["...ultimately a well thought out and solid card game..."]
Premise & Theme
Double, double toil and trouble... Play as a coven of mischievous witches and take over the town of Salem in this fast paced 'push your luck' style card game.
Fill your cauldrons with randomly drawn ingredient cards to create potions aiming to score the highest overall points than other covens.
What makes it stand out
Cauldron Master quite elegantly combines the strategy of deduction and in an abstract way resource management. Clever decisions and score multipliers impact the way you distribute ingredients and also how you interact with other players decisions.
The game is packaged nicely with a small footprint as most card games should be (take note Machi Koro!). The bulk of the artwork is beautifully hand-drawn however is at odds with the style of some of the iconography taking away from the hand-drawn Gothic feel of the ingredients.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the game play change so drastically depending on the number players. The more players there are the less rounds will typically be played turning the game from strategic to a manic race for first choice very quickly.
Considering the small footprint, the game takes up a lot of space - especially with four players - and is therefore hard to define as a proper travel game but would easily fit in the fullest of carry ons. Although the game reached the stretch goal for 300gsm card stock, a linen finish would have been nice seeing that this is solely a card game, not a deal breaker but we're just card snobs!
Cauldron Master is ultimately a well thought out and solid card game. Fast to learn and quick to set up - by the second playthrough you are already thinking of strategies to maximise your points and trip up other players.
We played Cauldron Master with our family who 'aren't into these kind of games'. But they begrudging gave it a go anyway and by the end they loved it! It's simplicity and flow of logic are its defining features which make it easy to teach and remove the intimidation factor for entry level gamers - all reasons my family tend to exclusively stick to 'classic family games'.
Set up is simple - each player has five witch cards in their coven and three cauldrons ascending in size. Each round players pick one witch to collect ingredients from the randomly selected pool. Each witch has differing abilities allowing them to pick up more cards, certain types of cards and indicating player order. Pick your level one witch to have first pick at the ingredients pool but only come back with one card, similarly pick your level five witch to grab a nice selection of high point scoring cards but as you'll be going last you take a risk of all your cards being taken.
Scoring is also simple, once a cauldron is full the player immediately receives points. Duplicates of cards within a cauldron score more as well as successfully completing recipes given to each player at the start. Recipes can either be by 'type' i.e. red, yellow or green OR specific ingredients. Recipes with specific ingredients typically pay off more but can much harder to pull off especially as there are only three copies of each red card for example. As recipes are randomly assigned an element of luck is introduced and thus a feeling of unfairness may arise if people take the ingredients you need for those juicy bonus points.
Another inconspicuous feature but in strategic terms plays a huge role is the 'Favour of Hectate' or the tie breaker. This card is passed onto the next person and seeing where it is/whether you have it means you can play higher risk cards and be more likely to win the tie break and get the cards you want. Another strategic advantage would be to those who have good memories. If you know what ingredients have come up and how many are remaining you can shift your focus onto collecting ingredients which you are likely get multiples of to fully maximise your score.
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