With its cute woodland animal artwork, it might not immediately look like a stock market game, but buying & selling stock is at the heart of Forbidden Games' Raccoon Tycoon. Now the same team of designer Glenn Drover and artists Jacoby O'Connor and Annie Stagg are back. The theme is different - it's magic and wizardry rather than trains and stations, and there's a bit more going on in this game - but Lizard Wizard is essentially a reworking of Raccoon Tycoon.
In Lizard Wizard, the 2-6 players each have a number of different actions open to them. You can play a card to collect reagents (spell ingredients) and to push up the prices of reagents on what is effectively a stock market. You can sell reagents for their market value in Mana; this then depresses the price of that reagent by the number sold. You can initiate a 'wizard duel' to recruit a wizard (in effect, initiate an auction for a wizard card, with bids in Mana). You can 'research a spell' (spend Mana to buy a spell; you'll then need to spend the specified combination of reagents to cast the spell). You can create a tower (buying it for the specified combination of resources or for gold). Or you can summon a familiar (buy a card for Mana and use it for one of several actions, including to 'enter the dungeon').
The latter is a push-your-luck mini game where you turn over cards from a deck, collecting any treasure cards you turn over. The first hit you take from turning over a Monster card has no effect. If you stop before you encounter two Monster cards, you keep whatever treasure and gold you find; if, however, you hit a second Monster card then you lose whatever gold and treasure cards you previously picked up. Be warned tho' the dungeon deck includes two Trap cards that immediately dish out two hits... For those who like to work out the odds, the dungeon deck comprises two Traps, 21 Monsters, 21 gold cards (of which eight are worth 2 gold) and nine Treasure cards.
Tho' there seems to be a lot going on, the actions are all straightforward and largely intuitive once you realise that Mana is the currency of the game and the gold coins are really actually victory points. Like Raccoon Tycoon, Lizard Wizard is easy to learn and play and it doesn't have an arduous rules overhead. Essentially it's a very accessible market manipulation game with a core set-collection mechanic that's key to maximising your end-game score. The auction and push-your-luck elements just throw a touch more magic into the mix. The wizard, tower cards and spell are affiliated to one of seven different schools of magic. You score 5 points for any wizard/tower pairing but that doubles to 10 points if you have a wizard and tower from the same school of magic. Spell cards for the same matching affiliation will also be work 5 points. There are bonus points to be earned for winning any of the randomised achievement tiles set out at the start of the game (for example, being the first to collect 5 necromancy cards). You get any gold (victory points) you picked up in the dungeon but treasure cards from the dungeon don't automatically score: the player with the most gets 10 points, with 5 points for second place.
Production quality is of the high standard we've come to expect from Forbidden Games, including moulded insert trays for all cards and tokens. This time tho' the First Player marker isn't a vastly oversized wooden animeeple, it's just a modest cardboard shape: perfectly adequate to the task. For those raised on a diet of Harry Potter, the wizardry theme may well appeal more than the railways of the earlier game. Raccoon Tycoon has been a perennial favourite with the team at Board's Eye View but we've enjoyed our plays of Lizard Wizard every bit as much!