Jon-Patrick, my cousin from Hawaii, plays a fair bit of board games. Sometimes I see on his Facebook wall pictures of the games he’s played. It was one game that both my sister and him played that sparked my attention:
“Hey Patrick. So I remembered in one of your posts that you played Broom Service. How is that game? I was considering getting it.”
He replies back in a timely fashion with one word:
From what I know of my cousin, he’s definitely a man of few words. I had asked him what the premise of the game was, and after he had described it, the description intrigued me enough to purchase it myself. And after playing it a few times, my cousins one-word analysis was absolutely spot on.
Broom Service is a card hand management game created by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister, and was published by Ravensburger Games. It is the 17th game of the Alea series (other games in this series include Puerto Rico, Ra, and The Castles of Burgundy, just to name a few). It also won the Kennerspiel de Jahres for 2015. In this game, players become witches, druids, or gatherers and either produce or deliver potions throughout a magical realm. In other words, the game is essentially about a witch FedEx service. The player who can get the most victory points after seven rounds is the winner.
To play Broom Service, set up the board by putting the character pieces and appropriate tokens in their respective places. The board has two sides depending on the level of difficulty you want to play. Then hand each player a deck of ten role cards of one colour as well as one potion of each colour and a number of wands dependant on whether or not you are the first or last player. Finally, shuffle the event cards, randomly select and place seven cards face down and reveal the top card of this deck.
Each player deck has the same ten role cards, which can be categorized into four groups:
- Witches help players move their pawns around the board as well as make deliveries to adjacent towers. Delivering potions is one way to earn points in the game.
- Druids help players deliver potions to towers on or adjacent to the location you are currently in.
- Gatherers help players gain new resources, such as more potions and wands. Collecting sets of these resources will get you points at the end of the game.
- The weather fairy allows players to remove clouds on the board and gain the lightning associated with it by using wands. Collecting lightning also gets you victory points.
Before the round starts, each player selects only four of the ten cards in their deck. This creates their starting hand. Then at the beginning of the turn, the first player will play one of the four cards from their hand. On each card, there is both a “brave action” and a “cowardly action”, and the player who played the card first must choose either one of these actions. If the player chooses the “cowardly action” on the card, then he or she will get the benefits of the cowardly action immediately, although its benefits are limited. However, if the player chooses the “brave action”, this player must now wait. Every other player in turn order must reveal the card that was just played, if they have it, and will also decide whether or not to choose the brave or cowardly action. Here’s the twist to the game. If a player ahead of the starting player decides to take the brave action, then the previous player loses their turn. Although the benefits of the brave action are far better than the cowardly action, the action may not occur if a player ahead of them has the same card.
The round ends when all players have played their cards. They will take their cards back, and a new round begins, with a new event card shown each time. The game ends after seven rounds and the winner is the one who has the most points.
The best part about Broom Service has got to be the bluffing aspect. Broom Service reminds me a lot of Poker without the luck element to it. When players are selecting the four cards in hand, two decisions need to be considered: (1) what cards need to be obtained in order to advance the furthest and (2) what cards could my opponents be using? By looking at where your opponent’s pawns are, and what resources they have, you can start predicting what your opponent will do, and thus decide what four cards should be placed in hand. Then there’s the risky decision of whether or not to take the brave action because it is possible that anybody ahead of you can take the action away. Hypothetically, this could mean that players could preemptively say that they have the card in their hand, but the designers put a specific rule that says that you’re not allowed to mention what cards you have in your hand at all. I’m glad that they put this rule just because I can see players using their table talk skills to have people back down from being brave. The game becomes the most entertaining when players are using logic to predict what cards their opponents have as opposed to using negotiation skills to alter how the cards could be played. Using deductive reasoning definitely make the emotional highs more elated, and the fickle lows more devastating.
I also like how Broom Service forces players to be flexible in their decision making. I’ve played this game a few times, and I must say you must be damn lucky if you’re even able to maximize on all four cards you have in your hand and play them in the order in which you wanted to play them. I have rarely seen a player get all the actions they wanted and this is because it is dependent on how the other players will play their cards. When a card is played, you are forced to play that card, even if you are unable to perform the actions on the card. This could mean that the order in which you wanted the cards to be played won’t actually happen and you may have to think of two or more contingency plans just to get the most out of your cards. Broom service requires players to think on their feet and adapt on the drop of a dime. Unfortunately, that also means that players who are AP prone will have the most difficult time with this game as it lacks rigidity. With so much imperfect information out there, I can anticipate how difficult it would be for players to figure out when to obtain resources, and when to start delivering goods, especially when other players out there could hinder their efforts.
Broom Service is also customizable for different players. If you’re a new player, you can play on the beginner’s side of the board. This side helps you quickly understand the basic mechanics of the game, especially when the setup is fast, and the gameplay is easy to get into. Once you’re feeling comfortable playing the game, you can try the advanced side of the board, where you can start putting additional amulets, tokens, teleportation markers, and point scorers to enhance the potion delivering experience.
The only small issue I have with the game is the scaling. The way Broom Service compensates for less than five players, is by using one of the unused player decks and randomly drawing cards from this deck to determine the enchanted cards for the round. Enchanted cards are cards that will give you a three point penalty when used. This discourages a player from using these particular cards and limit the a player’s choices in their deck. The only reason why I don’t like this is because it eliminates some of the guessing element, the element that makes the game entertaining. When you play with two or three players, you know at least two cards that may not be used in the game, and it becomes kind of frustrating especially when the cards drawn prevent you from making any significant moves. Honestly though, this is a very tiny grievance I have with the game and still plays pretty well for two to three players. It is is definitely recommended though that you play with five.
If you want to have an awesome bluffing game added to your game collection, get yourself a copy of Broom Service. This game will test your strategic flexibility and ability to adapt quickly. Most importantly, the player interactions that Broom Service provide are extraordinary. I can almost guarantee that when players try this game, they will yell and scream for joy or agony when the cards are laid out. Broom Service is a highly entertaining game that your friends will definitely enjoy.
- Amazing bluffing card management game.
- Cool components (especially the witch shaped meeples)
- Quick to play
- Customizable game depending on the players you have playing.
- Game is better with five players.