The Cardboard Hoard: Review of 10 Minute Heist - The Wizard's Tower
10 Minute Heist: The Wizard’s Tower is a small-box set collection game with elements of drafting and push-your-luck, where players are competing to leave the Wizard’s Tower with the most treasure. It was designed by Nick Sibicky, illustrated by Denis Martynets, and published by Daily Magic Games in 2017.
The Wizard’s Tower is created using eight rows with five cards in each row, for a total of forty cards. There are fifty-seven cards total in the box, including two different sets of eight cursed cards, so every card will not be used every game. A player may start by placing their thief token on any card in the Wizard’s Tower, but can only move laterally or descend to lower rows, never going back up to higher rows. When a thief token is placed on a card, that card goes to the haul in front of that player, face up. Each player also starts with a random treasure, face down, to keep the game from ever having perfect information.
The goal of the game is to score the most prestige points by collecting majorities of the five different colors of treasure, as well as majorities of treasures valued at three, four, and five points. Additional points are awarded for the first to leave the Wizard’s Tower and for the player with the least cursed treasure, while having the most cursed treasure or leaving last will penalize a player prestige points.
In addition to the standard treasure cards that are worth a certain number of points in one color -- and some cursed treasures having values in more than one color or number -- there are also cursed cards that have very powerful immediate text effects, from granting extra victory points, to passing curses off to another player, to allowing a player another turn or another card from anywhere in the tower. Of course, these cards being cursed creates a nice cost/benefit decision, as having the most curses will cost that player negative three prestige points. Also, in many cases, these cards will not help toward a color or 3/4/5 majority, making the decision that much trickier.
While most push-your-luck games feature dice, this game has a strong element of push-your-luck through its deceptively simple method of card drafting -- a form of Rochester-style draft. The entire layout of the Wizard’s Tower is public information, other than the last card of the bottom row, which is face down to add some suspense. Any card may be taken at any time, but the row movement counterbalances that, since you can only head down from each row. Should you hang back, acquiring more cards from the top of the tower and allowing you more flexibility later, or jump down and grab a particularly useful card now before your opponents do? The hook of the entire game -- and the game’s timer -- is all about the consequences of that decision, without any dice randomization.
Pros: Truth in advertising -- this game really does only take ten minutes to play. It is also very portable and is easy to teach and learn, making it a great game to bring out and show people unfamiliar with modern games. It plays from two to five players -- and despite being a drafting game, the two-player variant, where each turn you take a card and then eliminate another card from that same row, is very elegant and quite cutthroat.
Cons: While the box makes the game portable, it does require a good amount of space to lay out the forty card tower. The lack of differentiation between the thief tokens can make for some confusing moments trying to figure out whose token is whose, or cause players to move the wrong token. It is possible to get shut out of everything, coming in second place in a lot of categories, but at ten minutes a game, this is a nominal issue. At five, the game can be a bit too chaotic as so much changes between turns.
10 Minute Heist: The Wizard’s Tower is a perfect fit in Daily Magic Games’ line of smaller, lighter family-weight games that feature beautiful art and interesting gameplay. I wonder, with the game’s hyphenated title, if Daily Magic plans to expand this game, or make other 10 Minute Heist games. I hope they do, as I love this game and would love to see more done with it.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of 10 Minute Heist: The Wizard's Tower from the publisher.