Updated: Mar 14
In Lizard Wizard, you each take on the role of an Arch-Mage. During each turn you will spend your action to try to gain the support of wizards from seven different schools of magic, race to build powerful towers, summon familiars, gather reagents to cast new spells that you will research, and enter the dungeon to find a bounty of gold and treasure left behind from past civilizations. All this while trying to manage your mana, because without mana you are truly powerless.
Lizard Wizard is a 2-6 player game with a play time of 90-120 minutes. It is designed by Glenn Drover and published by Forbidden Games. It is loaded with various game mechanics, from hand/resource management to bidding and push-your-luck. It is a medium weight game rated 2.13/5 and has a rating of 7.4/10 on BoardGameGeek.com.
Each player starts the game with a hand of reagent cards, and twenty mana. Each round you will have the option to perform one of six different actions in an attempt to increase your power. You can take an excursion to gather reagents (mandrake, sulfur, nightshade, eye of newt, etc.) in order to fuel spells that you can research as an action on a later turn. Reagents can also be used to build towers that will score points at the end of the game and, when paired with a wizard, will score extra points, depending on whether they are from the same school of magic or not. You can convert reagents into mana that will aid you when bidding on new wizards, researching spells, and summoning new familiars. Spells will have a wide range of effects throughout the game and can be a one time use or have an on-going effect. Spells will also score points at the end of the game if the spell symbol matches a pair of wizard/tower cards with the same symbol in your play area. Familiars give you four different, one-time use, actions when you gain them. These include researching a spell, gaining reagents/casting spells, gaining gold coins, and entering the dungeon. The dungeon has a press your luck element to it, and the players that have the most and second most treasures at the end of the game will gain bonus points. The game-end triggers when all the cards of a single type have been claimed. Play continues until the end of the current round. Then points are counted-up.
I have played this three times with different player counts. Our last play was with six players and with the higher player count, it did make the game bog down and go a bit long. Other players also mentioned the difficulty of planning out a turn in a six-player game because the available cards will have completely changed by the time everyone else has taken their turn. This may also contribute to the length of the game due to the inability to plan ahead. It is nice to have the higher player count as an option, but it plays better with three to four players. However, the six-player game was more entertaining during the wizard bidding because of the ample amount of player interaction, playful banter and laughs.
Let me say that I really like how Glenn Drover implemented all of these different game mechanics. I am not the biggest fan of bidding games or bidding mechanics in general, but I feel in this case it has been nicely executed. It definitely adds an additional layer of strategy when it comes to managing your mana (which is used as currency in the game). I also really enjoyed how the reagent market works. When a player takes the “Gather Reagents” action, they will play one of the cards from their hand. The reagent card has two parts. The top, which depicts the reagents the player gets to choose to gather and the bottom which shows the reagents that will increase in value on the market board. Each reagent has its own track on the market board with spaces numbering 1-12. Players may choose to take the “Convert Reagents” action and convert one type of reagent into mana. After choosing a reagent, they look at its current value on the market board, gaining mana equal to that value for each reagent converted. Finally, the value is reduced by the number of reagent tokens that were converted. This is the primary way to gain mana during the game and can take some planning to try and capture the highest benefit from this action. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the resource market and how the values fluctuate throughout the game.
The spells add a lot of flavor and versatility to the game. The spells are also what gives this game depth and its level of replay-ability. They cost mana to acquire and reagents to cast. Their effects are broad and can be game changing. They add a “take that” element to this game as well. That being said, if direct conflict is not your cup of tea, not to worry, there is an optional rule that removes all of the direct conflict related cards out of the game (marked with a star for easy reference). I have played this both ways and enjoyed the game far more without the direct conflict cards.
Scoring is pretty straight forward. You score 5 points for each pair of wizard/tower cards that don’t have matching symbols; 10 points for each matching pair, and 1 point for any wizards or towers that are not paired-up. You gain 5 points for each spell that is from the same school of magic as a matched wizard/tower pair. Each gold coin is worth 1 point. Points are then scored from spell card effects. The players who gained the most and second most treasure cards will gain 10 points and 5 points respectively. And finally, each game will have four different objective tiles. The first player to meet an objective during the game will score 10 points for that objective at the end of the game. The player with the most points, wins!
Overall, I have really liked this game. The rulebook is concise, and well written (which is saying a lot for a Kickstarter). The components are great and would highly recommend the Kickstarter version, if available. The gameplay is simple and smooth, and it has enough depth that it can give you a different experience each time it hits the table. This is one I would put in the category of light enough to play with “newish” gamers, but meaty enough for all of you seasoned players out there. I will agree with the BGG rating of 7.4/10. I don’t think that you can go too wrong with this game, and I recommend picking up a copy to add to your shelf.