Double double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Thus spake Shakespeare’s triplicate weird and weyward sisters in their moonlit tryst on a misty heath. Into their charmed pot they tipped such gruesome ingredients as fillets of fenny snake, blind-worm stings and dog tongues in order to conjure visions for the ill-fated Macbeth. There’s no Scottish regicide in Carlo A. Rossi’s Tricky Druids (might be a bit harsh for a family game) but there is plenty of deceit as you race to be the first to brew your noxious concoctions. Here’s how it went down at our family game night.
Tricky Druids - Not Too Tricky
One of the first plus points for Tricky Druids was how quickly you can get it from the box to the table. This is true for both setup and learning to play. In terms of setup, you simply need to spread out the ingredient tokens in the middle of the table, choose your individual druid screen, draw a secret potion card and you are good to go.
Each player screen has its own individual art. Chris Seaman has done a great job of injecting character and fun into the game through his trippy, vibrant illustrations. The druids have their own style and quirks and, although this has no effect on game play, it helps to bring the theme to life at the table.
However, the quality of the screens did leave something to be desired. They are a little thin, meaning they were easy to knock over unintentionally as you reached for tokens from the central pile. They are also a tad small for the cards you are hiding behind them. It was easy to see if someone was placing ingredients on their potion card or trash tile. This is a problem in a game of disguised intentions. We had to house-rule that you weren’t allowed to look at someone as they placed their tokens.
The Lying Game
Those of you who have played Cockroach Poker will feel at home with Tricky Druids. It has a similar rule set based on bluff and double bluff. On your turn, you will offer an opponent a number of ingredients determined by a dice roll. They can either take them all or refuse them all. If they refuse you will have to put the tokens in your own pot, so choose wisely and lie well.
Behind your screen you have a potion card and a trash bin, onto which you place the tokens you gain. Your potion card has a recipe of three ingredients at the top. At least one of each must be present when all six slots are filled to complete it successfully. If one item is missing or a rogue ingredient spills over from your trash, the entire potion is spoiled and you must sling the lot out and start again. The first player to complete a set number of potions is the winner. It really is that simple.
There is a variant included wherein players have to offer the exact number of tokens determined by a fifth die. This does add an extra layer of strategy that works at the 3-4 player count. You have to choose your quota of ingredients carefully and really think who to offer them to. But at 2 players this extra rule feels restrictive and too lucky.
All the Young Druids
With a quick play-time and gameplay that is easy to pick up, Tricky Druids is a neat game to keep in your pile of potentials for game night. It’s perfect for that end slot, where people want to play another game but have brain burn so don’t want to be taxed too hard.
A lot of the fun I’ve had with the game has been injected by the players. As with Cockroach Poker, the real pleasure is in hamming up your lies. We also added an extra creative flourish of having to say what our potions did as we revealed them. They make your hair fall out, make your ears turn blue, make your farts sound like frogs etc. etc. None of this is in the rules, but it does add some giddy silliness which will help keep kids entertained.
On the subject of kids: Tricky Druids is marketed as a family game and it certainly has enough to keep all ages (well about 7+) entertained. You might want to tone down some of the meaner aspects for younger children and they might need helpful reminders of strategy. But, hey, lying to your mum and dad is wholesome entertainment and a skill best learned young so it’s practically educational.
All in all, I enjoyed Tricky Druids for what it is, although it could benefit from a fifth (maybe even sixth) player option, as it has the feel of a light party game without the player count to match. Tricky Druids doesn’t set the world on fire (nor is it pretending to), but it does keep game night simmering along in the cauldron nicely as it stretches into the witching hour.