31/10/2020

Broom Service: An Uber Witch with a twist [Review]

Pictures & original script (in Bahasa) by Eddy S. Tandya
Editing & translation (English) by Stephan Celebesario Sonny

Since my first introduction to the modern board game in April 2019, I have been steadily purchasing and collecting them. A couple weeks ago, I had a riveting dialogue with Martin. He is the owner of Tabletoys, a board game store based in Surabaya. I asked for his favourite games to enrich my references. Let’s just say I was scouting for my next target. One title that he mentioned was Broom Service. I did a quick search in Google and took a glance at the available pictures, knowing nothing about the gameplay whatsoever.

My initial impression of this game was not a strong one, as it looked archaic. The artwork, however, was pretty spellbinding with witches driving their brooms with miscellaneous potion jars. As for my first impression, I think it was due to the way Ravensburger laid out the images, the choice of font, and the brand itself (no hard feeling). Besides, the components that depicted Potions, Heavy Clouds, the board, etc. were all basic. The illustration was the only exception because the cards reminded me of the fairy tales I always read when I was a kid. Well, visual representation is crucial. Thus, I decided not to buy this Broom Service…

GameNight! video that I watched before deciding to buy a copy of Broom Service.

……until I saw an episode of GameNight! That video from BoardGameGeek’s channel appeared on my YouTube’s home feed. After I watched it until the last second, I went to Tokopedia and bought it online. I was so excited!

This is how the game board looks. You can see the Towers spreading all across it.

How to play Broom Service

In essence, Broom Service is a game with a ‘pick-up and deliver’ mechanic. Players can ask the Gatherer’s help on collecting either Wand tokens or other Materials to brew Potions. Then, the Witch and Druid will assist your Potionsy to all Towers across the board and gain points. If Heavy Clouds hinder your way, you can ask for the charm to chase them away from the Weather Fairy. The simultaneous action selection aspect of this game, which I will explain later, makes Broom Service fun.

During each round, each player picks 4 out of 10 cards from his/her hand.

Each player gets 10 identical cards that consist of four roles: Gatherer, Fairy, Witch, and Druid. During each round, he/she secretly selects 4 out of those 10 cards. Here, the players can choose to resolve either Brave or Cowardly action. Of course, as you might suggest, the Brave choice will reward the player more generously than the latter. Would it make more sense to always pick the Brave path? Well, fellas, it is not that easy, though.

For example, this player picks the Herb Gatherer.

Here comes the simultaneous selection part

Starting from the first player, he/she has to play a card and read it out loud. For example, “I am the Herb Gatherer.” Then, the player can choose either the Brave or Cowardly action. For the latter, that player immediately does the printed effect. In this example, the Herb Gatherer takes one green Potion from the supply. However, its promptness does not reward as lavishly as the other one.

If the first player chooses the Brave action, then its effect does not get resolved immediately. That player has to wait for the other players to play that exact card, too. So, in this case, if the next player has that Herb Gatherer card, he/she must play it and may choose to perform Brave or Cowardly. The last player who plays Herb Gatherer Bravely is the one who can gain the reward. The brave Herb Gatherer will get two green Potions and one Wand token. The other players gain nothing on that turn.

The last player who plays Brave action will be the first player next round. If all players take the Cowardly way, the first player who performs the Cowardly effect will take that role instead. Usually, in most eurogames, the first player position promises an advantage over other players. But, in Broom Service, it’s the other way around!

The event cards give you another way to play the game.

The Event cards

When a new round initiates, players draw one Event card and immediately apply the effect to all players. The effect lasts for the rest of this round. For example, depending on your Witch markers position, some may deduct or add your points. The other Events could force you to perform Brave action and reward you one Wand token, too. This makes the outcomes vary greatly.

The Bewitched card for this round. Whoever plays the Mountain Witch card will lose 3 points.

Bewitched mechanic for less than 5 players

“Bewitched” is another implemented mechanic when there are less than five players. Depending on the player count, before the round begins, draw a random card from the unused deck. Whenever someone plays the same Role as the Bewitched one, he/she loses 3 points.

Interesting, isn’t it?

After you play this Praire Witch card…
…move your Witch marker to the Praire area.

What I think about this game?

My initial comments regarding the component still stand, sadly. There’s nothing extraordinary in this aspect, especially the way they designed the box. Perhaps, Alea and Ravensburger made it clear that they wanted to have a uniform way to represent their games. If you have played some of their other games, such as Puerto Rico, Castles of Burgundy, Bora-Bora, Carpe Diem, etc., they are all similar. Although it’s not my cup of tea, I am sure someone else will still love this style.

Except the wooden bowl, here are the whole Broom Service’s components

This game is essentially still fun to play, thanks to the neat Brave and Cowardly mechanic. Maybe because it was my first time to play a game with such a thing (just a reminder, I have only played like 100 games so far). While playing, I was often perplexed, “Oh, man, I really want to perform the Brave action. Who doesn’t want that grand reward? But that may cost me a turn if my next player has the same cards, though. Should I just do the Cowardly thing?”

If you remember, the Brave action forces the next player to play the same card, if he/she has any.  Due to this nature, you will be so often forced to face a situation where you have to play cards out of the order you have planned. That may be really frustrating.

“Which action should I play next?”

Of course, you can predict what cards the other players may play during the round. This forecast is usually based on many aspects. You have to take notes on the tokens they own, the position of their Witch, and something else like the Event and Bewitched cards on that round. The more often you can play different cards, the more unrestrained you can perform the Brave action. You don’t have to worry your card will be matched on that round.

The tokens for another game variant. There are Mountain, Amulet, and Storm Cloud tokens here.

Broom Service also brings some variants, which naturally increase the replay value of the game. Other tokens can be used on another side of the board. These tokens can do various things, such as teleporting, gain more points, and allow you to take more actions than usual. There are some other effects, but for your first time, you can try the Storm Cloud and Mountain tokens with the Amulets. These variants do not really increase the complexity of the game.

The witches without the lion and the wardrobes, LOL.

Conclusion

This game is pretty straightforward. We just have to deliver Potions, from tower to tower that spread all around the board. However, Broom Service’s unique mechanic is the highlight that shapes this game to be fun, entertaining, and pretty loud. It may be so because there will be funny moments during those 90 minutes. Some of them revolve around the players who make the wrong predictions. I can say that’s the beauty of this game, apparently, and I really love it.

Score: 9 out of 10
Spotify Playlist: The Very Best of Enya (Deluxe Edition)

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