The Trouble Brothers’ Wizard Hex is an interesting twist on the traditional board game—it has the board, the tiles, and the funky grid, but features an ally system that makes strategy more complex than your average game of checkers. Like any good board game worth its salt, Wizard Hex is easy to learn, difficult to master, and perfect for a big group.
Wizard Hex is played on a hexagonal board with six different elements—water, fire, earth, wind, lightning, and ice. The goal is simple—use your elemental tiles to fill up as much of the board as you can. The winner is whoever controls the most board real estate, once the board is completely full of tiles. There are three levels, Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master—Apprentice allows you a large number of starting tiles, which decreases as the levels’ difficulty increases.
Each player chooses a primary element and is allowed two moves per turn. While initially similar looking to “Chinese checkers,” the twist is this: while the player has one primary element, the elements on either side of that element are the player’s “allies.” Thus, the player can move any of the three elements—their primary element, or their ally elements—on the board during a turn. Players are allowed to move element tiles into one of the three starting spaces on the board, or next to a spot already occupied by a tile of that element. Players may fortify their elements by placing element tiles on top of each other. Players can stack up to three tiles on one spot, making an indestructible (can’t be attacked) gold tile.
In order to gain control of the board, players can attack other players. If a player attacks a player, the stronger tile will win. So, if a gold tile attacks a silver tile, the gold tile will win. However, the attack will drain the gold tile’s power, and the gold tile will become a bronze (starting color) tile. If a bronze tile attacks a bronze tile, both tiles will disappear, and so forth.
Of course, because players have “allies,” allied tiles may not attack each other. So no element may attack the element to either side of it. This certainly makes things complicated if you have more than two players, as you’ll need some skill to gain majority control over the board. The game ends once the board is full, or if the opponent’s primary element is destroyed (this is likely in a two- or three-person game, but not so much in a six-person game).
Graphically, Wizard Hex is gorgeous. The board is exquisitely detailed, and the (un-subtle) glowing effects surrounding the tiles are very attractive. The soundtrack is a bit dull, but the game doesn’t (usually) last long enough for you to get sick of it.
Trouble Brothers did a bang-up job of creating an original game that is both familiar and foreign. The strategies are hard to master because of the reliance on alliances—if one of your allies tries to tackle one of your enemies’, you might find that the pieces are adjacent and therefore can’t attack one another. Or just when you think you’ve knocked out an enemy, you’ve found their ally sneaking up on your flank and cutting off one of your start points. For a game that takes queues from traditional games like checkers and chess, the gameplay still feels refreshingly different.
Wizard Hex sounds complicated, and it is—it’s not too hard to get the basics down, but it’s difficult to master. Each individual game is short and sweet, so there’s not a whole lot of replayability if you’re going to be playing solo. Instead, Wizard Hex shines on the iPad’s larger screen where players can take turns strategizing, fortifying, and attacking. So if you’re looking for a fun, attractive board game to play with friends, Wizard Hex is an excellent choice.
[Sarah Jacobsson is a frequent contributor to Macworld.]