Do you like cards? How about tricks? How about trick-taking card games? Bidding games? A trick-taking card game with a bidding action? Making sure other people don’t make their bids? Then you should like the magic of Wizard.
Wizard is a trick-taking card game with a bidding feature that was made for 3 to 6 players by Ken Fisher. It was first released way back in 1984! Yes, that’s right kids - this game is old enough to buy smokes and booze, get a lower car insurance rate, and has cognitive memories of the Regan Administration.
Goal of the game?
To win! But how do I do that? Umm... by having the most points. A novel concept and one that I am sure will take off one of these days. Along with these new-fangled playing cards I keep hearing so much about.
How to play?
Wizard is played in rounds with a game lasting a total of 10 to 20 rounds. The number of rounds depends on the number of players.
Wizard uses a deck of 60 cards. At the start of each round, folks will take it in turn order to bid on how many tricks they think they can take. Then the play happens.
The first round each player only has one card. So there is only one trick to take. The second round each player has 2 cards and thus 2 tricks that can be taken. And so on. This continues until all the cards are dealt out in the last round. For a 3 player game that is 20 rounds, while in a 6 player game that would equal 10 rounds.
The dealer deals a number of cards equal to the round. Then flips the top card of the deck to set the trump suit. Note on the last round there will be no card to flip so there will not be a trump suit.
Players look at their hand and then, starting with the player to the left of the dealer, say how many of the tricks they think they will take. It is ok if the number of bids is more or less than the number of tricks. Well, it’s not OK Ok since at least one person is going to be wrong, if not everyone. But such is life with a card game.
As mentioned above, the deck has 60 cards. The standard set of 52 cards in 4 suits ranked from 1 to 13 (i.e. ace to king) plus 4 Wizards and 4 Jesters. The Wizards are considered the highest trump with the first one played in a round taking the trick. The Jesters are the lowest cards and have an effective rank of 0. In a 3 or 4 player game, it is possible to have a round of all Jesters. If that happens the first Jester takes it.
Like most trick-taking games the first card played sets the suit. You have to follow suit if you can. If you do not have that suit you can throw anything you want. The Wizards and Jesters are always considered in suit. For example, if the first card played is a heart and you have a heart in your hand, then you have to follow with the heart card, or a Wizard, or a Jester. The highest-ranked card in suit wins the trick unless a trump was played. Then it is the highest-ranked trump that wins.
If you won the number of tricks you bid, then you get 20 points plus 10 times the number bid. So if you say you will take 0 ticks and you do not take any you would get 20 points. If you are over or under your bid you lose 10 points for each number you are off. So if you say 4 tricks and only take 1 you will lose 30 points.
The deal passes to the left. The new dealer shuffles all the cards and you repeat the steps above until the last round. After the last round, the person with the highest score wins.
The wrap up.
I enjoy this game even tho I rarely win it. Always happy to play it when it hits the table. Pretty easy to teach as most folks have played some kind of trick-taking game before, Hearts, Spades, etc. Even if they do not know that’s what it is called. It is just a matter of teaching about the 2 special cards and maybe what a trump suit is as some trick-taking games do not have a trump mechanic.
I have gone through no less than 5 sets of cards with this game. That is how much I have played it over the years. Not sure I can even find my current copy. So I may well be about to get my 6th copy. Some have walked away, others have been destroyed. We used to have someone in the group who had very sweaty hands and this was in the era before card sleeves were a thing.
One thing I find annoying is the number inflation. 20 and 10 points. You never get less than 10 points. There is no chance to get 5 points etc, so why bother with the extra 0? One of my small crusades, I guess, is the silly inflation of points and money. If your game has as its base unit a 1,000 and there are no units smaller than that, for the love all that is holy just make it a 1. Oh hey, how did I get on top of this soapbox? Oh well, stepping down now.
Wizard is a good time sitting around a table chatting with friends and making them gnash their teeth and shake their fist at you when you scupper their well-laid plans by stealing that trick out from under them. There tends to be many ups and downs so the game stays lively. The great times when you have a handful of mid-range trump so you think your hand is not that strong, and it turns out that it is the only trump for that round is a heck of a roller coaster.
Hope you get a chance to play Wizard.