Friday, July 19, 2013

Witch's Brew Review

Designer: Andreas Pelikan
No. of Players: 3-5 ( 3-6 with Alea Treasure Chest Expansion )
Playing Time: 45-60mins

Mechanics: Role Selection / Deduction / Hand Management

Witch’s Brew was brought to my attention while I was searching up on games with role selection as a mechanic. I had not heard of it previously but I’m sure I had seen it around but passed it by for lack of any good reason. It’s a really simple game that doesn’t bring anything new, but combines previously used mechanics into an interesting package.

Overview of Components - taken from Raiko Puust (BGG)
How to Play ( very briefly )

Each player has the same hand of 12 role cards, and each round, they will be selecting 5 of them to play. The cards each have a main effect ( the “I am” effect ) and a secondary effect ( the “So Be It” effect ).
The start player will choose a card in his hand and always declare “I am xxx”. Going clockwise, players either pass if they did not select the same role, or they will reveal the role and declare the “I am” effect or the “So Be It” effect.

By declaring “I am”, the previous player who said “I am” no longer gets to do any of the effects. If the player declares “So Be It”, he/she gets to do the secondary effect immediately. So every turn, there can only be one player who gets the “I am” effect, but many may get the “So Be It” effect. The player who won the “I am” effect will start the next turn of the round. The round ends when all players have played their 5 cards in hand.

The roles that the players choose mainly allow them to collect various amounts of the 4 different resources, or the roles may also allow them to trade resources ( with the supply ) or spend the resources for points. These points are gathered by brewing vials and/or potions of differing values and types, and at the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.

The game ends when certain types of potions are brewed. The earlier potions are easier to brew but reward lesser points, whereas the later potions provide more points but at a greater cost.  

4 different resources & vial tokens - taken from Antony Hemme (BGG)

My Thoughts

Witch’s Brew may sound overly simple and unentertaining, but it is certainly not the case.
Yes it is a simple game, but the entertainment and the joy of the game comes from the role revealing phase.
Each time you play your role, you start to wonder who after you has the same role as you and whether it is safe to declare the “I am” effect. Eyes will gaze from one to another, and whether you truly are the role you claim to be; only the others after you will know.

Things I Like

1) Push Your Luck
Nearly everyone who plays their role card wants to say “I am xxx”.
It’s just something we all want to do. But the way the game goes is that you have to pick your battles. That’s where you feel like sometimes you could win a role, even if you are early in the turn order. “Maybe they don’t have the same card”, that thought will always permeate through your mind each time it comes to your turn.

2) The Roles and their Effects
Every role just seems to gel really well with each other. There is no role that really stands out as the most important, nor is there one that is always overlooked. Throughout the game, you are likely to utilize every role, you’re just hoping that you use it when the others aren’t intending to use it too.

3) A Race to the Finish
Witch’s Brew feels like a race to the finish from the get go. The game plays pretty fast, and you can tell when the game is going to end. Coupled with the fact that all the players are gunning the brew the same potions, things can get really tense and before you know it, the potion you were saving up for gets swiped from underneath your nose.

4) Constant Laughter and maybe a few Curses
The “I am” and “So Be It” mechanic of the cards is genius. It always leads to much laughter and sometimes curses when the player after you steals your role from you. Its never a safe time to declare “I am” ( unless you are the last person with a card in hand ), but the thrill of out-deducting the others after you is a great great feeling.  

5) Easy to Teach, Easier to get to the Table
Witch’s Brew is one of the few games I don’t ever hear a “no” to nor a “what, again ?”.
That’s really a testament to its staying power.

6 of the 12 roles in the game
Image by boardgamegeek reviewer EndersGame and used with permission

Things I Dislike

**intentionally left blank**

Witch’s Brew is a slam dunk for me on so many levels.
It really is a shame that the game hasn’t gotten a reprint after all these years.
Yes it is firmly in the category of family games, but it’s also one that the gamers can really take to, and if you aren’t careful with your choices, you will wish you could brew a potion of rejuvenation from your past mistakes.


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