TGN Review: Wizard Dodgeball from Mind The Gap Studios
Wizard Dodgeball from Mind the Gap Studios brings the joys and childhood traumas of gym dodgeball to the tabletop, and throws in slinging spells just for fun.
The headmasters over there sent me a prototype copy to try out.
So, strap on your gym shoes and hope nobody hits you in the face, it’s time for another TGN Review. This time, it’s Wizard Dodgeball.
If you can dodge an ice bolt, you can dodge a ball… in theory, anyway. In Wizard Dodgeball, two teams of 5 wizards look to knock each other out via pegging them with a ball. Aiding them are the multitude of spells that each wizard has at their disposal.
Mind the Gap Studios has the game up on their website as a free print-and-play, but the version they sent me is more polished. It’s still a prototype, so I won’t talk about the quality, as it’ll probably change between now and the finished product.
In the game you will find 24 unique wizard cards, 24 wizard jersey markers, two sets of 10 spell cards, 2 sets of 24 spell counters, 5 ball markers, the game board, and 4 pairs of 6-sided dice (one pair each of white, grey, blue, and red). The dice are different colors because they are numbered different. White are numbered 0-5, grey are 1-6, blue are 2-7, and red are 3-8.
Turning to the board, it is a grid that is split into two halves with a central Neutral Area running through the middle. The halves are further split to create 4 zones. Zones are the effective “range” in the game, as many modifiers and limits are placed on the relation of one object to another. The Neutral Area is where the balls are placed at the start of the game. Wizards can move into the Neutral Area, but cannot cross it. Also, the Neutral Area is a magic-free zone. Magic cannot be cast while within the Neutral Area and things in the Neutral Area cannot have magic cast on them. The Neutral Area is not counted as a “zone” when checking range.
Wizard cards are split into physical and magical stats. The physical stats are Attack, Move, and Dodge. The Magical stats are Cast, Magic, and Resist. Attack, Dodge, Cast, and Resist are all listed as two colored squares. Those correspond to the dice that wizard rolls when seeing if they hit someone with a ball (or avoiding getting hit) or casting a spell (or resisting the effects of an enemy spell). Both Attack/Dodge and Cast/Resist tests are handled the same way. The Wizard throwing the ball or casting the spell rolls their pair of dice indicated on their card while the opponent rolls theirs. If the attacker’s roll is higher, then the enemy wizard is knocked out/affected by the spell. If the defender’s dice are equal to or greater than the attacker’s, then they get out of the way or otherwise dodge the spell or ball. The Defender also can potentially get back at the attacker if they roll doubles on their dice. In the case of a thrown ball, doubles means the defender has caught the ball and thus the attacker is eliminated. If they roll doubles versus a spell, then it is reflected back at the original caster, who must make their own Resist check to avoid getting hit by their own spell.
As for the remaining two stats, they’re both numbers. The Move number is how many squares a wizard can move with a Move action. Magic has a double-purpose. First, it indicates how many spells a wizard can add to the spell pool at the start of the game. Second, it also lets them target multiple squares with their spells when cast (though all the target squares must be adjacent to each other).
To set up a game, players must first get their team of wizards. This can be done one of several ways. Players could create their teams ahead of time, though the rulebook doesn’t mention how instances of two teams using the same player would be handled. Though if you had printed the stats, you could just print out another copy of any repeat wizard. The second way would be just shuffle the deck of player cards and deal out 5 to each player. This creates teams that are entirely randomized. The final way would be to place 10 stat cards, face up, between the two players who would then draft from the players present. Whatever you and your opponent decide, you’ll end up with 5 players. Place the player cards in front of you in the order in which you want them to activate. This will be their activation order throughout the game, so make sure they’re set the way you think will work best.
Players then pick their spells for their team. Add up the total Magic from your players and pick that many spells from the available pool. Spells cost either 1 or 2 points. The 2-point spells are all dual-ability, meaning they have both a buff and debuff ability (though you only use one at a time when casting the spell). The spells aren’t set to a specific wizard. They can be used by anyone on your team during their activation.
Finally, the 5 ball markers are placed in the Neutral Area, one each on the squares with stars on them. When the game begins, the balls are not yet “active.” To activate a ball, it must be brought into the zone farthest from the Neutral Area. After that, the ball will remain active for the rest of the game. With the balls in place, you are ready for a game of Wizard Dodgeball.
Play progresses in an “alternating activations” style, with each player activating a single wizard at a time. When it’s their turn, a wizard gets two actions. Actions are move, attack, cast a spell, and pass the ball. When moving, a wizard can move up to their Move stat in squares. Diagonal movement is allowed at no penalty. Attacks and offensive spells are resolved as mentioned above. Buff spells cast on your own teammates don’t require any roll. Passing the ball also doesn’t require a roll, but it does require the ball to have been “activated.” Wizards can only hold one ball at a time, but picking up/dropping a ball into an adjacent square is free and can be done any number of times during their activation.
Play continues until one side has been eliminated.
Wizard Dodgeball is a very simple game to learn that has quite a lot of tactical depth to it. The colored dice are a nice change-up from just “Stat Number + Roll” mechanics of many games. The order you place your wizards in also matters quite a lot. Since the order won’t change as the game goes on, you should really think hard about how you set them at the start. For example, do you want to save your strong thrower for later in the round, to be potentially buffed by your spell casters? Or should they go first thing to hopefully knock an enemy wizard out before they have a chance to act? The spells add a lot of options to what you can do on your turn as well. You can only cast each spell once per turn, so no spamming Freeze Ray or something like that, but even a team that doesn’t have good throwers can augment that with things like Fireball, giving them a tactical advantage. A good, balanced team of a few spell-throwers and a few ball-throwers seemed the best, I found.
I did tinker with the game a bit, after getting down the basics. It might be interesting to try games where you determined initiative every round. That way, it changed a bit of the order and routine of “Player A follows Player B follows Player C” and so forth. Also, I tried letting you re-order your team every round, keeping your cards in secret until you flipped them over to reveal who was going next. Both of those were just some experimentation, but I wouldn’t mind seeing those as alternate play modes for the game.
I enjoyed Wizard Dodgeball. Though I had to e-mail the designers a few times for clarification on how the rules were written, in the end, I found it a much more deeply tactical game than I’d expected. Going in, I admit that I figured it was just going to be a simple and quick game. There’s a lot there to take in and lots of depth with how you use your team during a game. The game’s free on the Mind The Gap Studios website, so why not download yourself a copy and try it out for yourself?