The evil Queen Sparkle*Kitty has locked away the princesses in “No-Cursing” Towers, taking away their magic spells. But these princesses can find power even in the sugar-and-spice words they’re allowed to say, and they’ve got a plan to break themselves out!
What Is Sparkle*Kitty?
Sparkle*Kitty is a card game by Manny Vega for 3 to 8 players, ages 6 and up, and takes about 15–30 minutes to play (depending on number of players). It just arrived in stores this week, with a retail price of $20, and is also available directly from Breaking Games. The game requires the ability to read words aloud, so you can play with kids younger than 6 as long as they can read (or have some help).
- 163 Spell cards
- 10 Princess cards
- Spell Book
All of the spell cards have a word across the middle, and most have a color and a symbol as well. For color blind players, there’s a decorative border between the color stripes and the center where the words are, and the border serves as a secondary indicator of the color. The card fronts aren’t too exciting. The backs of the cards show a silhouetted tower with different colored backgrounds, and these can be stacked to make a picture of a tall tower.
The princess cards are exciting, with illustrations by Leah Artwick depicting various princesses. They’ve got names like Princess Bookworm and Princess Metal and Princess Pluot, and they’re really great, with lots of personality and spunk. The backs of the princess cards show the top of a tower that lines up with the tower silhouettes. There are some promo princesses available as well: if you buy Sparkle*Kitty at your local game store, you can pick up Princess Rebel (for a limited time); you can also order Princess Palette directly from Breaking Games or for free at shows. There may be other princesses available by joining the Sparkle*Kitty Facebook group.
I’m not really fond of the card quality, which is a bit stiff and hard to shuffle. When I stack the cards, I notice that the cards aren’t all exactly the same size, which also impacts shuffling. It’s a bit surprising, as Ad Magic is also the manufacturer of Cards Against Humanity, so I know they’ve got a lot of experience printing cards.
The spell book is a small bi-fold cardboard that says “Spell Book” on it with various symbols. It’s the right size for playing the various spell cards on either side of the board. My board doesn’t quite stay open all the way, so until you have a lot of cards on both sides of the spell book, they’ll slide a little toward the center.
The whole thing comes in a compact box showing a kitty apparently barfing a rainbow.
How to Play Sparkle*Kitty
Be the first to break out of your tower!
Every player gets to pick a princess card. Shuffle the spell cards and deal 9 to each player. Without looking at the cards, each player picks 4 cards to form their own tower, placing their princess at the top of the tower. The rest of the cards form their hand (and can now be looked at). When playing with fewer than 6 players, leave out all the green-backed cards.
The youngest player goes first, unless somebody is dressed like a princess, in which case the youngest player dressed like a princess goes first.
Set the spell book board in the center of the table, and split the deck of cards into two piles, one on either side of the spell book.
On your turn, you must play a card onto the spell book, play a dark magic card, or pass and draw a card.
Spell Book: play a card from your hand to either side of the spell book, and then read your spell aloud. To play a card, it must match either the symbol or the word currently showing. (At the beginning of the game, there are no colors, so you must match symbols.)
Rainbow cards are wild and may match anything, and also have special effects when played: remove 2 cards from your tower instead of one if the rainbow card was your last card, play all of the cards in your hand until you have to draw, or choose another player to draw back up to a full hand of 5 cards.
Dark Magic: Dark magic cards (black) are played next to your tower, and you may then add a card from the deck to another player’s tower. In addition, if you play a dark magic card, you must include that word when reading the spell on every turn—if you forget and somebody catches you, you must add another card from the deck to your tower. When you play a dark magic card, you replace your existing dark magic card.
Pass: If you have no cards you can play, you just draw a card from the deck and end your turn.
Removing Tower Cards
You want to remove tower cards, because that’s how you escape! There are three ways to remove tower cards: empty your hand, double a spell, or or play “Sparkle” or “Kitty” cards.
Empty Hand: If you play your last card from your hand, you get to draw one of the cards from your tower into your hand, and then draw back up to a hand of 5 cards.
Doubles: If you have a card that matches a current card in the spell book, you may play it at any time, interrupting the flow of the game, and saying “Double _____” as the name of the spell. Playing a double spell lets you draw a card from your tower immediately, and then the normal flow of the game resumes. If you double a card that has already been doubled, you say “Double Double ____” and you get to draw two cards from your tower.
Sparkle and Kitty: If you play a “Sparkle” or “Kitty” card, you get to draw a card from your tower. These cards have an icon to remind you of the ability—but they have no symbols for matching the spell book, so you must match the color.
The game ends as soon as somebody draws the last card of their tower, escaping Sparkle*Kitty! Or, if the entire deck runs out, the player with the smallest tower wins, with ties going to the player with the fewest dark magic cards, then fewest cards in hand, then youngest player.
There are a few optional rules you can throw in if you want to mix it up a little:
When a player removes their last tower card, everyone gets to draw one card and reveal it—if anyone reveals a dark magic card, they play it, resolve it, and play continues (because they can add a card back to the tower).
If anyone swears or curses or makes a spell book mistake, they add a card to their tower.
When you play dark magic cards, instead of replacing the previous one, just add to it, so that you’ll have to say all of the dark magic words every turn.
Okay, so Sparkle*Kitty isn’t a very deep strategy game, and it’s heavily dependent on the luck of the draw, but it can be a pretty funny game to play. The closest game I could compare it to is probably Uno: you’re matching a color or a symbol and basically trying to get rid of your cards. The difference is that there are two play piles instead of one, and you have to get rid of your hand of cards multiple times in order to get out of your tower to win the game. That, and everyone is saying really silly things all the time like “Fabulous Grumpy Whisker,” which rarely happens in Uno.
The two piles does give you a little bit more flexibility, particularly if you pay attention to what everyone else is holding. The backs of the cards tend to correspond to the color on the front, though you can’t tell which cards are dark magic or rainbow cards. If you see somebody holding a bunch of red cards, you could try to cover up the red cards with something else, hoping that they won’t have a matching symbol.
Because there are ways to add cards to your opponents’ towers, there is a bit of “take that” to it, but it’s fairly light, and generally it always makes sense to give cards to whoever is currently ahead.
My kids have really enjoyed playing it, and for my 4-year-old it’s great practice reading. She knows a lot of the words (particularly the animals) but there are some unfamiliar ones, too, so she gets to sound things out. The color/symbol matching is pretty easy for her to grasp, and as long as we remind her how the special cards work, she doesn’t have any trouble keeping up.
I did play with adults and older kids as well, and it’s light, silly fun. It’s not one that will be the center of a game night, but I’ll keep it around for a quick filler or for my kids to play. I think if you like Uno-style games, and you like the theme of princesses that save themselves, you could give it a shot.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.