Sometimes, you have to just take a theme and run with it. This blog usually focuses on Firelock titles, but you might detect a bit of a subtheme too. What do Blood & Plunder, Blood & Valor, Blood & Steel, and Oak & Iron all have in common? Ampersands! So when I was cruising Etsy looking for cool B&P swag to support the Blood & Pigment painting challenge (more on that in another article) and stumbled on another ampersand game called Gnomes & Wizards? It was destiny.
And so, without further ado:
I always love it when worlds collide. Despite being very similar, it seems like the RPG, Wargaming, and Boardgaming crowds often miss each other like ships in the night. For example, folks making terrain for D&D will suddenly “discover” a technique that us wargamers have known for years – but in turn stole from the model railroading community. Why should game mechanics be any different?
Under the zany and colorful hood of Gnomes & Wizards are some mechanics that I immediately recognized. It’s like someone tossed Magic: the Gathering, SAGA, and Catan into a blender with a gallon of neon paint, and hit puree.
Players take control of a tribe of Wizards or Gnomes, and duke it out on the gameboard. Each tribe comes with a Leader, and 6 other units which can be summoned onto the board during gameplay. The tribes are asymmetric – each has its own abilities and playstyle. During gameplay, players can also draw from a common deck of ability cards, and these can be attached to your leader or units.
To win, players move their pieces on the battlefield to collect Power Crystals and to attack one another. Collected crystals are spent to use your abilities, and defeating opposing units and leaders earns you victory points.
All of this action is handled by a dice-placement system that to my wargaming eye, is very similar to SAGA. At the start of the turn, players roll a handful of proprietary D6s. The roll will yield either Movement/Attack results or ‘Horns’. There are other faces on the dice that are used during combat, so not every dice will necessarily come up with the roll you need. Once the dice are rolled, you assign the Movement/Attack results to your units, and use the Horns to summon new units onto the battlefield or draw ability cards. Like SAGA, it takes a combination of luck and foresight for your battleplan to come together.
Wizard (or Gnome) vs. Wild
All this crystal collecting and monster summoning really does a number on the battlefield, and half way through the game, things start getting perilous. The ground begins to crumble away!
We’re playing on a board of gaming tiles after all, and not a 4×6 lump of plywood. Manipulating the battlefield is as easy as flipping over a few chits of cardboard. Beginning on turn 6 (of the 10 turn game) each player is called upon to flip over 2 tiles at the start of their turn – working from the outside, inwards.
This has a cool effect similar to ‘Battle Royale’ games like Fortnite or PUBG. Players are forced into the middle of the field, or else start to fall off of it – and yes, you can use this against your opponents.
The shrinking table makes sure that nobody tries to take up a cowardly strategy of sniping from the edges, and gets everyone into the fray at the middle of the “table”.
Following on from that ‘Battle Royale’ note – Gnomes & Wizards is a multiplayer game which scales from 2, up to 6 players. It’s a free-for-all melee, with no teams allowed. Winning is Highlander format: there can be only one.
Since the game uses tiles rather than a conventional board, the game’s layout can be scaled to the number of players. More players results in a bigger board, but since each player is removing 2 tiles per turn once things become “unstable,” the board still shrinks down just as quickly.
The tile layout is also semi-randomized, so that you won’t fight over the same terrain twice.
When can you get your hands on ‘Gnomes & Wizards’? First, you can check it out this June at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. If you can’t make it to one of the premiere board gaming conventions in the United States, you can grab a copy when the Kickstarter goes live in October of this year (that’s 2023, Marty). To keep abreast of updates, you can sign up for the newsletter on CavernWire’s website.
This isn’t CavernWire’s first dalliance with Kickstarter. Gnomes & Wizards was actually launched back in 2020, and didn’t get off the ground. Such is the plight of the indie game developer. CavernWire had tried to publish the game entirely off the funds raised by the Kickstarter. This time though, they’re ahead of the curve. The game is already funded thanks to Bobby’s successful business, and it’s going to the manufacturer in May with revamped artwork and some tweaks to the gameplay. The Kickstarter is just there as a preorder, and to help propel the game further with the usual Stretch-Goals and Extras that we’ve all come to expect.
So jump in early and help bring a zany, unique boardgame to market. You can follow CavernWire at their website. Also, while we’re on the topic of “exclusives,” stay tuned for some more cool, ‘Blood & Plunder’ related content coming from Bobby. Because hey: the world needs more ampersands.