Game Length: 45-90 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3 or 4 players who want to out-guess each other in a tactical role-selection game!
Broom Service is a strategy game with an element of bluffing and prediction, and the winner of the 2015 Kennerspiel des Jahres, or ‘Enthusiast’s Game of the Year’. It is a very accessible game, easy to understand after a short description and play example, and comes with a number of modular expansions that may be added in to keep gameplay fresh for experienced players.
In Broom Service, players are witches tasked with delivering potions to wizards in need. Said wizards are unwilling to leave their ivory towers, so you will need travel across the land, dispelling unfavourable weather conditions to get to the far-flung regions that provide the most points, hopefully before your fellow potion couriers beat you to the punch.
The real meat of Broom Service is in the action selection system. Each player has a set of 10 actions – four of these are dedicated to moving, three for gaining resources, two for selling potions and one for dispelling clouds. At the start of each game round, they will choose four of these actions. Then, the First Player will play one of her four cards and decide whether to be Brave or Cowardly (more on this in a moment!).
Each other player must, in turn, either play that same card if they have it, or pass if they don’t, also choosing whether to be Brave or Cowardly. If a player is Cowardly, they get to take the action immediately. If a player is Brave, they get a bonus in addition to taking their action, but only one player may be Brave – if another player chooses to be Brave after you have, you don’t get to take an action at all! Furthermore, the player who was Brave that round is the First Player for the next round, allowing them to determine the next action – but the First Player is at much greater risk if they choose to be Brave!
Players will need to carefully read the board and their opponents if they want to be able to take the most Brave actions, and taking as many Brave actions as possible will be crucial to victory. Declaring your action and waiting to see whether others have also chosen your card will have you at the edge of your seat, and the most difficult part of the game – choosing which cards to take into the next round – is done simultaneously, keeping the game moving along at a brisk pace.
Some may find the Brave/Cowardly mechanism frustrating to work with, though – there is much to be gained and lost by choosing whether to be Brave or Cowardly, and others may ruin your plans by playing certain actions before you need them. While careful planning will help, sometimes you will have rounds where, through no fault of your own, you hardly get to take any actions at all.
Broom Service plays 2-5 players, and works best with three or four – with five, it can be frustrating to try to plan your actions with so many other players to take into account, and with two there isn’t quite enough competition for potion delivery. However, the game is still perfectly playable with the full range of players, and after everyone grasps the basic rules you can try the alternate side of the board, which throws in a whole slew of new gameplay mechanisms to keep even the most seasoned witch on their toes.
Broom Service plays at a good pace with very little downtime and a mix of strategic and tactical play; executing a long-term plan is just as important as making the most of your turn-by-turn options. It comes highly recommended as a more complex gateway game that is still enjoyable for seasoned boardgamers, with enough variety to keep players interested for multiple plays.