Wizards Card Game – The Ultimate Game of Trump
Wizards Card Game – The Ultimate Game of Trump Playtest Review by David Plank on 18/07/01
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 1 (I Wasted My Money)
Not a whole lot for your money, but a good game nevertheless.
Product: Wizards Card Game – The Ultimate Game of Trump
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: U.S. Games Systems Inc.
Page count: N/A
Year published: Unknown
Comp copy?: yes
Playtest Review by David Plank on 18/07/01
Genre tags: Other
This was my first complementary review copy of any game, so I was understandably excited by the arrival of it. Even more so as I had no idea what the game actually was – I had been unable to find any other mention of the game anywhere, so I was totally in the dark about what I was getting.
So the game arrived, and I opened the package, and found … a deck of cards, and some plastic bits. Oh, and a score pad.
It wasn’t a special deck or anything – it was an ordinary deck of cards – four suits, thirteen cards in each suit ranging from deuce to ace, etc. The only difference was the addition of eight new cards – four Wizards and four Jesters – which are not of any suit.
The plastic bits are bid setters. Actually quite a good idea. The basic premise is a dial with numbers from 1 to 20 set around the edge, set into a base with an arrow at the top. You are supposed to place your bid by turning the dial until the number you want is under the arrow.
The game basically plays like Whist, or Trumps, or whatever you happen to call it. The rules are very simple: each player is dealt a number of cards (in Wizard, one card in the first round, two in the second, and so on). The next card of the deck is turned up to set the trump suit. Before the round begins in earnest, each player must bid on how many tricks he thinks he can take in the round. The bids are all recorded, and the play begins. The person left of the dealer leads any card from his hand, and everybody (in a clockwise order) must either follow suit or play any card from their hand. Either the highest lead suit or the highest trump wins the trick, and the winner leads the next trick. Continue until nobody has any cards left. You score points for each trick you take, and bonus points for getting your bid right. Simple.
Wizards adds a few new and interesting wrinkles to this basic formula, to make a much more intriguing game…
Firstly, if you make your bid, you score points (20 points plus ten points for each trick you get), but if you are over or under by even one trick, you lose points (ten points per trick you were out). So you have to be very accurate with your bidding, or you won’t win (no matter how good your hand is).
Next are the bid setters. This allows for a nice mechanic whereby everybody can place their bids simultaneously, thus removing a little bit of the psychology (guessing what cards people have got as they make their bids, and adjusting your bid accordingly), for more tactics.
And the main change to the standard rules is the addition of the eight new cards. The four Jesters and four Wizards do not belong to any suit, and can be used as wild cards – that is, they can always be played, even if you could follow suit. A Wizard always wins (the first Wizard played wins if more than one is played), and Jesters always lose (quite handy if you’ve underbid and are in danger of winning too many tricks). The rules cover such things as leading a Jester or a Wizard, and everybody playing a Jester, and so on, but they are fairly simple and intuitive.
And that’s it. It plays very well indeed, and is a very enjoyable game. The ups and downs of the scores are quite amusing to watch (someone gets it badly wrong and finds themselves last, after a supposedly ‘unconquerable’ lead). Everybody is in it to the final round, which makes for no dull moments.
The rules are easy, quick to learn, and very intuitive. I had no trouble teaching the game to several non-gamers – mostly because almost everybody already knows the bulk of the rules.
I have two major gripes with the game, however.
In order of severity, we begin with the mildly annoying bid setters. Unanimously, we all agreed that they were crap. The idea is a very good one, but the cheap and nasty things we get make the actual practicalities not worth it. The problem being (besides the numbers beginning to rub off after only a few games), the bids are not static. There is nothing to stop the wheel moving after you’ve placed the bid, and with the numbers on the dial so closely packed, it becomes totally impossible to rely on the setters to find out what someone bid. You have to trust the player, which kind of removes the whole point of the setters anyway. A nice and simple way of dealing with the problem would be to add a notch to the base that held the dial in place once the bid had been set (the edge of the dial is notched already, so this would be fairly easy). Also, putting the dial under the base, with a hole showing the selected number would have improved it.
This brings me nicely to my second (and more important) gripe. The cost. Although I didn’t pay for the game, I would not have been happy with it if I had. According to the ‘replacement parts’ listing in the rulebook, to buy the game new costs $12. And for what you get, it is not, in any way, worth that much. The setters are very cheap and nasty, the cards are not of the best quality (mine are showing wear around the edges already), and you are not getting much more than a standard deck of cards anyway, with eight new cards thrown in – which would cost, what, a dollar? And you buy two decks, mark the jokers, and you have your eight new cards, yes?
You have the same game, no annoying bid setters that don’t work anyway, for a sixth of the price. OK, so you don’t get a spiffy little score pad, or the actual rules (but come to think of it, you can probably figure out the rules from this review).
Rather than call the game the Ultimate Game of Trump, I would have called it Another Version of Trump. Though it probably wouldn’t sell, then…