War of Wizards

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TSR 3rd Printing Box Cover

Introduction

War of Wizards was the first commercially-marketed Tékumel product. Barker’s self-produced version of War of Wizards was advertised as a “special pre-publication offer” in TSR’s house journal Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975).

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Advertisement for “Pre-publication” Version of War of Wizards in Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975)

War of Wizards has references to Tékumel, but, as stated in the above advertisement, the rules of the standalone boardgame could be used for battles between magic users in other fantasy settings.  In the Tékumel context, the game models one-on-one or two-on-two magical battles in the Hirilákte Arenas.  Some later writing about the game implies that its mechanisms foreshadow Magic: The Gathering.  Well, no, not really.

Altogether there have been four versions of this game. 

Self-produced Edition

I do not have a good image of this or a comprehensive description.  Barker produced this version himself.  TSR advertised and sold Barker’s “pre-publication’ version of the game while TSR printed another version.  According to one Internet posting this version had a yellow rulebook.

Summary:

  • Author: M.A.R. Barker.
  • Publisher: Self-produced and marketed by Tactical Studies Rules
  • Versions: Original only.
  • Date: Summer, 1975
  • Artists: ?
  • Stock number: NA.
  • Components: ?
  • Size: ?
  • Original Price: $5.00 (later marked down to $4.50).
  • Number published. Unknown.
  • Rarity: Very rare.
  • Value: No known recent sales.

Collecting Notes: While this is a very rare item, it is not quite so insanely rare as the self-published version of Empire of the Petal Throne.  It was sold by TSR for a while rather than just distributed to a tiny group of players.

TSR Second Printing (1975)

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Rulebook from 2nd Printing with Illustration by Barker

The first TSR edition is called the second printing because it followed Barker’s self-produced edition. This printing had a green rulebook, a game board, a countersheet with 532 counters, a spell sheet, and a record sheet.  The counters were cut smoothly in vertical strips and roughly perforated horizontally.  The set was sold in a ziplock bag.  Gary Gygax wrote a foreword to the rulebook in which he calls War of Wizards a unique fantasy combat between two players.  He says “”M.A.R. Barker is new to Tactical Studies Rules, but you can expect to see at least one other of his designs (and more if we had our way!) from us in the near future.”

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Part of Game Board from 2nd Printing

 

Countersheet from @nd Printing

Countersheet from 2nd Printing

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Play Aid from 2nd Printing

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Part of Turn Record Sheet from 2nd Printing

I have never tried to play this game.  From a casual inspection it would seem to be what is now called a “chaotic” boardgame.  That is, large swings of variability beyond the control of the players greatly affect the balance. For example, a single dexterity roll at the beginning of the game can mean that one player could for the whole game either have no chance to make saving throws or make saving throws on a roll as low as 9 on a 20-sided die.  An alert player at the time noted some problems with the rules and errata was included in Strategic Review #6 (February 1976).  However, that errata was not incorporated into the later boxed version.

Summary:

  • Author: M.A.R. Barker.
  • Publisher: Tactical Studies Rules.
  • Versions: Original only.
  • Date: Summer, 1975.
  • Artists: M.A.R. Barker and uncredited. (The art on the board does not look like Barker’s to me but is not credited.)
  • Stock number: None (TSR did not assign the ziplock edition a stock number).
  • Components: Rulebook (i-iv and 1-41), game board, four countersheets with 532 counters, play aid sheet, and turn record sheet.
  • Size: Rulebook 148mm x 214mm.
  • Original Price: $7.50.
  • Number published. Unknown.
  • Rarity: Rare.
  • Value:
    • Jan 18, 2015: $61.01 (rulebook only).
    • Jan 9, 2015: $14.81 (not guaranteed complete).
    • Dec 14, 2014: $25.00 (rulebook only).

Collecting Notes: Many eBay sellers incorrectly describe this as the “first printing” as it was the first TSR-produced item.  I have several extra copies of this and would love to say that it is super-rare, but it’s not.  Copies appear on eBay regularly and do not always sell for high prices.  Why is War of Wizards more common than Empire of the Petal Throne?  I suspect many people did not play the game many times (or at all) after buying it, whereas they played and wore out their copies of the Empire of the Petal Throne.

TSR 3rd Printing (October, 1977)

This version was similar to the 2nd Printing but came in an unattractive dark box.  The game board is slightly different, with the words “War of Wizards” written across the center.  This boxed version came with four 15mm metal figures of priests and magic users and also included a pair of 20-sided dice.  The countersheet is die-punched, laid out a bit differently, and includes 18 blank counters.  The rulebook is printed in an 8.5″ x 11″ booklet rather than the smaller, thicker booklet of the 2nd printing.  The text of the rules is almost identical. The only differences are the addition of an annotated illustration of a counter and differently formatted reference tables, which in this version are part of the rulebook.

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War of Wizards TSR 3rd Printing Box Long Side

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War of Wizards TSR 3rd Printing Box Short Side

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Part of Third Printing Game Board (Note Words in Center)

Part of Third Printing Game Board

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Third Printing Countersheet

Four Figures from 3rd Printing

Four Figures from 3rd Printing

Summary

  • Author: M.A.R. Barker.
  • Publisher: Tactical Studies Rules.
  • Versions: Original only.
  • Date: Summer, 1975.
  • Artists: M.A.R. Barker and David Sutherland (see note above on game board art).
  • Stock number: 1007.
  • Components: Rulebook (1-24), two countersheets with 550 counters, game board, four 15mm figures, and two 20-sided dice.
  • Size: 285mm x 235mm.
  • Original Price: $7.50.
  • Number published. Unknown.
  • Rarity: Rare.
  • Value: No recent sales.

Collecting Notes: See notes above re 2nd Printing.  Some eBay sellers advertise this as “in shrink” but I do not believe it was originally shrink-wrapped.  The price history of this item is a good example of the insanity of eBay.  A rulebook alone sold for $61.01 on January 18, 2015, but an unpunched boxed edition sits at $75.00 buy it now with no takers.

Tita’s House of Games Edition (1999)

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Carl Brodt’s 1999 reprint of War of Wizards came in a manila envelope.  This version included two separate turn record sheets (identical to earlier versions), a double-sided play aid (identical to earlier versions), a rulebook (the text is identical to the 2nd Printing, i.e. no illustration of a counter, but it is printed as an 8.5″ x 11″ booklet), and a game board that is a bit bigger than in previous versions (and like the second printing does not have the words “War of Wizards”).  The two countersheets are colored paper glued onto cardstock and the counters need to be cut apart.

  • Author: M.A.R. Barker.
  • Publisher: Tita’s House of Games.
  • Versions: Original only.
  • Date: 1999.
  • Artists: M.A.R. Barker and uncredited.
  • Stock number:
  • Components: Rulebook, two countersheets with 532 counters, game board, double-sided play aid, and two Turn Record Sheets.
  • Size: Rulebook 8.5″ x 11″.
  • Original Price: $17.95.
  • Number published. Unknown.
  • Rarity: Not rare.
  • Value: $17.95.

Collecting Notes: I am a huge fan of Carl’s reprints.  By making old Tékumel products available to those who otherwise would not have been able to obtain them, Carl kept the hobby alive for many years.  However, reproducing a game with counters is a challenge for a small publisher.

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