Wizard Kings Tactics

A while ago I finished playing Grandia III on the PS2. Although the story line was a little weak (something the Grandia series is known for), the battles were wonderfully tactical (also something the Grandia series is known for). I realized through playing Grandia III that I liked games with lots of tactics. This is not to say that I dislike strategy games, but I found myself quite surprised at how much I liked tactical games.

I suppose I should define those terms, since they are easily confused. Tactics refers to the actual steps you take to achieve a goal, whereas strategy defines the overall goal. Wikipedia does a much better job explaining it.

I am exploring this tactical aspect of games though Yggrda Union, but I was really looking for a tactical board game, since I play lots of board games (and have talked about this at length on my website).

Eurogames? err...not so strong on the tactical side. It doesn't seem that eurogames really focus too much on tactics as an essence of game play. (Don't shoot me for generalizing with that statement. Eurogames certainly do have tactics in them.) I looked through my whole collection and could find bits and pieces here and there, but no real game that could fulfil this desire for a truly tactical game.

The obvious place I can go to get these kinds of games are wargames. Many of them are very tactical and very good at it. I looked at Hammer of the Scots and Fire in the Sky. There were many good candidates...but I hesitated. I really don't like the idea of playing wargames. It's one of those slippery slope arguments, but the idea of playing a game where humans are destroying one another through war is really unappealing to me. The slippery slope comes in because all games have some form of conflict, even cooperative games like the excellent Lord of the Rings. I can handle conflict in a fantasy-themed game but I really dislike when it looks too much like war. I even refuse to play the eurogame Memoir 44. I have looked at it and it appears to be a great game and, even though everyone from Tom Vasal on down thinks it's not-to-be-missed, I resist a stylized game of war.

I was able to come up with a compromise I can live with (and also enjoy, let's not forget that!). It comes in the form of the game Wizard Kings from Columbia Games, the famous wargame company in the States. They do a very good job of keeping the rules short and sweet (though at times confusing for mere eurogamers like me). The Wizard Kings maps are of excellent quality and are some of the clearest I have ever seen. I mention this because I have seen some dreadfully confusing maps in other games.

Unlike many wargames, which can play for hours or days, Wizard Kings can play very quickly, with many scenarios taking less than an hour. You can configure the maps in many different configurations, use different armies, and invent whatever scenario you can think of. I particularly like one of the supplied scenarios where the Amazons are defending their great wall from an invasion by the Barbarian horde.

Is it tactical? Yes, very much so. Especially the shorter scenarios, where you have to move very fast in a short number of turns. These scenarios play out in about twenty minutes and have a wonderfully tactical feel to them. Jeremiah and I have played a longer scenario and it was ok, but it felt more like a wargame and lost a bit of the tactical feel I was looking for. We'll probably stick to the shorter scenarios or invent our own.

Now I just have to get better at it. Tactics, that is. I realize that I have a long way to go.