..the cold weather has always been a major pain…joints just don’t want to cooperate…seized up elbows and aching wrists..finger joints riddled with pain and stiffness…so how the ‘ecky thump am I going to wield this stupid whittled stick about?
(Press play for a dungeonesque ambience to accompany your read!)
In possession of a decidedly dubious magical artefact, namely my trusty wand from e-bay, I am about to embark on an adventure of true discovery. I shall forthwith be discovering the ancient and highly guarded secrets of spell casting…my goal to master the complicated wand movements and combine said movements into ever more complex patterns and combinations….I will be a true spell castor!
What’s All The Fuss About?
A spell casting game for young and aged wizards alike, everywhere. Ka-ZING is a new card game about the actual casting of spells , coming to Kickstarter soon (link coming at the end of the article) offering multiple modes of play, multiple difficulties and multiple player counts…the only thing a player needs is the skill to wield a wand (wands not included but may be sold separately by wand emporiums and other fictitious outlets nation wide)
Immersion or Subversion?
We are witches, wizards sorcerers and warlocks competing to prove who is he best spell caster. Now this is the overall theme of the game but it is not a game about magic spells and turning people into unmitigated piles of green goo. This is more a focus on the actual mechanics of casting a spell, whatever the incantation or its outcome. It is a tricky one to discuss immersion about, as we all have our own perspectives on this matter. Whatever our take on the matter, this is a puzzle-like hand management-like game that puts us at the forefront of casting spells. The game components are all about specific combinations of hand/wand movements (the way in which we swish our want about) that we must utilise to create that perfect spell…and of course the more ‘perfecterer’ a spell is the more points we can achieve on our quest for glory. So, if potential players are looking for a game of Harry Potter, then this is not the one for them as the immersive nature here is about constructing patterns of cunning swishety-flick hand/wand movements.Not saving the castle from bloggers…ooops, typo…Boggerts!
This is all about the root fundamentals of spell casting and as such, I feel it does immerse us into this same said world. During play we become focused on card combinations, maximizing cards in our hand and choosing the optimum moment to play such wonderous combos.
There is something rather delightful, even intriguing with this deck of 130+ cards. The rule set allows customisation of the game so that not only are we offered three modes of play; Solo, Verse and team battle, we are also offered three game styles; Thaumaturgy, Precision and Duel but in addition to that lot, we are offered three levels of difficulty. What this means is that players can indulge in various ways to use the deck of cards (without complex editing or constructing of new deck) whilst offering a level playing field where by spell casters of varying ages and abilities can compete on equal footings.
The fundamentals see us using cards in hand and from a draw deck/display area to create spells. And that’s it…well no, it is a little more involved than that.
I don’t want to waste time telling players how to play but will point out several elements I like within the game.
There is a nice dual use for the cards. The game is about constructing connected series of wand movements across an imaginary 3×3 grid of movement locations in front of our body.now to start a string of cards we need a starting location which is identified by our first played card (all cards have a 1-9 start location number on a band at the bottom of the card. We play these rotated 180 degrees. All subsequent cards are played with their standard orientation, using the illustrated spell movement which start here and trace their respective paths across this grid, each picking up from where the last terminated, until a Ka-zing, Zing or Kazan spell card is played to complete the spell and score it (names are only important in duel mode)
This is the imaginary quadrant showing the potential start and end points to a particular spell move card.
We are forced to pick up a card each turn either from the display or blind from the top of the deck, but collecting movement cards that will work together…and, of course, finding the less frequent word spell cards is where the challenge and skill lie. This is what truly tests us.
Tom has created a rather ‘neat’, to coin an Americanism, way of adding tension and game-length restriction to the solo game…but I intend to waffle on about that a little later.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I have a preview copy kindly sent to me by Tom, which was obviously well made and well presented but at this stage I cannot say what plans are in store for the artwork for the final game. The set I have is nicely illustrated, has clear icons/numbers and the movement shapes are easily distinguishable from one another. It has the same wizard illustration on each card so I don’t know if there are future plans to introduce additional images to either correspond to the shapes of movement or to the spell groups (I forgot to mention that there are several colour groups of spell movement cards which, although act in the same manner, can give us bonuses if matching the word-spell card)
Again, this may change with the campaign, but my copy has a series of numbered cards with the rules on which makes life simpler when I can just pull out the card corresponding to solo play for example.
Edit: A note from the designer, Tom
To clarify one element, the artwork is being re-jigged by the same chap who has done our Six Gun Showdown characters. There will be 2 wizards/warlocks and 2 witches/sorceresses and we will be showing the new stuff as soon as it is ready!
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Tom Lovewell
- Game Publisher: Redwell Games
- Playtime: (recess for those of the US persuasion): 20-60 mins
- Gangs of One: 1+
- Age of Consent: 8+
- DOB: 2018
This is the moment I can introduce the rather cunning and often unpredictable solo timer mechanic. This functions firstly as an opponent but also to restrict game length in a less than predictable manner, to add some serious tension to a soloists game play. In essence the AI timer receives a starting blind hand of three cards. Every turn just as we have to draw a card, so the timer deck draws from the same spell movement deck. Once the timer deck is full…in other words it is containing nine cards, these nine cards are revealed and movement numbers are retained…
Whilst duplicates are discarded. So the game continues adding cards to what ever is remaining and each juncture the timer reaches nine cards, they are checked. Duplicate position/location cards (I feel I have not been consistent with reference to the spell starting position, but not to worry) are once again discarded but all unique numbers are retained and once all nine locations/positions have been collected by the timer deck, or even us, the game ends. During some chat with Tom the idea of using some bonuses that can be achieved from spells containing greater than four cards…or rather 4+, we can discard a card from the timer deck. This idea I find particularly interesting for facilitation of strategy generation, as now there is an incentive to go for those bigger spell combinations. It may take time we don’t necessarily have but the reward is we gain time by discarding a card from the timer. It feels like this tiny addition suddenly opens up the game for greater strategy.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers:Without a doubt, this game in solo mode is one very tricky customer to defeat…especially on Precision mode. The timer is unpredictable, as would be a real opponent, and can pull out a win before we have even got into our stride. But that said, we can plan ahead and use tactics, sell bonuses to our advantage in an attempt to slow the timer deck down. It is winnable in solo mode and here lies the flaw with some games…it uses a ‘better your own score’ mechanic…usually I dislike this notion but firstly the challenge in this case is actually beating the timer…scores are almost a secondary bonus. On that score (like what I did there?) Designer Tom is looking into a hierarchy of win conditions… along the lines of beat X score and you are an Initiate or beat Y score and you are a full apprentice and…well I have no idea the recognised levels of wizardry in mythology. Gandalf has a grey hat, Merlin was a cartoon at one point and I have only heard of female wizards in Terry Pratchet’s Equal Rites. I digress. The game is a fun but challenging game…it can be won, I must point out, before players lose heart and give up.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: As of this moment I have read a PDF of the rules and have the thirteen double sided rule cards. At this moment with impending minor changes to certain aspects (and the usual developments during a Kickstarter campaign) I don’t have any certain information on length and ultimately digestibility. At present, however, there are maple,straight forward and allow for quick access to gameplay. The only point I wasn’t clear about was that the spell start Location/position card was counted as part of the spell size when referring to bonuses. So things are looking good if that was the only issue.
- Lucky Buggers: There is an awful lot of ‘luck of the draw’ in this game, for the hand we get, the movement cards on display and the cards that get distributed to the Timer in solo play. How we adapt our strategy, select movement cards and the expediency with which we cast our spells is entirely within our control. Sometimes it is damage limitation but ultimately we have processes in place to mitigate at least some of the misfortune due to randomness. Without it, we would find ourselves with a rather dry, predictable and thoroughly dismal game.
- Highs and Lows: As the theme is focused more on the act of casting spells rather than what they are used for or at environment they are used in, there is no dark or foreboding aspect. It can be frustrating to lose but the game has a distinct upbeat feel to it.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: In solo play the game sprawls its gigantic footprint all over…my tiny side table…as seen in the photographs. It is possible to play within a 50cm x 32cm area which makes for a considerably compact playing area.
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: As this game is composed of a single deck of cards, the set up and tear down is exceptionally quick. If not playing with the sorcerers level of difficulty, the advanced cards require removal from the deck. Other than that set up is merely dealing cards to the display, to ourselves and to the timer…then it’s cast away (not the Tom Hanks variety)
Me, Myself and I:
I have only played the solo variants of this game so haven’t experienced the duel mode but have worked my way through the Thaumaturgy and Precision variants at the three difficulty levels. Both Myself and I considered a three-way battle with me but interpersonal conflicts prevented such a marathon. Creating spells in the same colours is remarkably tricky in the limited time scale but my particular favourite is the Precision mode. his is a real challenge completing spells that begin movement in all nine locations.
I know this currently has only a beat your own score system for solo play* but as the timer mechanic is such a canny little chap, just beating it to the finish is the prime requisite…for me. This is a light, quick game but once a game starts, it is surprising how focused we become, desperately seeking those specific, illusive cards whilst the timer deck speeds its way to the finish line. As it has a small footprint and comes in a fairly small tuckbox, it is incredibly versatile re; playing surfaces. I have chatted back and forth with Tom on a number of elements of the game …mostly for clarification as I am stupid, but some discussion on ways to tinker with solo rules for the better of soloists everywhere. Am confident that when Ka-Zing goes live there will be a very entertaining solo with an excellent, tight set of rules.
Yay or Nay?
I suspect that fans of heavy Euros will perhaps scoff at the simplicity of this game…but it is not aimed at that market. It is easily accessed by young, inexperienced gamers whilst (down to the customise-ability) simultaneously allowing more experienced gamers to take the field at the same time. Now this has small bearing on solo play but it is a feature I admire for those wanting a small but very versatile game. It’s not leviooosa it’s leviosaaaah…well, Hair-my-o-knee…it is neither. This is real ‘spell mechanics’…the true methodology behind casting and as such, the flickety-swish wand movements Kazing the BSoMT 1d8 die to a sizzling (6)
This is a remarkably simple, yet challenging, flexible game that I recommend both soloists and…well, you know, the other type of gamer, to check this out when it’s hits Kickstarter. I will add a link when the project goes live…and as Tom is looking at additional ideas for the solo play, this promises to be a tasty little game to fill any gamers nooks and crannies…no euphemism intended
…oh now look, you’ve gone and caught me in my Sunday Wizard Robes…the breeze is getting in at the corners…please turn you back…or at least avert your vulgar gaze from my mystic runes, whilst I done a more socially acceptable form of hat
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Ka-Zing on Kickstarter (link coming soon)
Redwell Games Website: https://redwellgames.com
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