A group of wizards have convened at the foot of a tower holding a mythical artifact. Fueled by greed and anger, these wizards engage in a battle for sole possession. However, that same greed and anger clouds their judgment, causing them to cast the wrong spells while hurting themselves in the process. Which mage will out-duel their adversaries and make it to the top of the tower?
Each wizard starts the game with six health tokens and five random spells from a pool of eight possible spells. Each spell has a number that is associated with the number of each type of spell. For example, there’s only one #1 spell, while there are eight #8 spells. With the #8 spell being the most common, it isn’t all that spectacular. However, the #1 spell allows you to summon a dragon, allowing you to hit everyone for potentially massive damage.
Players will cast these spells from their hand of five at their opponents to attack, heal their own wounds or gain new spells from the secret stash of spells in the middle. However, players don’t actually get to see which spells they have. Instead, everyone’s spells are facing the opposition, so you know everything except your own hand.
Not knowing what you have directly ties in with the idea that your conscious is clouded by anger and greed. It’s a little cheesy but I’m fine with it. Based on what spells are out there, you’re going to need to deduce which spells you might have. Even with the public information available, you’re going to have to do some guesswork. Some might find it frustrating, but I was able to hit with a decent success rate. One of the rules that helps narrow things down a bit is that after you successfully cast a spell, you can only cast another spell if it is higher in number. This makes it easier to string a series of spells together.
Play continues until a player has exhausted all of their spells, or one character runs out of health points. At that point, the winner gets three points, survivors get one point and the loser is left empty-handed. After each round, the game is reset until someone hits eight points. The first person to reach that goal wins the game.
Abracada…What? is very much a mix of Hanabi‘s reversed hands with the premise of Epic Spell Wars in a family-friendly package. In certain ways it works, while it falls flat in others. In general, I like the concept of having to guess which spells you have, as perceptive players are rewarded for making the right calls at the right time. It’s best when you’re able to string together a series of successful spells. However, you also can get burned with weird hands where you have multiples of the same spell and wonder why you fail when trying to move up the chain.
My biggest gripe with the game is that the actual combat component feels very basic. All you can really do is hit someone, heal yourself or add a spell, with slight variations of each making up the eight different spells. Knowing that this is meant to be a family game for ages 7 and up, adding anything more complicated than what’s here will detract from its vision. That said, as a more mature gamer, this treads a bit too lightly.
The limited number of things you can do is further exacerbated when you play with two players, which the box says is feasible. Yes, it is playable in this form, but it turns spells that hit players to the left, right or on both sides into the exact same thing, making the game feel even more samey. Play with at least three players for a better experience.
It hit me pretty quickly that Abracada…What? isn’t really meant for me, and that’s okay. For its intended audience, this is a neat little game that, with some teaching from parents, should entertain the kids. As a competitive game to play with the family that isn’t overly complex or violent, consider checking this one out.