Long before Harry Potter kept engaging in magic duels, there was Wiz-War: a board game where wizards raced to collect their opponents' treasures, or just kill their opponents. Fantasy Flight Games has released a new edition of this classic game -- and it's a terrific playing experience.

Wiz-War lets 2-4 players take on the roles of competing wizards. The players are in a labyrinth of twisting corridors and sealed doors, with their home base in the center of their tile and their two treasures nearby. Every wizard starts with 15 life points and five cards. Each turn is divided into three turns. First, time passes (reducing the duration of temporary spells). Then, a playes can move (three spaces, plus any Energy cards used, around the board or through portals), pick up or drop items and treasures, make one attack (either on a player, or to destroy a wall or door), and cast other spells (from transformations to elemental powers). Finally, a player can discard cards and draw up to two cards (up to seven cards). A player scores one point for each enemy treasure dropped in their home base and one point for each killed opponent.

There are several elements that make Wiz-War complex, unpredictable, and exciting. The two paths to victory -- treasure-gathering or total combat -- are equally possible, and a player may switch between the two as opportunities arise during the game. Wiz-War offers players a variety of counter-spells, from damage reduction to "Featherweight" which pushes the target a number of spaces equal to the points of damage they would have taken; so no combat is a sure thing. Since Energize cards can be used to increase speed, the damage of an attack, or the duration of a temporary spell, a player will have to think carefully about how to use these cards.

Surprisingly, one of the most challenging elements of Wiz-War is the hand limit. You can only have seven cards, and you can't draw more cards until you go below seven. However, all maintained spells, permanent spells, and items count against your hand limit. So as the game progresses, you'll have to decide what spells and items to get rid of in order to get more cards.

In addition to that great gameplay, the production values of Wiz-War are terrific. The cards are bright and clear, often with surprisingly funny artwork (like the giant hammer "Ka-Bong!"). There are pieces for just about everything in the game, from destroyed walls to transformed wizards. My only complaint is that the plastic figures are all gray; but I suppose that was done to keep the cost down and to let players paint them as they want.

Wiz-War is a fantastic blend of strategy, chance, resource management (the resources being spells and items), racing, and fighting. This game looks great, plays great, and has tremendous replay potential. Wiz-War is a definite must for any gamer.

Overall grade: A+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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