The following article was written by Cory Jones, creator of the Epic Spell Wars series, and was first published in the August 2019 issue of Game Trade Magazine.
I know what you’re thinking… DAMN, I love EPIC SPELL WARS and now they have a DECK-BUILDING GAME based on the award-winning*, IN-YOUR face humor and wacky world of the BATTLE WIZARDS? I mean, HOLY-[expletive deleted], have I died and gone to mother-[expletive deleted] HEAVEN? Did I get up in the middle of the night to piss and slip on the tile floor, bash my head on the tub, and slowly bleed to death… only to awake in HEAVEN for THIS game?!? Yes, you are dead and let’s explore your heavenly reward for a life well-spent… board gaming…
So how do we take everything great about Epic Spell Wars and translate it into other genres? Easy! A quick deal with the devil and you’re off to the races… no, no… maybe. Actually, we have been dreaming about expanding the ESW universe to include other types of games for a while. Heck, we have even designed a few—a very cool trading card game AND an almost entirely done role-playing system. Goofing around and exploring ideas, we tried adding ESW to our Cerberus platform and it was shocking how well it worked. Taking a few core design principals from ESW and adding it to our deck-building engine actually made the elements that are great in both absolutely AMAZING in combination. It was truly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I was actually surprised by how much fun I was having. For context, I have been playing our deck-building games for the last eight years. Conservatively, I have easily played over 500 games, and this is the most fun I have had playing a deck-builder… ever.
What makes it so great? The big thing is the intense interaction between players. Depending on your mood, a deck-builder can feel a bit non-interactive. Our Cerberus games, as an example, do have attacks and defenses, but it’s relatively secondary to the engine-building that is at the core of the deck-building concept. ESW: Annihilageddon turns that on its ear by giving players hit points, dramatically increasing the number of attacks in the game now that damage affects a secondary condition (your total life). You even get an attack right out of the gate in the starting deck (check out the WAND card above). When every round includes multiple attacks and EVERYONE is involved in the combat, it really keeps the gameplay exciting and the tension high. Of course, that tension is only compelling if you WANT to stay alive, and as we all know with Epic Spell Wars, no one STAYS dead!
SO what happens, if GOD FORBID, you do die!?! Well, as in all Epic Spell Wars games, death is NOT final. In Annihilageddon, it simply means you reset your health back to 20 and take a Dead Wizard Token. These tokens (there are 20 different ones) all reduce your Victory Point total by 3 AND have a nasty surprise reveal when flipped over, like adding negative cards, destroying your cards, or making you respawn with less health. In a couple of rare instances, they actually give you a buff! The tension of the Dead Wizard Token reveal is a key component of the ESW design aesthetic. Surprise is such a huge part of the core ESW games that it’s important that is represented in all other games with the ESW name.
One of the great ways we showcase the humor of ESW is in the Wizards you can play as and the deck-builder is no exception to that. In fact, we have created a system that lets you use champion Wizards from all the past ESW games! Our goal was to give each Wizard an ability and a Familiar (what kind of jackass Wizard doesn’t have a Familiar!?). Instead of printing the abilities on the cards (like previous Cerberus games), we put them on Wizard Ability Tiles. Each player is dealt two Ability Tiles and two Familiar Cards face down. They select an Ability Tile and then a Familiar. Doing it this way allowed us to print Familiars for past champions like Fey Ticklebottom and Sir Kitty Purrington. If you own the old games, you can pull the champion’s Wizard Card and, bing-bang-boom, you’re ready to go! We included one Familiar from each of the past four ESW games and will continue to add them with each upcoming Annihilageddon release.
I mentioned the element of surprise and how important that tension has been to all the ESW games. Well, one of the fun ways we represented this in Annihilageddon is with MAYHEM cards! Randomly shuffled into the deck are 26 crazy Mayhem Cards that have some pretty bonkers effects. This edge of-your-seat, game-may-change-at-any-second component is just another way to keep the tension high and everyone involved in every turn. Each time a new card comes off the main deck, it could be a MAYHEM.
There are SOOO many good innovations to our core engine in this game. Another one of my favorites is the new design for what is “Kick” in our DC Deck-Building Game series. In ESW, it’s “Wild Magic” and the 3 cost, 2 Power card now gives a player the added option of forgoing the 2 Power and instead playing the top card of an opponent’s deck! It’s a super fun dynamic as you try to play one of their powerful cards so they don’t get to. As an added bonus: If it is an Ongoing card, you actually get to KEEP IT!
Okay, well, I have to go… the ritualistic blood sacrifice has started and, if I don’t lead the chant, who knows what the hell will happen. But please make sure you try out Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Annihilageddon Deck-Building Game. I promise you’ll love it. I mean, I HOPE you love it. Tell you what: If you don’t love it and you see me, let me know and I will hold you tenderly and nod in agreement at your criticism. One great way to check out the game will be at all the cool upcoming tournaments at local game stores. The Launch Kit for retailers even includes special promos and a [expletive deleted] playmat that you can win!
*No awards actually won.
Bio: Cory Jones is the creator of Epic Spell Wars and one of the founders of Cryptozoic.