Game Overview: In Cauldron, you take control of one of the seven characters (Alchemist, Druid, Shaman, Occulist, Trickster, Witch, and Wizard) that have their own unique special abilities. You gather ingredients from the available fields each round that go towards brewing potions. When done successfully, you earn magic, that goes towards winning the game. You can also obtain spells that can help you along or prevent your opponents from taking actions on their turns. Outlast your opponents to become the Grand Infusionist.
There are a lot of components to this
game! So many in fact, it is a little difficult
to get everything back into the box.
However, that isn't necessarily a bad
thing. The card board tokens which
represent each field ingredient, are high
quality and the art on them is solid. You can
say the same thing for the thick cardboard
hexagon field pieces. The multiple card
decks are fine, although art on the different
decks is limited. The oversized character
cards are outstanding with the game actions on
the back for quick reference and very detailed
on the front with a picture of the character and
the special abilities for them. Probably
my favorite piece of the game is the board that
tracks the scoring. It is a double sided,
very thick, and easy to read for all players.
There is not an easy way to keep all of the
components separated in the box. We had to
use our own baggies to keep everything
separated. This is important to speed up
the game setup with the number of components.
Clarity of Rules: The 15 page full color glossy manual is very well done in explaining all of the rules. It also includes alternative rules that players may wish to explore along with some frequently asked questions.
Game Play: Game setup occurs with each player choosing their character and then being given two basic potions cards. All potions are shown face up. In addition, players are given two basic spell cards which are kept hidden from other players. The game starts with fields which produce spider webs, frog legs, and toadstools. The number of hexagon fields that start the game are based on the number of players plus one for each of these field types. Each field gets a matching token for that type. At this point, you are ready to begin playing the game. Each round of the game is played in two seasons. The first is the harvest season and the second is the market season.
Before beginning the harvest season, you must turn over an omen card. The omen card provides a twist to the game for that harvest season. Some examples that you may see, allow the production of two ingredients for certain fields, certain ingredients do not produce, you may be required to pass a position of your choice to another players, you may earn magic points, or you may not be able to use your character abilities. During the harvest season, you can do one of three actions. The first is harvesting, where you can take one ingredient from a field. Next, you can choose to attempt to steal an ingredient from another player. The third choice is brewing a potion, if you have all of the required ingredients. When a potion is brewed, you move your score up on the score board. Some potions are considered quick potions where you can brew it as soon as you have the ingredients. The others, you must wait until your next turn in the harvest season to brew the spell. When it is your turn, you can also cast a spell. Some spells do have an instant action, meaning that you can play it when it is not your turn. Once the final ingredient has been taken from the fields, you move onto the market season.
During the market season you are given one turn where you can spend some of your hard earned magic (victory) points, to take the following actions: Buy a new field, buy a cellar, buy a basic or advanced spell, or buy an basic or advanced potion. When you buy a new field, you can select any field that you want. Most likely, you are going to select one of the field types that are not included in the initial game setup. The additional types are blood crystals, mandrake roots, snake skins, or dragon eggs. When you purchase one, you get that ingredient and you get to choose where the field goes. If you choose to purchase a cellar, you are only allowed two of them. Cellars are cards that allow you to place an ingredient into them. This mostly prevents people from stealing them and allows you to carry them over from one harvest season to another. Otherwise they spoil and must be returned. The differences between the basic and advanced spells and potions are their impact to the game. Those advanced items will allow you to do more powerful spells in the game or brew much more powerful potions which will be worth many more magic points. You are not able to purchase the advanced items until a single player surpasses 15 points on the scoreboard.
The character cards play an important part in the game as they each have their own and unique capabilities that you can use. Some examples of these powerful moves include harvesting two ingredients at once instead of one, take the ingredient just harvested by someone else and give the player your choice of an available ingredient, being able to hold extra spell cards, spend magic to draw a different omen card, steal an ingredient without a dice roll, or brew a potion that belongs to someone else.
Play continues until the first person scores 35 magic points on the score board, Paying attention to the scoreboard is important as different things come into play based on the score. For example, once you get past 25 magic points you are no longer able to brew potions that have just two ingredients.
Replay Ability: No two games will be the same. First, the omen cards that are played each harvest season changes things up. Secondly, the spell and potion cards that come into play for each person will vary from game to game.
Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 11+, which is fine. Our 11 year old easily understands the game. Someone slightly younger could play the game. Understand that this can be a very brutal game in going after people, so make sure any younger children can handle this.
What We Liked/Didn't Like: We really like the theme of the game. Every aspect puts you into the world that the game is trying to create We enjoy how each character is unique. We don't think any one overpowers another. They are all equally powerful. We enjoy how the game is designed to get more difficult as players close in on the win. From others going after you to the game removing those easier potions from you. There are just a few aspects of the game that we didn't like. The ability to steal items from other users is almost too easy as the dice rolls required are 4 through 6. At times, players go back and forth attempting to steal and then steal the same item back and forth. Perhaps if there was some penalty for failed steals, besides moving on from your turn, or limiting the times things can be stolen. In addition, as the game moves towards conclusion it seems to transition from trying to win to preventing the leading player from winning.
Add-ons/Other Releases: n/a