Wizard's Gambit Review

Wizard's Gambit card game in play

A little card game that I stumbled upon relatively inexpensively was Wizard's Gambit.

In Wizard's Gambit, each player takes on the role of a Wizard who is attempting to learn the most powerful spells (specifically 10 points worth of them). Throughout the game, there are 4 spells available in the "spellbook" (common pile in the middle). To learn/cast each spell, different elements must be played, such as "Dragon's Tooth", etc (depicted by symbols and colors). Each turn, the active wizard is allowed to play one "incantation" (action card) and must play one element (or show his hand revealing none available that match what the current spells in the spellbook require). Each time a Wizard completes a spell, he puts it on top of his personal spellbook, and its effects begin immediately (and replace any previous spell in his spellbook's effects). The game continues in this manner until one player has scored 10 points.

There's not really all that much to be said about this game, so this section may be a bit brief. The main pro was based around trying to time your card plays for their maximum potential. This normally involved incantations much more than element cards. With element cards, the goal was essentially to not place the next to last required element (because then the next player could complete the spell). However, with some of the incantations a player could wind up performing some interesting actions on his turn and score significant points by completing one (or potentially more) spells.

The next pro is related to the "Gambit" cards. These are the trump cards in the game, and you could use them for 3 purposes: to block other players from playing on a spell in the common spellbook, to block the effects of a spell on top of somebody's spellbook, or to cancel someone else's Gambit card.  They helped the game to have more interesting strategies because a player had to determine whether it was important to protect one of the common spells, keep the Gambit as defense, or block an annoying spell effect.  Unfortunately, the Gambit cards are removed from the game once they are used, so you will only see these cards the first time through the deck.

Now for the cons, starting with... the primary game mechanic turned into "who can wait the longest." The object of the game is to play the last element in each spell. Because of this, your turn is often no more than looking around and making sure that you don't play on certain spells - you don't want to set the person after you up to be able to collect a spell. The incantations and (previously collected) spells help with this, but the sentiment is definitely prevalent in the game.

The next con is that it was not easy to see which elements were remaining on any given spell. Because of this, players regularly were forced to repeatedly cross off the played elements in their heads to determine what was remaining. This caused the game to take longer than was necessary.

Finally, the game was not especially fun. I think that if it played faster, it would have been quite a bit better, but the pace of the game was a bit too slow for the complexity and level of enjoyment involved.

Overall, I give Wizard's Gambit a 6.5/10. It isn't a bad little card game, and it could be played with just about anybody (read "kid friendly" - as long as they can read), but it just doesn't hold my attention for long enough to play it very often.

If Wizard's Gambit sounds interesting, you might also check out Dixit, Gloom, and Glory to Rome.

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