Witchful Thinking

Before I say anything else, I just want to mention that I love buying Canadian. Finding a made in Canada game is harder than you might think. So I was really pleased when I saw that Witchful Thinking, Variable Outcomes’ first game, is not just Canadian, but made right here in (cough cough Calgary) Alberta. 

I’m not sure if it’s still trending or not, but I remember for a while all the cool parents were buying “sneaky vegetable cookbooks”. You know, the kind of recipes that tell how to put pureed vegetables in spaghetti sauce and zucchini in meatloaf; or how to make “mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower. Witchful Thinking is a like bit like that. But instead of trying to hide nutrition in comfort foods, they are trying to hide mathematics in a fun game. And just like those recipes, this game might not be as successful in their goal as they hoped.

The idea behind Witchful Thinking is that witches are trying to make specific potions by adding ingredients to a cauldron until it’s “just right”. How do they know when it’s perfect? They do it by the numbers! Whoever can get the sum total of the numbers on the four ingredient cards in the cauldron to equal the number written on the potion card claims that potion. The winner is the witch who is the first to claim the amount of potions decided upon at the start of the game.

The game has several different types of cards; which cards you decide to use determine how difficult the game becomes. First there are the numbered Ingredient cards. They range in value from plus 5 to minus 5. The Potion cards range in value from plus 19 to minus 19. If you want more of a challenge, you can add the Wild Ingredients. Marked with a W, these cards can be any number from plus 5 to minus 5 when a player lays it down. And it stays that value until it is covered up by another card. (If the Wild card appears in the starting set of 4 cards, it automatically has a value of zero.) If this too simple, you can also use the plus and minus cards, which can be placed between cards. Because (+1) + (-3) is not the same as (+1) – (-3).

The next layer of Complexity is the Action Cards. There are two kinds of “witch spells” you can play. Sneaky Witch allows you to play two cards instead of one on your turn. Witch Hex lets you steal a random card from another player and then play your one card into the cauldron. And because players draw cards at the end of a turn, whoever was Hexed has one less card to work with on their turn.

The last set of cards is the Character cards. There are 19 different characters you can choose, each one with two abilities. At the beginning of the game, you must pick one (and only one) of the two abilities to use for the entire game. Abilities can be limitations on the cards you can use (for example, Veronica the Vampire Witch must discard all Vampire Fang cards from their hand), changes to the potion value (for example, Wallace the Wizard can earn a potion if the number value is exact, regardless of if it is plus or minus), changes to the Ingredient values (for example Betsy the Bat can double the value of whatever card they add to the cauldron) or other random abilities (for example, Wanda the White Witch is immune to being Hexed).

This is a fun game to play, although you probably want to avoid introducing it as a “math game”. But just like those sneaky cookbooks, there are things that could be improved. First of all, for a game that claims to be for “little witches in training”, the math is more complicated than it appears. When you have four cards and you are putting down a new card, your first instinct is to add the value of your card to the current total. But that isn’t actually what happens. Because you are covering up one card, you need to subtract the value of the card being replaced and THEN add your new card. If you aren’t paying attention, you can put down the wrong card, or worse, declare the wrong value for a Wild Card. Speaking of Wild Cards, even though the rules specifically say that a wild card can be any number from +5 to -5, the card says +W, which can be confusing. I would rather have the card just say W. The biggest issue we found while playing was with the Character cards. These cards need some clarification. For example, my friend’s character ability was “subtract 1 from the cauldron value.” Even though we did find out that the minus one would be only for her, we didn’t know for sure if it was at all times, or only when she needed it. With a couple of changes to the rule book, this could be the perfect “math game for people who hate math”.

You can find Variable Outcomes online at www.variableoutcomes.ca or on Facebook at facebook.com/variableoutcomes.