Gnomes & wizards had me instantly drawing comparisons to Nexus Ops, and from there, it was hard to shake off that feeling or sense of similarity. But no means is it the same game or does it share much in terms of DNA apart from the reserves you're fighting over, but that sense of head to head, escalating sense of fight to win, fight to survive. And crystals!!!!
Gnomes & Wizards is a skirmish game that sees what only can be described as bands of fools going head to head over crystals! Because what else drives magical folk to war rather than shiny gem stones?
At the heart of Gnomes & Wizards, it's a relatively basic affair, moving around the board, using dice to attack and trying to essentially out last your opponent! Well or annihilate them for points. Combat isn't a case of can I cause damage, its I will cause damage, as defence only reduces damage taken by half. But but you'll need to harvest crystals to power up your units, so theres a careful balance to be achieved here between attacking, resource gathering and manoeuvring. Although the game drives you towards combat as the map shrinks, driving the players into a smaller play space that will lead to war!
On your turn, you'll be rolling dice to determine the actions you can take. there's the ability to reroll here. But with every dice game, there can be that sense of you're just not getting the dice you need or want! Dice allow you to move, summon, and attack.
There's a whole heap of iconography here, which I think causes the weighting of 3.00/5 because there isn't a whole amount of rules here, its the level of iconography, different abilites and so on that add to that complexity pile. And part of me wonders, how long this would take for a 3 or 4 or 6 player game. At two players it was a good 90 minutes, and I'm not sure theres enough here in terms of rewarding decision making and game play to warrant anything longer.
Gnomes & Wizards isn't a bad game by any stretch, its got a fairly solid rules set, nice components and a mixture of art (some I love, some I don't), it was a game we enjoyed getting to the table. Although I think the rules could do with some reorganisation, it just didn't feel quite natural. In terms of a layout and had us flip flopping between pages to find the bits we needed. Fundamentally, I think its the level of iconography that is as much as this games uniqueness, but also its biggest barrier to entry. Theres so much here, that I suspect newer board gamers may struggle. And I guess I've come full circle as that's why the complexity rating is there.
But, here's the catch. In a world where I can get through the epic of war of the ring in 2 hours, or fire through scenarios of Undaunted in 30-45 minutes. For me Gnomes & Wizards sits in that middleground, and yes it does accommodate more players but I can't help but worry for the play time! Like I'd never play War of the Ring with more players, because I feel like it would detract from the experience. Gnomes & Wizards offers a bigger map with higher player counts and there's a whole host of different factions, so there's multiple different match ups here!
So on a scale of:
buy or play,
wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ,
I'll give Gnomes & Wizards, a play if you like Skirmish games such as Nexus Ops, Neuroshima Hex, Battlelore I suspect you'll enjoy this! And considering half of those are out of print, Gnomes & Wizards feels like a solid alternative if you enjoy those kind of games.
Gnomes & Wizards is relaunching on Kickstarter!
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Gnomes & Wizards to try, I wasn't paid for this content and posted the game on to another UK content creator.