Published on August 8th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich2
Dodgeball Without the Skinned Knees
A Review of Wizard Dodgeball Now on Kickstarter
The sports tournament you’ve been waiting all year for has finally arrive! Two teams have risen through the ranks in an impressive display of athleticism, magical prowess and lots of close calls. Now the mouth guards are in, spells have been recharged and these athletes are ready to compete in one of the most aggressive sports in the galaxies to be crowned the champion of Wizard Dodgeball!
Pictures featured in this article are from a prototype copy and do not reflect the quality of the pieces, board and cards. The art is final but all components are subject to change depending on the Kickstarter.
While this particular game features a team from IWDL (Interplanar Wizard Dodgeball League) whose players are gathered from the all across 24 galactic systems, you as the team manager are very familiar with this sport because you have experienced this combat first hand. Remember back to the days of grade school P.E. class: wiping the dust off your shoes for better traction, preparing to burst from the start line with classmate targets already in mind. Wizard Dodgeball is that game but includes the added feature of magic spells.
The board and pieces really call back to those times playing in the grade school gym: from the unearthly, shiny flooring to the bright red dodgeball- this is nostalgia packed into a tabletop game. Out of the many prototypes I’ve seen, Wizard Dodgeball is one of the best as fast as grabbing your attention with its embrace of saturated colors.
Wizard Dodgeball’s wizard cards, however, lack any visual representation. They have stats, number and very funny names but I wish there were character portraits. This game doesn’t necessarily need portraits if you’re coming to the game expecting a fantasy draft and sports-oriented aspect; but I always want games to have a bit more character. I want to see what they look like or have visual representations of the stats shown on the cards. It’s the difference between telling me what a barbarian is versus showing me a picture of barbarian in a Frank Frazetta painting. I want to feel invested in my team, especially if I plan on playing Wizard Dodgeball often.
It is easy to look at the board, the stated-up characters and spell cards in your hand and become overwhelmed with, “OMG, What do I do?”. Just take a step back and remember: you are playing dodgeball. You need to run out, grab the ball and try to hit the other players on the team to tag them out and be the last team standing. That is the objective. Now how to do that is completely up to you.
Players start the game by randomly dealing wizards or if you’re more experienced, drafting them. Players may arrange their wizards in any initiative order and play will alternate between players’ wizards starting from left to right. Next, adding up the combined magic stat, players choose which tournament-sanctioned spells they wish to use in the game (like prepping a spell book before an encounter). Place the dodgeballs in the center of the board and begin!
While it may not look it at first glance, Wizard Dodgeball takes a lot of inspiration from tabletop roleplaying and miniatures games. It is a game that focuses exclusively on combat between a team of wizard athletes. Each wizard can move, cast spells or throw a ball on their turn. A successful attack an opponent with a spell or ball is determined by getting the higher die roll versus an opponent’s defense roll. There are varying colors of dice from white, grey, blue to red with the white die containing the lowest array of numbers and red the highest. Seeing a red or blue die on a character card means that character’s stat is more likely to succeed. Some characters just have better die stats than others which can really affect the later gameplay when wizards are out of play and puts even more importance on the initial draft.
Spells add more complexity to basic dodgeball and their variety of utility is what makes the spells so important and fun to include in this game. Teleport, for example, is spell with many options as you can teleport a dodgeball, friend or foe around the board either closer to you or further away. The variety lets players try out different strategies and when a game lasts only 30 minutes of play, that encourages players to experiment.
Wizard Dodgeball is a quick, low-investment combat scenario that introduces casual players to the gameplay of miniatures strategy games through an easily grasped and highly nostalgic sport. Gamers don’t have to trudge through the rules and complexities of miniature games like Warhammer if they want to see what that gameplay is like. Start with Wizard Dodgeball and after that, slowly build to more complex character stats and overarching strategies.
While actually playing the game is easy, winning the game becomes progressively more difficult if you start to fall behind. Wizard Dodgeball doesn’t have a way to balance gameplay out if you lose a wizard. A faltering player will still have access to the same spells, same chances and will have the added disadvantage of having the opponent take two turns in a row. I don’t mind that winning the game becomes much more difficult if you begin losing. It just means Wizard Dodgeball is trading its appeal as a casual game that anyone can pick up, play and win and instead rewards winners based on skill. The best way to counter this is to do what everyone does to get better at a sport or game: practice. Play this game a lot and learn figure out your own strategy when you’re a player down. OR don’t take Wizard Dodgeball too seriously. Play to the best of your ability and enjoy the experience: those Hail Mary throws, the trick plays and the smack talk just like you’re back on the grade school playground.
Check out Wizard Dodgeball on Kickstarter and $35 will get you a copy shipped anywhere in the US. Please share this game with your friends-the last day of funding is September 2nd.
The designer, Pete, is based out of Seattle and we first met him at the Unpub mini Seattle event. If you’re interested in playing the game in person, he will be attending Dragonflight or you can visit Mind the Gap Studios to see what locations he’ll be demoing Wizard Dodgeball.