We were sent a copy of Whirling Witchcraft published by AEG to review, a game where cauldrons filled with spell ingredients are sent to an opponents cauldron. Any excessive ingredients are given back to you for your witch’s circle. The first player to reach five ingredients in their witch’s circle wins.
Each player starts with a cauldron, player board (workbench), personality card, four recipe cards, and reference card. The basic personality (initiate) cards list what ingredients to start with but the more complex cards add different conditions for arcana (power ups). Ingredients have different types but really all that needs to be remembered is what color cube they are represented by (the icons for the ingredients are color coded making this easy).
To start, players choose a recipe card and play it to the right. Recipes have a cost associated with them (except the void storm which allows you to create three ingredients from nothing). Generally, you pay a small cost and that cost yields different ingredients. So one mandrake (a white cube) can create a spider, and two mushrooms for example. Some cards have a cheaper cost for the same result or seem expensive for the cost. The recipe cards seem out of balance in regards to fairness, the void storm is particularly overpowered as you can use it every single turn once it is played without having to pay a cost.
During the Study Phase the recipe card is revealed and players adjust their arcana levels if there are arcana symbols at the top. Each time an arcana icon reaches an even number on the tracker it can be used, which is a bit odd and an attempt to keep the powers balanced but this feels forced as it seems completely arbitrary. The cauldron lets a player add an ingredient from the supply to their cauldron. The bird lets a player remove 2 of their ingredients to prevent some overflowing. The book allows a player to use one ingredient that round from the general supply rather than their own, essentially giving them an unlimited amount of one ingredient for the round. The arcana tracker, which is meant to help you keep track of even and odd arcana is on the back of the reference card which makes it difficult to use the reference card. These icons are not referenced on the reference card or player board and the main rulebook needs to be consulted for these which takes away from the ambiance. Referencing the rulebook midgame is always a little cumbersome. We found the arcana gave significant advantages but it was hard to remember what each did. It is also never mentioned if there is a limit to the arcana powers as the reference card only goes to six, so we decided to only use the arcana powers a maximum of three times.
Once arcana is resolved, players can take ingredients from their player board and put them in the input section of the recipe card with the ingredient cubes. Sometimes when a recipe card is played it has an either/or icon allowing players to choose what ingredient to input and which to receive. Basically the goal is to give the player to your right as many ingredients as possible but the most astute player will try and give their neighboring witch a lot of ingredients of one type to make their board overflow the fastest.
For the Brewing phase, completed recipes are resolved. What is interesting here is that past recipe cards can be fulfilled if the ingredients are input. So if it is round 4, you can use the recipes from rounds 1-3 as long as you have the input ingredients to pay. It doesn’t matter if you input these ingredients from the player board or from other recipes outputs. For any recipe that can be fulfilled, the output ingredients are now placed on the card from the general supply of ingredient cubes. Any ingredients that were used to pay for spells are then returned to general supply.
Ingredients received from fulfilling recipes are put in the cauldron and passed to the player on the right where they have to add it to their ingredients board. If any overflow, the ingredients go to the witch to the left for their Witches Circle. If any reach 5, the game ends. This will take a few rounds to complete, however it is a fairly short game. If end game is not reached at end of round then the Study Phase begins again after players swap hands and draw a new card to reach their limit of four cards.
Replayability: Tedious. This game can be replayed with different groups but gameplay will always be fairly repetitive.
Artwork: The artwork is beautiful, the swirling colors on the player board are mystical and night themed. The pop up cauldrons were pretty but felt unnecessary. We also found that some of the player colors were a bit too similar. The theme was definitely very well represented through the cartoony-magical art style.
Quality: Moderate. The boards and cards were sturdy. The cauldrons were a bit flimsy and tore slightly while putting them together but not detrimental so. The recipe cubes were nice little pieces. The cards are completely smooth and slip and slide when stacked or placed on the table.
Strategy: There are strategic opportunities built into what recipe cards are chosen, what arcana is utilized, and managing one’s own workbench not overflowing. However in the midst of this, it feels like there’s too much to keep track of. Most of the overcomplexity for us stemmed from all the moving pieces — grabbing a bunch of cubes from the supply, putting some cubes back in the supply, some cubes coming from the player board, others going to the cauldron, others going to your own workbench, overflowing ingredients going to the left players Witches circle, and tracking the arcana and when it is used with a mental note. We felt the game didn’t need so many components moving around for us. Also, a lot of the game depends on luck.
Instruction Manual: The instruction manual took a little while to understand the steps but we used a video as well to learn the game. The instructions could have been simplified and more visuals would’ve maybe been beneficial. We did like that it separated how it discussed the two phases. The reference cards are not particularly useful as the rule books needs to be close by for the first few games and by the time you get the flow of the game, the cards are useless.
Organization: The cauldrons each have their own compartment but the other components fit in bags. It fits well inside the box.