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What do you get for your money?
How do you play the game?
The goal of this game is to produce and deliver potions throughout the magical world. You do that by secretly choosing four out of ten possible role cards per round. Every card has a cowardly action and a brave action. Brave actions are better, but can be taken from you. Cowardly action are less powerful, but you know for sure that you can execute them right away. Delivering potions gives you points and the player with the most points after seven rounds wins the game.
OK, now let us take a closer look, starting with the board. As you can see, the board consists of several regions. Namely, brown hills, grey mountains, yellow prairies, green forests and blue lakes. These lakes are a bit special and I come back to them later on. In two regions you can spot a castle and these two regions are the starting regions of your two player pawns. You can also see that, between regions and within several regions, there are towers located. These are places where you can deliver the potions. The roof colour indicates which potion it needs (green, purple or orange) and the shape determines if it’s a one-time deal (circular) or if you can deliver there all the time (square). To the right of the tower you’ll find the reward if a potion is delivered there.
You might also notice that in some area’s, and definitively above the lakes, there are clouds with lighting icons on them. Clouds are not beneficial to the Broom Service, they make flying in these areas difficult and you need to magically get rid of them to gain access to certain hill or mountain regions. You are rewarded for that, because at the end of the game you get points for every lighting icon you have.
Now, let’s move on to the most important components of this game, the role cards.
Every player gets the same role cards at the start of the game. At the beginning of every round you choose four of the ten roles you have. Every role has a brave action and a cowardly action. The starting player then plays a role card and says out loud which action she chooses. For instance, ‘I’m the brave Valley Druid’. Now the next player must follow, if he has also chosen a Valley Druid as one of his four roles. If he hasn’t, he passes. If he has, he plays the role card and then he has a choice. He can either say ‘No, I’m the brave Valley Druid’ or he accepts the fact that the previous player is the brave one and says ‘I’m the cowardly Valley Druid’. If he chooses the latter, he can execute the cowardly action immediately. If he chooses to become the brave druid, the previous brave Valley Druid player is no longer brave and can’t execute any Valley Druid action this round. This goes on until every Valley Druid is played and the last brave druid can now do the brave action and after that he or she plays a new role card, ‘I’m the cowardly Forest Witch’, and so on.
Now you probably want to know which role does what?
There are three Gatherers that gather green, orange or purple potions plus you gain either extra magic wands or an extra other potion if you choose them.
The four Witches, one for every region type, give you the option to move your pawn to an adjacent region of that type and deliver a potion there.
The two Druids, one for the Hills and Mountains and another for the Prairies and the Forests, give you the option to deliver a potion in a region where you already have a pawn for some extra points.
And then there’s The Weather Fairy. This happy little lady takes care of those pesky clouds that I talked about earlier. On every cloud you see a number in a star and one or more lighting bolts. When you play the Weather Fairy you can hand in the a number of wands that matches the number in the star on the cloud that is located in a neighbouring region of one of your pawns and then you can place the cloud in front of you. At the end of the game these clouds are worth points.
The round ends when every player has played their four role cards and then an event card is executed. This card is revealed at the beginning of every round and I said they are executed at the end of a round, but in fact, one takes effect before players select roles and three take effect during a round. The one that takes effect before the round begins gives you the option to choose fewer cards that round for some points or more role cards for some minus points. The ones that takes effect during a round give you an extra option, namely points or resources instead of choosing the cowardly action. And there’s one who forces the starting player to choose the brave roll. The ones who take effect at the end of the round give you points if you meet a certain condition, like having your two player pawns in the same region type.
There’s one other thing I would like to mention and that is the fact that when you play with less than five players, there’s always a couple of ‘cursed ‘ role cards displayed every round. When you chose such a card, you get minus three points.
That’s it. The player with the most points after seven round wins the game.
There are several advanced modules and some of them you must use if you play on the advanced side of the board. I won’t go into them in detail, but basically these extra clouds or landscape tiles give you extra actions and more ways to score points.
When you know a game is nominated for a prestigious award like the Kennerspiel des Jahres you look at it with different eyes. At least I do. Whether I want to do it or not. You expect something else, you expect a good game. Why else would it be nominated?
I always have to be cautious not to expect too much, it’s only a game you’re looking at, not the next wonder of the world.
However, still, you are allowed to have an opinion, right? It is interesting to look into the minds of a jury and ask yourself? Is Broom Service a worthy nominee?
Well, let me start with telling you that I think it is. There no need to beat around the bush. It’s a really clever game that centres around these ten role cards. Some cards give you resources, other roles help you deliver these resources by flying on your broom to regions nearby or selling your goods to local customers. And then there’s this fairy character who makes the skies easy to fly through by magically making thunder clouds disappear.
These roles are already interesting by themselves, but then you have the choice to be a brave characters or a cowardly one. Do you risk to be left with nothing, but with a greater reward if you will succeed, or do you play it safe? And that’s a fun decision to make. You choose four cards, four roles and you have this idea in your head.
If everything goes as planned, I can first gather two purple potion and one green potion with my Fruit Gatherer.
Then I go to the nearby prairie with my brave Prairie Witch to deliver a green potion there.
After that I can remove a cloud from the neighbouring hills with the Weather Fairy.
And, lastly, travel into the, just cleared, hill region with my Hill Witch and deliver a purple potion to the tower for five points.
What a fantastic plan, brilliant. But what if you lose the initiative after your first turn? What if your lovely neighbour also picked the brave Fruit Gatherer and you are left with nothing. No purple and no green potion. So, your Prairie Witch is pretty useless now. Well, luckily you already had a purple potion in you personal supply, so that part might still work. Except your neighbour, now starting player, plays the brave Hill Witch. Now, while you can steal that action from your neighbour by playing the brave Hill Witch too, but because you weren’t able to play the Weather Fairy first and remove the cloud from the hills, you can’t enter these hills, because it’s still bloody rainy there.
What to do now? You can steal the Hill Witch action, but is it really necessary now you can’t execute you next two cards the way you wanted?
That’s the fascinating thing about his game. First you make a plan with four out of ten role cards. Then you must carefully choose at what moment you want to have initiative and at what point you want to lose it. The brave action is a better action, but choosing it when four other players might also play that card is tricky. When you’re the last in line, you know you can take the brave action risk free, but do you want that? It also means that you have to lead next turn, making it more tricky to play a brave action. See? Interesting.
Instinctively you always want do the better action, but sometimes you can only do that by doing a lesser action first. This only matters if you and other player choose the same roles. So, another important aspect of the game is to try to guess what other players are going to do.
Mind reading, bluffing and cleverly playing brave and cowardly roles at the right time to gather resources and deliver them in the most profitable regions, that’s what is game is about.
Flavour and Theme
Magic, a theme familiar to many board gamers, probably. However familiar, I do think that it’s been executed in a cute way in this game. It does make kind of sense. You having your little potion delivering company, selling potions on local markets, flying to other places and delivering them there with bad weather as your enemy. It’s not that it’s an incredible thematic game, but you can find it in the little things.
Broom Service is a very colourful game for starters. The illustrations on the cards look nice and cute and the wooden potion tokens give this game a cheerful appearance.
It is a busy board, though.
So, you might overlook the colour or shape of the towers on the board. I don’t have a problem with it myself, but others have had that problem. It’s a minor quibble. Overall the game looks good.
Quality of the components
The game is very decent or let’s say good is terms of component quality. It has nice cardboard bits, lovely wooden potion tokens and a solid card quality.
You probably already guessed it, but, yes, I find this game very fun. The role cards are just very interesting to deal with. Trying to guess what other players are planning to do is really key here and with that in mind you have to play the right cards at the right time.
The tension that the choice between brave or cowardly brings is great. You really want that brave action, but what if your opponents chose that too? You lose a turn. Better choose safely then, it’s better to be a coward. And then you only hear ‘Pass’, ‘Pass’, ‘Pass’ and you hit yourself in the head.
It’s not really bluffing what you do in this game. It’s the fear that you can’t do anything at all, the fear you lose an action if someone’s chooses the brave action after you that matters. That fear is what you can take advantage of. That is one of the things that makes this game fun.
The game itself is not difficult to teach in my opinion and the playing time is spot on. An hour, maybe one and a half, and your done. Within this time you’ll have to make lots of choices and you’ll have a lot of fun.
I wouldn’t mind if Broom Service wins the Kennerspiel des Jahres, because it’s a wonderful game.