The first thing to pop out to players of Cauldron Quest is its rich theme. The art by CB Canga is mystical and medieval, spooky enough to be fun without being creepy. Game pieces include a wizard’s hat, potion bottles, and magical ingredients like eyeballs, bats’ wings, and sulfurous eggs. Players will recognize a few favorites from fantasy stories, like owls, unicorns, and roses.
In Cauldron Quest, players take turns trying to get the three correct ingredients into the cauldron before the paths are all blocked and the Evil Wizard’s spell destroys the kingdom. The potions are all set upside-down so that their ingredients are hidden and shuffled up to be placed randomly on the board.
On each player’s turn, he or she rolls the Action Dice, which determine what action happens that turn. It could be moving a potion bottle toward the cauldron, rolling the Magic Dice, moving the wizard’s hat (which may block the path), or placing one of the Path Blocker chips that permanently block a path. Players are allowed two Spell Breaker Tokens that may remove a Path Blocker, but only two, and everyone will have to agree when to use them.
One problem that many cooperative games run into is “alpha gaming,” which is when one player “takes over” by deducing the most effective action and suggesting it to whoever’s turn it may be. Cauldron Quest overcomes that through its Magic Dice. Players announce what charm they want to try to do and roll the dice, making it a mix of strategy and luck that prevents anyone from “alpha gaming” and invites everyone to participate. Rolling all evens allows players to reveal a potion bottle, all odds gives a chance to swap two bottles on the board, and rolling a total of 12 permits a player to have a potion slip through a blocked path. As a bonus, the dice counting is great for teaching kids quick math (and letting grown-ups brush up on it, too).
Cauldron Quest is a cooperative game for two to four players aged six and up. With its randomized play, single-player games can be fun as well for someone looking for an individual challenge. Games usually last about 20 minutes to a half hour, depending on how quickly the players make their decisions. It may be disappointing to lose the game, as happens from time to time due to simple bad luck or a few missteps, but Cauldron Quest is short enough that players can try, try again. With its engaging gameplay and fun wizard theme, players may want to play another round even if they won the last one![amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00S28895K]