Conjuring Up Witchcraft!
I never found a copy of Resist! from Salt & Pepper Games. Boy, did I want to though. A solo card game with a fascinating theme, great art and plays in about 30 minutes? Yes please. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I never found a copy in a UK retailer and thus resorted to Witchcraft!…
Yes, Salt & Pepper games had my back and announced the follow up to Resist!, Witchcraft! earlier this year. Designed by the same team of David Thompson, Trevor Benjamin and Roger Tankersley and featuring more beautiful art by Albert Monteys, Witchcraft! landed on my doorstep in early October. Just in time for spooky season! Would it be the very treat I’d been hoping for, or had I been tricked into a lacklustre purchase?
By the pricking of my thumbs, something GORGEOUS this way comes!
Everything about the appearance of Witchcraft! is beautiful. The game has an abundance of art and all of it helps immerse you in this world of witchcraft. From the stern visages of the jurors, that remind you that persuading them will not be easy, to the contrast between the hidden and revealed sides of the witch cards: I’ve carefully looked through all of the cards, simply to admire what a tremendous job has been done with them.
The art is highly thematic, with missions relating to the jurors’ professions and clever escalation from the level 1 to level 2 and 3 missions. A great story is told with nothing more than 3 mission titles and the accompanying art. I’d go so far as to say that from a visual appeal perspective, Witchcraft! is up there with the best I’ve seen.
The card quality is very good too. I’ve not sleeved my copy and am confident it will stand up to repeated plays.
All this wonderful art would amount to a whole lot of pretty nothing, should Witchcraft! have nothing under the gameplay hood. Fortunately, there is an enjoyable solo game here, to go alongside the art and theme.
The player needs to complete a series of missions in order to convince the jurors of the witch’s innocence and that magic is being used as a force for good to save the village, not harm it. This is done by drawing a hand of 5 cards and playing each in turn to accumulate magical power to overcome enemies (challenges) and complete missions. Each successful mission raises a juror’s persuasion of your innocence. Get all 3 of the jurors on your side when you trigger the trial and you win! 2 persuaded jurors counts as a draw. 1 or less and you lose; your good intentions have counted for naught as the villagers find you guilty.
The key decisions you make include deciding which witches to include in your coven, which mission to tackle and whether to play a witch as hidden or revealed.
Hidden or revealed? On the face of it, this is an incredibly simplistic decision. However, there are all sorts of elements that factor in to this choice. Do you need the additional power to defeat the challenges and the mission? Do you need the ability of the hidden or revealed side? Are you playing other family members that will combo together? Do you play any witches before selecting a mission? Are there any challenges you can afford to ignore?
Yes, it is simple what you are doing each turn, but it is also thought provoking. This is just the sort of weight I like from my solo games and I’m finding the gameplay of this one very engaging.
Toil & Trouble
As many a fictional magic user has uttered:
“All magic, comes with a price.”
The magic of Witchcraft! does indeed come with a price of its own. The cost of the great variety of jurors, missions and witches in this game, is setup time.
It’s not too bad, but it’s not insignificant either, weighing in at 10+ minutes in my experience and this is for a 30 minute game. You need to shuffle and select your 3 jurors, shuffle conviction cards and assign each juror 2 face down, find the 9 mission cards that go with your 3 jurors, find the 15 challenge cards that go with your 3 jurors plus the common challenge cards, shuffle the villager cards and then… you have to set up your witch coven.
This involves drawing the 24 witch cards 2 at a time, choosing one for your coven (draw deck) and one to go into the recruit deck. There is a suggested list of witches to use for your first game provided in the rulebook, but when you get into the game, you will be carrying out this pregame draft. Yes, it is a spot of toil, but not too much trouble.
There is enjoyment to be had in this part of setup, as the witches are from different families and many of their special rules combo off each other. It’s fun trying to figure out the best mix for your initial deck and weighing up pure strength versus the ability to add more witches to your deck or aid with juror manipulation. You just need to be aware that there is a bit more going on here than shuffling a deck of cards and starting the game.
When The Hurly-Burly’s Done…
Once you are setup and underway, Witchcraft! is a solo player’s delight. I find myself not wanting to reveal my witches and send them to jail, yet I must in order to complete the mission. Uncontested challenge cards will cost you precious villagers, or start to clog up your deck with more and more curses (these are effectively ‘dead’ cards with no effect).
This leads to Witchcraft! being a tense game of card management and assessing risk. Missions get more and more challenging as you play, but offer greater rewards in the form of greater amounts of juror persuasion.
My win rate thus far has been pleasingly poor(!) I am still getting to know the card interplay, understanding the probabilities of persuasion vs juror conviction and just how often those tricky strength 4+ challenges appear. For me, there is a lot to explore here and I am enjoying the challenge of mastering my craft in Witchcraft!.
Should I tire of all the juror combinations, Witchcraft! has yet more to offer. The included Tales of Wildegrens book contains 9 further stand alone scenarios that mix up the gameplay. 4 further witches are included to be used specifically with these scenarios too. Yes, there’s undoubtedly plenty of content in the Witchcraft! concoction.
Witchcraft! is an excellent solo game. It plays smoothly, looks stunning and achieves what it sets out to: namely providing a thematic experience, with excruciating decisions, that plays in a breezy (after set up) 30 minutes. As such, this is an easy recommendation from me for any solo gamer, or anyone thinking about giving solo gaming a try. That’s the thing about Witchcraft!; it certainly is magical!