying (but just enough that it's funny!).
I've only played games with 4 to 6 players but the game can also be player solo and in teams. The spells also add some variability and can be chosen randomly or selected carefully by the more expert players. This feels more like customisation for your play group than a classic variable setup but it's welcome in a game that can quickly develop its own meta around the table.
I can see myself bringing this to the table more regularly than Quacks of Quedlinburg and with more flexibility in terms of player type. People who rarely play games can pick this up equally quickly than people familiar with complex games. It's extremely tactile and visual which is immediately appealing, and the component quality is just what you expect from a reasonably priced family-friendly game. The towers stack beautifully and intuitively (the dungeon doesn't stack on top of wizards and has a flat bottom to make sure you don't!). My only complaint is that there aren't enough wizards of each colour for everyone to choose their favourite colour at all player counts and the little drops which help with setup can be hard to see.
I've enjoyed all my games and even though it probably can’t land its tower in my top 10, it's certainly going to be difficult to find something as versatile, quick and easy to teach. Each game leaves you wanting another one, not because you think you'll do better next time but because it's great fun to drop a tower on top of a group of unsuspecting wizards and then chuck your own wizard in the dungeon, thus scuppering what little plan anyone else had made.