Monday, June 4, 2012

Card Game Review - Epic Spell Wars

I played a perfectly horrible game this weekend, and I absolutely loved it.

It's called Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre. Yep, that's the whole name. I'm not even going to pretend I can type that more than once, so from now on, it's Epic Spell Wars. The name is a great indicator of how tongue-in-cheek the game is, but it does not help to explain how completely awful it is.

Epic Spell Wars is a pretty easy game to play. You've got a hand of spell component cards, and you put them out on the table to cast such spells as Old Scratch's Mysterious Exorcism and Beard O'Blastey's Delicious Chicken. The spells combine to create branching effects and do awesome things like hurt other people very badly. You can also maybe heal or get treasure, or something, but mostly you just rip out the other guy's heart with a fiery blast of pain. So that's pretty awesome.

It's also horrible. The violence in this game is not subdued or downplayed. The art on the cards is freaking terrible, and yet totally awesome. It's basically cartoons of people being cut in half, exploded, eviscerated and beheaded. It's impossibly gory, and I am not nearly as ashamed as I should be to admit that I love every last splatter of gray matter.

The premise of the game is that you're all competing in wizard tournaments - in Hell. You can cause each other immense pain and do considerable violence, but if you die, you just come back again. If you can kill every other wizard twice, you win - but this can be hard to do, because the other wizards are bound and determined to throw giant angry gonads at your head that will tear off your arms and legs with their testicular tentacles.

I did not make that up. You can be killed by flying testicles. SO AWESOME. And horrible. AND AWESOME.

For people who actually want games to be for smart people, Epic Spell Wars is perfect. If you can creatively combine the cards in your hand for maximum destructive capacity, you can send vorpal swords to cut your opponents to pieces - and maybe do it twice, or do it to all your enemies at the same time, or grab some treasure after you're done. If, like me, you think that the only thing cooler than chopping a person in half with a vorpal sword is chopping a person in half with a vorpal sword twice, then you will love Epic Spell Wars.

Need more evidence that this game is horrible? The rulebook has profanity. And not the kind of weak profanity that you can use around children over twelve. The rules use the kinds of bad words that are usually reserved for dock workers and porn stars. You cannot allow your young children to even read the rules. That's how awesome Epic Spell Wars is.

Now, I admit that I love to revel in the depravity of the human condition, and that may be improving my opinion of this game. However, it's also actually a very cool game. There's a lot of strategy that goes into building your spells. Sometimes you want to build a powerhouse of nuclear destruction that will melt your enemies down to their skeletal structure, and you don't mind waiting around to do it. Sometimes you want to dish just a little pain and give yourself a chance to grab some treasure or heal up. And sometimes, when it's down to the wire, and your opponent only needs a weak hit to send him spiraling into the grave, you just need to be fast and brutal. Combining the cards just the way you need them can help you perform an especially effective Pact with the Devil, or it can just send a lightning-fast Explodey explosion to take down a foe who is teetering on the brink.

If there's anything that might damage your enjoyment of Epic Spell Wars (aside from the complete lack of social acceptability), it's that at times, it might feel a little luck-happy. You might pull a hand full of stuff that just doesn't work the way you want it to work. You might roll very poorly and end up damaging yourself when you invoke the help of Satan himself. You might set up a killer spell and then watch it fizzle because the dice hate you. Personally, I'm fine with that, because the luck can be mitigated and improved by smart play. But even when you play smart, you can still get totally screwed by dice rolls that just don't go your way. And then a giant man-ball is going to squeeze your neck until your eyes pop out.

So to sum up, Epic Spell Wars is both absolutely horrible and completely awesome. It takes balls to make a game that so willfully stands up and says, 'you can stick your family values where they won't get sunburned.' And not just flying killer testes, either, but actual metaphorical balls.


2-6 players (and more is definitely better)

Insane violence abounds in a setting completely devoid of moral compass
Smart and fun as hell
Good strategy balanced by some tricky luck
Great, great art

Insane violence abounds in a setting completely devoid of moral compass
May be a little too lucky for overly analytical types

 If you think you've got the intestinal fortitude to handle a game this awesome and horrible, get yourself over to Noble Knight Games and save a couple bucks on it:


Mik said...

This game looks awesome for all of the right reasons.

Mik said...
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