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Broom Service: Not Your Friendly Neighborhood Potion Delivery!

Broom Service

Broom Service Cover

With Halloween being only a few days away, my ghastly group of gamers and I are upping the ante with our spooky themed game nights to keep us in the spirit. This week, I bring you not only one but two new games! The first of the two often makes me think of one of my favorite Studio Ghibli animes by Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki’s Delivery Service) whenever I see it: Broom Service! Players of this 2-5 player board game take on the roles of various gatherers, witches, and druids as they compete to produce potions and deliver them via broom riding couriers all over the kingdom for victory points. The game was designed by Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister and the theme made it a “must” for our game night!

Witch's Brew

Witch’s Brew Cover
(Image from Board Game Geek)

Broom Service is actually a remake of a previous Alea “medium box” game called “Witch’s Brew,” which was released in 2008. Like many other Ravensburger releases, Witch’s Brew and Broom Service (released in 2015) have not only become staples in many game collections but also manage to continue to hold their own in the world of modern gaming. Some of the main differences between both games include a 2-player variant, a new and updated theme, new characters, more player roles, and new illustrations and components. The style of play (simultaneous selection followed by sequential turns) remains the same in both games. Witch’s Brew contains illustrations from both Julien Delval and Harald Lieske that utilizes darker colors and very different iconography from Broom Service. The artwork for Broom Service is by Vincent Dutrait who has also done illustrations for several Pathfinder modules as well as other board games including Atlantis Rising and Alexandria.

Broom Service Set Up

4-player set up for Broom Service
(All Photos of Ravensburger Product were taken and edited by KristaG unless otherwise stated)

There are several variants included with the base game in addition to the 2-player one. For this review, I will be focusing mainly on the basic game when discussing set up and gameplay, though I will admit that I have gotten to try several of the variants now and really enjoyed what they bring to the game. As with most games that include a board, set up begins by placing the board in the middle of the play area. In this instance, the basic game uses the side with the “reddish” castle banners face up. To set up the rest of the board, the Heavy Cloud Tokens (clouds with white stars on them) are shuffled and placed face up on each cloud space at random. Any extras are returned to the box during the basic game. The first player is determined by age with the eldest player being chosen. Each player receives 10 Role Cards, 2 Pawns (one is placed on each of the castles on the board), and 1 Victory Point Marker all of the same color – either red, yellow, green, blue, or black. Players also receive 1 Potion token of each color and either 1 or 2 wands depending on where they fall in the player order. Any remaining potions and wands are placed next to the board as a resource supply. Should there be less than 5 players, one of the unused role decks should be shuffled and placed in a draw pile to act as “bewitched” role cards. Depending on the number of players, a set number of these cards are revealed during set up. Should a player need it during the game, there is a reference card that should be placed within easy reach of all players. Lastly, a draw pile is created using 7 of the 10 shuffled Event Cards and placed near the board. The first card should be flipped face up next to the deck. Any other components (including leftover Heavy Cloud tokens) should be returned to the box as they are used only for variants.

Broom Service Mountain Witch

The Mountain Witch card is probably my favorite out of all of them. Her “brave” action allows you to move and deliver a potion whereas her “cowardly” action only allows you to move.

Broom Service is played over a total of 7 rounds with anywhere from 4 to 10 turns per round. As stated above, Broom Service is played using simultaneous selection and then individual turns. At the beginning of each round, all players simultaneously choose 4 out of their 10 Role cards to place in their hands. When selecting a card, it is important to note the “role” (either Druid, Witch, or Gatherer) as well as to read both the “brave” and the “cowardly” text as a card can only be played as one or the other. Gatherers help players receive new resources, Witches help players move around the board (with brave Witches helping to make deliveries), and Druids are the main source of delivery. Cards played for their “cowardly” text tend to be less risky, but also come with less reward than those that are played using the “brave” text. A player’s remaining cards are kept face down and are not used for the rest of the current round! After the selections have been made, the game switches from simultaneous play to taking actual turns. The first player for the round chooses a Role card from their hand, plays it face up and reads aloud either the “cowardly” or “brave” text. Should the player have chosen the “brave” action, they must wait as play passes from one player to the next to see if they get to actually perform their action or if it gets stolen by another player. If any of the other players have a matching role card in their hand, they get to effectively steal the action from the previous player by playing the card and choosing either the “brave” or “cowardly” action for themselves. If no one has a matching card, the starting player will get to perform the action once everyone has had a chance to pass. Should a player choose to take the “cowardly” action with a card, however, they get to immediately perform the action described on the card without having to risk someone stealing the action from them. Play passes to the last “brave” player and continues until all 7 rounds have concluded. The player who has scored the most victory points at the end of the game wins.

One of the hardest things for me when it came to Broom Service was working my way through the gameplay section of the rulebook. As much as it made sense, it really didn’t and it took actually playing the game for me – and several others from my group – to understand how individual turns actually worked. Once we got through it, however, it became easier to teach to others and the game really picked up its pace. With this being the case, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that this is a game for families with younger children even though the artwork is family friendly as there is a lot of reading and sometimes taking your turn can be a little confusing as a new player. However, I do really enjoy the game. The risk of being brave often tends to be worth the rewards if you can reap them and it’s a lot of fun to try to outguess my friends when it comes to what Role cards everyone might be choosing for the round based on what appears to be their strategies for potion creation and delivery. Broom Service is a game that has come highly recommended to me by my peers and I can honestly see why. The basic game is fun even if somewhat unforgiving at times, but adding in all of the extra bells and whistles that come with the variants makes me enjoy it far more. Each addition also drastically and completely changes the game to the point that I’m somewhat shocked it all came in one box! If looking for even more to add to the game, there is a mini-expansion for the board game available within the Broom Service card game and even a Christmas expansion that was released as part of the 2016 Brettspiel Adventskalender. Though I feel Broom Service looks like an entry-level or “gateway game” for new players, that is incredibly deceptive! There is a lot more strategy involved than one would first assume just by looking at the whimsical artwork and cute little components. There is also a learning curve – a big one – and yet I didn’t want to stop playing even as I dealt with fairly consistent point denial and failed plan after failed plan! One thing I would really love to see, though, is for someone to figure out how to reskin the game to actually have a Kiki’s Delivery Service theme! Every time I see the box or hear someone mention it, I always find myself thinking of the anime and would just love to see someone make that happen! As the tagline says, “zooming brooms put potions in motion…” so what are you waiting for? Time to get brewing! Until next time, Happy Haunting!

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