Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble—can you cook up Something Wicked before the other witches?
What Is Something Wicked?
Something Wicked is a game for 2 or 3 players, ages 13 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play. It retails for $25 and is available in stores or directly from Breaking Games. While the age recommendation says 13+, I’m guessing that has more to do with materials testing restrictions because the game itself is pretty easy to learn, and there’s nothing particularly PG-13 about the theme.
Something Wicked was designed by Adam Fischer and published by Breaking Games, with illustrations by Leah Artwick and Marshall Gill.
Something Wicked Components
Here’s what comes in the box:
- 48 Magic Wands (16 each in orange, green, and purple)
- 3 Action Reference cards
- 3 Action Reminder tokens
The most notable component in the game is the large plastic cauldron, which looks kind of like the sort of thing you might fill up with candy for Halloween, but it has a cardboard disc across the top of it to look like bubbling green liquid. Inside the cauldron, there’s a piece of spongy foam, with three round holes that line up with the three holes in the disc—these are for holding the wands. There’s a gap between the disc and the top of the foam, so if you don’t put the wand straight down, it’s easy to miss the hole in the foam. The wands are plastic, about 6 inches long with a shaped handle—all of them are identical in shape and only differ in color.
The reminder cards are large squares that clearly outline your three available actions; you use the reminder tokens to track which action you’ve taken. The reminder tokens have the faces of the three witches seen on the box cover on both sides; one side also says “Double.” The witches are illustrated by Leah Artwick, in a similar style to her princess drawings in Sparkle*Kitty, but they only appear on the box cover and the tokens—it’s a shame that her artwork isn’t more prominently featured in the game.
The box itself isn’t a regular cardboard box, because of the cauldron: it’s a clear plastic cube with a tuck flap, with some cardstock along the bottom and four sides to complete the packaging. There’s some fun artwork on the cardstock—the three witches on the front and a room interior on the inside (including a fire beneath the cauldron)—but it’s not used for gameplay. I do wonder whether the plastic flaps will snap at the creases after repeated opening and closing. It looks cute, but won’t probably shelve nicely with your other games.
How to Play Something Wicked
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to be the first to collect 13 (in a 2-player game) or 14 (in a 3-player game) wands of the same color.
Each player takes 2 wands of each color, a reference card, and an action token. Put 10 wands of each color into the cauldron, one color in each hole. (In a 2-player game, the extra wands will not be used.) The player who most recently made a brew is the starting player.
On your turn, you take one of three actions, marking it on your card with your token:
- Bubble: Put any number of wands of one color into the cauldron (in the corresponding hole), and then take twice that number from the next hole clockwise.
- Toil: Put any number of wands of one color into the cauldron. All other players must put that number of wands into the next hole counterclockwise (according to the color). Then you may take the same number of wands from that hole.
- Trouble: Take one wand of each color from the cauldron.
If there are ever not enough wands to complete an action, you just do as much as possible.
If you take the same action twice in a row, flip your action token over to the “Double” side. You may not take the same action 3 times in a row.
The game ends when a player has 13 or 14 wands, depending on player count. That player wins.
Why You Should Play Something Wicked
Something Wicked has a very simple ruleset: you do one of 3 actions on your turn, sometimes putting wands into the cauldron, and taking some wands out. Since you can only repeat an action once, if you’ve “doubled” on your previous turn, then you only have 2 choices left to you. It plays out pretty quickly—especially the first few times when you don’t realize that you can’t simply go after one color and ignore all the others.
The three actions are easy to understand, but figuring out when to best use one or the other is the trick. Bubble can get you the most wands because it doubles the number of wands you give up—as long as there are enough of the next color to take. Toil is a great way to take away wands from your opponents and can be a net zero cost. Both of these actions, though, require you to have the correct adjacent color in your possession already. Trouble is the only action you can take that doesn’t require spending wands, and it gets you up to 3 wands free of charge. The problem, of course, is that those 3 wands are all different colors, so only one of them is directly getting you closer to your goal.
Getting to 13 (or 14) wands of the same color is tricky because it means your opponents can barely have any left of that color. In a 2-player game, there are only 14 wands of each other in play, so if your opponent has at least 2 of a color, then you can’t win with that color until you force them to put one back. You really have to use the Toil action for that. And if you don’t have the right color to use Toil? Well, looks like you’re headed for Trouble.
Some of the game involves going around and around like that—putting wands that you actually want back into the cauldron so that you can get more of a different color so that you can force your opponents to put some back. You have to keep a close eye on what wands your opponents have, and whether they’ve “doubled” already or if they have all of their actions available to them. In a 3-player game especially, it can be harder to plan too far in advance because the situation can change significantly in a single round.
That said, it’s still a pretty quick game because the general trend is that the players will have more and more wands—over the course of the various actions, you generally end up taking more wands than you have to put back. One color will quickly run out, and then players scramble to force the leader to put more of that color back in, but you can only do so much of that.
It’s rare to come across a game that plays specifically 2 or 3 people. I can see why this wouldn’t work with 4 players, because it would simply be too chaotic. Each turn you’d almost be starting from scratch. But that does limit the audience, and the game will feel a bit different between the two player counts: 2-player is a direct head-to-head where you can try to figure out what your opponent will do; 3-player gets harder to predict and also allows for alliances and king-making.
Overall, I think Something Wicked is a clever game that’s a battle of wits: everything is public information and there’s no luck involved, so it’s purely about out-maneuvering your rivals. Yet the rules are simple enough that a clear understanding of the rules isn’t a barrier to competing. It’s short enough to allow for a rematch or two, but that also means that it may not be quite as engaging for players who want something they can really sink their fangs, er, teeth into. The cauldron and wands are a bit of a gimmick—if the game were cards or just tokens, for instance, I think the game would be less appealing, but that means the gimmick works. Something Wicked could make a fun filler game for your Halloween game night.
For more information or to order a copy, visit the Breaking Games website.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.