Boil, boil, toil and trouble and also loads of point-scoring opportunities on the double. Witchstone is a game I had heard lots of people talking about. When I heard Reiner Knizia was on the design team it certainly piqued my interest. Forgive the tiresome, well-trodden theme, Witchstone is a cauldron of mystical mechanisms, combolicious combos and cascading actions.
Tiles Make Actions
Witchstone is a game of many moving parts. Your main focus will be a cauldron that you must place tiles on to garner what actions you will take on your turn. How many of these actions depends on what tile you lay and how many in each group are connected to your tile. Your tiles are shaped like two hexes stuck together and have a different action on either side. Whether it's a crystal action, a witch action or one of the many other action varieties, how many of those symbols are in the group when you lay it is how many times you may take said action.
Each of the game’s six actions allows you to manipulate the mainboard or move the crystals blocking your cauldron. In your cauldron are six crystals of your colour and a black crystal smack bang in the centre. These crystals not only block you from laying tiles where you want. They also get you bonus actions if you get them off your board. One of the main focuses of Witchstone is building up action combos through the games many ways of obtaining them.
Pentagrams, Scrolls and More Bonus Actions
So we have explained the crystal action, you also have a pentagram action which gives you bonus tiles for your cauldron and point chits that decrease in value the longer the game goes on. You get these tiles and chits on a small rondel on the mainboard and each pentagram action moves you further around, so more connected pentagrams in your cauldron, more chits and tiles, what do chits and tiles make? Yes, that is right, more actions, points and tiles.
You also have the scroll action that allows you to take a card from the games display of six, in a shop of sorts that gets refilled. How many of the six you get to choose from depends on how many scroll actions you have. One scroll action will let you take the first card but further scroll actions will give you a more varied choice of cards. These cards are either end game scoring objectives related to all the other actions on the board or yes you guessed it, more bonus actions of the various types. You can see how this game starts to snowball into a cacophony of actions quite quickly.
Witches, Routes and More Bonus Actions
In the centre of the mainboard is a Ticket to Ride-esque layout. This is where you use both your energy and witch actions. The energy action allows you to create routes between cities, towers and other points on the board. The witch action allows you to place more of your witches on the board and move them about. Each route completed earns points depending on its size and each witch placed on a new location earns points and a bonus. Randomly placed chits not only score points at the end of the game but also gives you bonus actions or instant points too for the first witch to reach the space. Point-tastic!
The magic wand action as you move your marker up a magic wand. Every few spaces give you bonus actions, scoring opportunities for the other parts of the mainboard. If you are the first player to reach these notches on the wand, you get double the bonus. Double-bubble, toil and trouble. Due to the magic wand scoring other features of the board, I found it better to leave the wand actions to a little later in the game. Otherwise, you may miss point-scoring opportunities due to other parts of the board not being worked on yet. The wand, however, is a big part of the board and can net you a massive swathe of sweet-sweet points, if used correctly.
Playing Witchstone comes down to maximising your tile placement to get as many actions as you can. Using these actions to gain bonus actions from the parts of the mainboard they affect and using the cards, wand and routes to get as many points as you can. The game flies by, is very entertaining and very simple to learn.
Standard, Witch-Based Parts
Everything in Witchstone, without being amazing is perfectly adequate for its job. The card chits and tokens are sturdy and thick enough. The wooden player counters are nice little owls. Even the board is nice and thick. Witchstone is one of those games where you take out all the components and you instantly think it's going to be complicated. However, it is truly not. There is a lot of stuff in the box but it is very simple after a few turns.
The mystical artwork is serviceable. I would have liked perhaps slightly better art and a more unique theme but it does work. I am quite happy with what’s in the box, components and all.
Witchstone is like a few different games mixed together with an action selection system that is both puzzly and entertaining. Trying to squeeze as many actions out of your cauldron to affect the right bits of the main board, to get more actions is very rewarding. There are multiple paths to victory. So many ways to get points and all being said the game is very simple.
Everyone in my house loved the game. It has many mechanisms, my family, like, route building, tile laying, grouping and combos galore. Witchstone is unlike any other game in my collection. It will be staying there for a long time to come. It is a gem I will whip out when I just want to throw some tiles down, move some stuff and get points thrown at me from every angle. It's entertaining and swift, what more could you want?