Wizard Poker Print-N-Play

Full credit for this image goes to the artist ragweed of Deviant Art. I Googled “Wizard Poker” and was shocked to find something so perfect.

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Truth be told, I somewhat stole Wizard’s Poker from Chevee Dodd. Actually, the game is my idea. I stole the inspiration from him. Chevee is working on a game that uses some poker hand type mechanics to activate abilities and such. He asked me to help brainstorm and I tossed out this idea:

What if you were playing a game where you spent poker hands (ex: Three of a Kind) to activate powerful abilities? These then  let you build a superior poker hand?

In my mind, I envisioned the fun and familiarity of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker with the fun effects and combos of games like Ascension and Dominion.  That sounded nice.

Poker, as an experience, has a few things that may put off some players:

  1. Poker is only fun with real money.
  2. Poker requires you devote 2-3 hours with a group of around 4-5 friends.
  3. Poker has player elimination. Due to #1 and #2, it is a high cost.

But, the game has so many strong qualities! Though it has never tried to pass itself off as a casual lunch game, what if it were? With games like King of Tokyo taking the dice rolling of Yahtzee to new places, and Rise of Augustus almost winning a Spiel des Jahres with a new take on Bingo, and games as simple as Coup and Coin Age gaining (much deserved) attention, why not try something so simple? Why not try to mod poker?

Why shouldn’t I try to craft a micro-ish game?

Poker has great strengths. For one, it’s immensely familiar to millions of people. It’s on TV! Poker is also really quite simple. The rules are clean and the hardest part is memorizing the strength order of the hands (ex: Flush versus Full House). Finally, poker is high luck and high skill. It is thrilling to play and rewards bold moves, skillful play, good mathematics, and gut instincts. Even the worst players sometimes get lucky.

I am not nearly arrogant enough to claim I’m fixing poker, improving poker, or supplanting poker. That’s just absurd. But, I believe I’ve made a neat little game that takes some of the great elements of poker and turns it into a quick and simple lunch game for gamer types. I believe this, for a few reasons:

  • You play the game for points, represented by coins. Thematically it fits poker, but it’s the same as winning Jaipur for having the most points.
  • There is no player elimination.
  • The game plays in 30-60 minutes with 2-5 players.
  • The game uses fun abilities that bring forth some of the thrills and tension of typical poker.

I chose the name Wizard Poker, because it felt appropriate, thematic, and not an overreach. It came to me quickly as it seemed that this would be how magic-users would play poker. Here’s the premise I wrote at the top of the rules:

Nightly, the Wizards of the academy gather in the basement to complain about ignorant nobles, boast of their ethereal exploits, and shed their gold earnings in a high stakes game of Wizard Poker. It is the classic game enjoyed by peasants and nobles alike, only for the Wizards, it is twisted and enriched with the trickery of magic and spells. After all, why play such a typical game when one can add magic?

The game is Texas Hold ‘Em with a twist. Every hand, each wizard is dealt 5 cards and 2 are dealt face up to the center. These are shared. There are 3 rounds of betting. To bet and remain in the hand (i.e. in contention for the pot), players may take 1 of 4 actions.

  • Bet 1 Coin to the Pot
  • Pay to Activate a Spell
  • Sell a Spell for Coins
  • Fold, which earns coins but also contributes to the pot

There are 3-4 Spells in the center. 2 Basic Spells are always there. The 1-2 Advanced Spells are drawn from a stack and only last for that round. The cost to use a Spell keeps you in the hand, and costs 1, 2, 3, or more coins based on how many times the spell has been used. Spells let you do things like draw cards, force others to bet, exchange cards in the center, and more.

To play the game, you only need a poker deck (which you should have if you read this blog, I mean come on!), a set of coins (I use pennies, you can raid your copy of 7 Wonders or Small World or Princes of Florence), and the 16 Spell tiles + 4 Reference tiles. It’s about 10 minutes of work.
I don’t know what I intend to do with the game. I just know I like it, it’s simple, and my early testers enjoy it. I’d love for you to give it a chance and tell me what you think. 
10 minutes to build, 5 minutes to learn, fun for 2-5. Give it a chance?

Update: A handful of people have downloaded and tested the PNP. Now, I’m removing it from the web for a bit. I have a handful of testers, but the game is still in flux for balance and such. You can read the rules here.

7 thoughts on “Wizard Poker Print-N-Play

  1. Interesting. I like the catchup mechanic, and this certainly is a quicker style of play than tournament poker.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in a two-player game – if one player always folds immediately, she’ll win, won’t she?

    • Hi Fin –

      Yes, right now there is a balance concern with that exploit. I want people to stay in the game and in my tests, with regular “play minded” people, we always play the game and go for the pot.

      But, yes, it’s an issue. I could put in a simple rule which is: you cannot fold if you have more than X coins in your supply currently. That would be relatively simple.

      • Grant,
        For sure, just wanted to point that out, as I routinely play with… less play-minded people. Otherwise, as I said, the game looks like a success as a poker variant, though potentially a bit involved for a “microgame”. Not by much though.

        • Yep, totally great input. And yes, it’s a microgame for me, but not quite for the proper definition. Thanks for commenting. I’ve updated the rules based on tests this weekend if you’re curious about its evolution.

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