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Counting Spells GO!

pic2209219_mdAbraca…What? Review
This game is hilarious. It’s from Korea (Dive Dice / Korea Board Games), designed by Gary Kim and illustrations from Marie Cardouat (Dixit). I got my copy from South Korea and I love to play this with hilarious casual group with spontaneous reactions.
Abraca…What? has a nice theme with a bunch of wizards trying to remember their spells correctly in a competition to be the best wizard in town. The interesting part of this game is that players will have to cast spells without knowing their own spells. Huh? Okay let me break it down to you. You can play with from 2 up to 5 players in the game and usually a game takes 30 minutes or so.

In the game, there are 8 different spells (number from 1 to 8) and the amount of each spell is the same as its number (there are only one spell of Spell number 1, two for Spell no. 2 and so on). The spells come in the form of plastic blocks (with thin insert to place the spell tile inside each of them) and these spells will be randomly shuffled face down. Players then will take 5 of these randomly and place it in front of them with the front side facing outward without looking at them. So players cannot check their own spells but can see their opponents’ spells (This would remind you of Hanabi from Antoine Bauza). Place 4 spells face down in the game board and the rest in the center. Each player choose a color and receive 6 life tokens with the respective color.

dav

Game components

The game is played in rounds. In each round, starting from the first player clockwise, they must cast a spell. If they guess a spell that matching their spells, they managed to cast it and that spell effect is resolved. Place the spell in the game board on it’s corresponding slot. After that, the active player can choose either to cast another spell or end the turn. If they choose to cast another spell, the restriction is that the spell cannot be lower than what was already cast this turn (same type of spell can be cast again).
If the active player incorrectly guess the spell, that player’s turn ends and lose a life token, the player then refill their spells back to 5 spells.
The round ends in one of two conditions, either one or more player runs out of life token (by himself or the active player managed to make at least one player run out of life tokens) or the active players managed to cast all the spells on their hand.
Player who managed to eliminate a player gets 3 points, while surviving players get 1 point each. Eliminated players gain nothing. Each Secret Stone that the surviving player have also gives one point. Then next round begins from the start, shuffle back all the spells. The game ends when one player managed to get 8 points.

dav

Life tokens, player markers and a six-sided die

The game involves deduction from spells that are available to check, you can check these spells from opponents’ hands, the already cast spells and the secret stones. It has pretty interesting deduction element, not just by eliminating the available spells but also by judging players’ guesses. It also has a very small bluffing element in the game, not really major but can still give interesting touch in the game. It’s a hilarious game, light and players very quick. Easy to teach, learn and play, has a high take that and push your luck element, leader bashing but restricted). Spells have different abilities, lower spells have more powerful effect while higher spells are less powerful, this is balanced by the amount of each type of spells. Spell number one has a very powerful effect that can force all players to lose some damages but there’s only one in the game, and it’s pretty hard to cast among all other spells if you not pretty sure you have it. But I have seen several players managed to cast this spell early in the game, which I believe a pure pushing their luck. Even if they managed to cast that spell, they also have to roll a six-sided die to determine the amount of damage (range from 1 to 3).

dav

Spell tiles

The game feels fresh at first though repeated plays might force the game experience to feel samey and boring after a while. Different group plays differently, though playing it with a group of casual, non-gamer, family or children can be quite fun.
From my experiences, the pattern usually starts from spell number 4 or 5, getting a winning streak in a single turn is very rare. My tips for the game, appoint a person to check active player’s guesses (usually the player to the left), this is to ensure that no one else pointing the spell which could lead to break the game if there’s more than one spell that the active player guess and more than one person pointing to different spells. And do your best to play in a round table or round formation, since checking everyone else’s spells could be difficult in certain angles and in some degree you could accidentally see your own. You mainly target your neighbors, targeting another player other than your neighbors can only be done with spell number 1 and 2, and there spells are only 3 in the game, so rare.
Also playing with different number of players are surely different. If you are playing with less than 5 players, there are some random spells removed from the game (with 3 players, remove 12 spells, 4 players remove 6 spells). So playing with 5 players assures all spells are used, while in 3 or 4, there is uncertainty which spells are not used in a game. If having control over the game means important, playing with five is surely a good option.

sdr

Game in progress

The 8 spells are:
Ancient Dragon (1): roll a die and other players lose that amount of life tokens.
Dark Wanderer (2): gain 1 life token and other players lose 1 life token.
Sweet Dream (3): roll a die and gain that amount of life tokens
Night Singer (4): choose and take one secret stone from the board, place it aside in front of you face down.
Lighting Tempest (5): player to your left and right lose a life token.
Blizzard (6): player to your left lose a life token.
Fireball (7): player to your right lose a life token.
Magic Drink (8): you get a life token.

sdr

Spell board

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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Board Games, Reviews

 

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First Hand Review: Santa Cruz

One of my friend brought Santa Cruz last Sunday and we had the chance to try it with 4 players. The game was little known to us (except the owner) by that time and it was our first play of the game. What I did know are the game designer and artist, Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle and Michael Menzel. Yes it’s Menzel, the illustration of the game board is beautiful, depicting the bird’s eye view of Santa Cruz islands in Menzel’s realism painting style. I believe it’s a quick and simple game, putting the game right between family and light medium Euro game category. Information on the box shows 45 minutes game duration, which is pretty quick and nice for medium filler.

Game End Condition

Game End Condition

The components are in great quality, nice looking board with sturdy material, linen finished cards, colored wooden parts and tokens. After the quick setup, my friend started to explain the rules and how to play the game for about 15-20 minutes long. The game setup is quite a major random factor of the game, since most of the tiles are faced down in random. The game played in 2 rounds. In  the end of the game, player with the highest VP wins the game, Judging by the look of the board, it’s definitely an exploring game with card driven mechanic to support networking and building aspect of the game.

So, each player will choose a deck of 7 cards to start with (signed with letters A to D). These decks have different combination of cards in amount based on each type. There are 4 types of cards, Coastal, River, Road and Double build. There are also scoring cards that will be given to each player before choosing the deck. Each player gets 2 scoring cards and decide which deck of cards that support his scoring cards the best. The last player will choose which deck he wants to take in the first round, clockwise until the first player take the last deck available. The game starts with each player, starting from the first player clockwise, plays a single card.

A player may either play a scoring card or a building card during his turn. The board depicted Santa Cruz islands with various spots all over the islands. Each spot contains a single tile based on it’s type. Either it’s a Coastal, a River or a Road. At the start of the game, the Coastal tiles are placed face up, known to players. Before the first round, players will get an initial placement on the board in one of the Coastal spaces. In this game, if a player built a building in a tile, the adjacent tiles by legal connection (whether it’s a river or road connection) are flipped face up. Now, the first turn and so on, players must play a card to build or score. Each tile has different value points and icons. There are 3 building types on the tiles, a Lighthouse, a Church and a House. Some of the House tiles have resource icons like Sheep, Fish Flour, Wood and Gold. And some of the buildings have bird token icons. To build on a tile, players must play a specific card from their hand with the same type of connection from one of their previous buildings (except Coastal cards, that can only be played in Coastal and may be played ignoring the connection restriction). The building restriction has minor confusion tendency. The fact that buildings with a road connection can only be build with Road cards and in adjacent position. While buildings with a river connection can be build with River cards as long as the player has at least a building in that river’s course. Some buildings can be build through more than 1 connection type (it has more than 1 network branching out from it).

The scoring cards are the most tricky of the game. These scoring cards have their own objectives and may be played during a player’s turn to score that objective. The tricky part is, the scoring takes place for all players that meet the objective, not only for the player who played the card. Because of this, players must carefully plan their building actions and perfectly timing when will he play the scoring card. The idea of the game is how to score your scoring card alone and manage to score from other players’ scoring cards. After all cards in players’ hand are played, the first round ends. All buildings on the board are returned to the owner. Then players are given another scoring card from the draw pile. Based on the newly drawn scoring card, players determine (starting from the last player on the scoring track) which deck he wants to choose. After each player has chosen his deck, he may discard one of his 3 scoring cards face down. The second round starts with the tiles condition like after the end of the first round (most of the tiles are likely opened and known by now). The second round played just like the first round. After the second round ends, the final scoring takes place, Each player also adds his bird token points.

The game was fun and simple. It has unique feeling of push your luck and timing. I would consider that the first round has high randomness factor. Players still blind guessing other players scoring cards and playing cards in not as effective as it would be since all the non coastal tiles are still faced down (except flipped tiles from initial placement result). The second round has higher challenging value and I agree with my friend, that the game has become more tactical than the previous round. Each player has several insights including tiles position on the board, others’ scoring cards and such. It’s a nice looking game and fun but the half of the game seemed just a warming up for the other half which ended prematurely (in other words, we started to play the game in the 2nd round but the game ends to fast). but overall I like the game and would gladly to try it again in the future. It’s perfect for family game and it’s Menzel’s!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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