Review by: Jillian Schmett
When I was a kid, I have fond memories of being at my grandmother’s home, visiting with a bunch of my cousins, and playing all kinds of games. One of our favorite go-to’s was the card game Spoons. If you haven’t played it before, the basic idea is to place enough spoons in the middle of the table for the number of players minus one. Draft and pass around cards from a regular deck of playing cards, continuing until someone makes a set of four matching cards. Once someone has a set, they can grab a spoon from the middle. After the first spoon is grabbed, it’s a race for everyone else to grab one, leaving someone spoonless, and therefore eliminated (basically musical chairs but with less music and more shuffling). Now, being the bunch of competitive, young, rambunctious kids that we were, we developed variants like placing the spoons on the other side of the room. This meant when someone collected their set of four, they would sprint to get a spoon, chaos would ensue, everyone would run everywhere, there would be fighting, sometimes someone would end up crying, and it was almost guaranteed that the older kids would win. Good times. Anyway, I digress...
Witch Slapped is designed by John Harris and William Sininger is published by Prolific games and is a 3-6 player card game that incorporates real-time, fast paced card drafting, set collection, simultaneous action selection, and a bit of dexterity. Inside the box there are 9 Spell Card Sets, 9 Alternative Spell Card Sets, 6 Sets of Witch Targeting Cards, 18 Life Tracking Cards, 5 Cauldron Cards, 20 Component Cards, 15 Effect Cards and an Instruction Sheet. It’s worth mentioning that the box itself is very nice, fits all the components well, and shuts magnetically. The cards are of good quality.
During set-up, each player will choose one witch to represent themselves. They will then take the corresponding set of Witch Targeting Cards that have their identified witch pictured on the back. Unused Witch targeting cards will be removed and placed back in the box. Each witch starts with 9 lives. This is tracked with the double-sided Life Cards. There are two different Life Tracking Cards, one with a 3 on one side and a 2 on the other (3/2), and one with a 3 on one side and a 1 on the other (3/1). Players are given two 3/2 cards and a 3/1 card. These are placed in front of each player and adjusted to show their life count throughout the game. The Spell Deck is created using 9 different colored spell sets. The starting dealer will deal each witch five cards for their hand that they may look at. Each witch, except the dealer, will then be given one card face down. The dealer will take the rest of the deck and place it face down stacked in front of them. Cauldron Cards will be placed in the middle of the table where everyone can reach, the proper orientation for them is displayed in the rule book.
Gameplay starts with the “Super Fast Set Collection Phase” where players will be trying to collect sets of a card type in their hand. When everyone is ready, the dealer will say “GO” and all players will look at the card face down in front of them. The dealer will draw from the top of the deck. Players, and I quote from the rules, “quickly, no really quickly, like super fast quickly,” decide to keep or pass their card. If they keep the card they picked up they must choose a different card to pass, keeping the hand limit to 5 at all times. Players continuously pick up and pass one card at a time as quickly as possible. After the set collection phase, play will progress to the slapping phase.
Players may only initiate the slapping phase if they have four or five of the same cards in their hand. The first player to do so may slap any of the Cauldron Cards on the table, and all other players will immediately and quickly follow suit, also slapping a Cauldron Card. Players should only slap a Cauldron Card that has a number equal to or less than a set amount that they currently have in their hand. For example, if you the highest set value in your hand 3 of a kind, you should only slap a Cauldron Card showing a 3, 2, or 1. There are penalties for slapping a Cauldron Card with a value higher than a set you have in your hand, and you will not be able to participate in the next phase.
The third phase is the Spell Casting Phase. After players have slapped a Cauldron Card, they may simultaneously cast spells that are shown on the cards from their sets. Each card has five different spell levels on them, and the level of spell to be cast is determined by the number of matching spell cards collected and the cauldron that was slapped. For example, if a player has four Fire Spell cards in their hand and slapped the 4 cauldron, they would be be able to cast the level four spell listed on the Fire Spell card at any witch she chooses to target. Targets are selected secretly by choosing the corresponding witch card to be targeted, and placing it face down on the table. All targets are revealed at the same time, and spells resolve simultaneously. If a player’s Life count is reduced to zero, they are eliminated.
Lastly is the Clean Up phase. All spell cards are shuffled and the player with the lowest remaining Lives deals the next hand. These phases are all repeated until there is a winner.
I can only assume by now that you’re probably wondering why I decided to share my nostalgic anecdote with you at the beginning of this review. Well, besides the fact that I think it’s (at least kind of) funny, but also this game is basically Spoons 2.0. It has the same basic concept but with some added mechanics which do make it feel new and interesting. The spells and hit points add some depth to gameplay and the real-time quick drafting is fun and exciting. The game progresses quickly and smoothly and none of our plays lasted more than about fifteen minutes, which seemed like a perfect amount of time for us.
The rulebook is adequate, although there are places it could have been clearer. There were two main negatives voiced by the players in my group and they were the Life Counter Cards and the player elimination. The Life Counter Cards are fiddly and seem like there are any number of ways to track life that would have been better, I would have vastly preferred tokens on a track or a sliding life counter. Player elimination with simultaneous resolution of the spells and not many ways to counter became an issue because, generally, the player with the highest Life Count was always targeted, meaning that at the end of the game there was often a stalemate resulting in all remaining players being reduced to zero at the same time, leaving no winner.
This game was fun and we enjoyed playing it, but probably won’t be bringing it back to the table any time soon. If you’re looking for a quick, fun, light set collection game to play with family or new gamers this might be a good choice. If you’re looking for more serious gameplay with meaningful decsions to be made this won’t be for you.
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