As the night air rustles the leaves in the trees, it carries with it a soft cackle from the forest. The town of Salem is eerily quiet, not a soul would venture out on a night like this. As the town clock strikes midnight, all hallows eve has begun. Nobody in the town knows what goes on in the forest on all hallows eve; they just know that the forest is most dark on that night.
To set up Cauldron Master, give each player 1 of each of the different witch cards: Quick, Voodoo, Hooded, Herbal and Goddess. After this, the player who most recently watched a horror film receives a meeple, which functions as a tie breaker throughout the game.
There are 3 types of Cauldron card —28 Cauldrons, 4 Basic Cauldrons & 8 Wild Cauldrons. Deal one Basic Cauldron card face up to each player. Separate out all Wild Cauldron cards and place them in a face-up pile in the centre of the table. All remaining Basic Cauldron cards are shuffled together with the Cauldron cards to form a single deck. Next, deal 3 cards from this deck to each player. Each player selects 2 of the 3 cards dealt and places them face-up next to their existing Basic Cauldron card. Return the remaining card from each player to the deck, shuffle it and place it face-down next to the Wild Cauldron cards. Place 5 cards from the deck in a line so all players can see them. This is the “Cauldron Supply pile.”
Shuffle ingredient cards together and place in the middle of the table. This is the ingredient deck. Reveal the following amount of cards based on the number of Players:
- 2 players – 8 ingredient cards
- 3 players – 10 ingredient cards
- 4 players – 12 ingredient cards
Place these next to the deck at the centre of the table— this is the ingredient supply pile.
Each player secretly chooses a witch card to play with that round and places it face down in front of them. Players then simultaneously reveal their chosen witches by turning their cards face up. Turn order is determined by players with the lowest number on their played witch cards (in the top left corner) going first, and players with the highest numbers going last. In the event of a tie, the player with the tie-break meeple goes first moving clockwise.
In turn order each player chooses and takes ingredient cards stipulated on the witch card they played that round from the ingredient supply and places them face up on any number of cauldrons with an available slot in front of them.
After picking up ingredient cards: if the player has placed the correct number of ingredient cards stipulated on one or more of their cauldron cards, they are able to combine them to “create a potion” to score spell points. Note: you may not “overfill” a cauldron by adding more cards than stipulated on the cauldron.
However, even though you may add x number of cards, gaining high scores is dependent on collecting sets of specific types of cards rather than just the colour. Place completed cauldron cards and their associated ingredient cards aside and score the cauldron on a piece of paper. Player may now pick up any one new cauldron card per cauldron card completed from the available cauldron supply pile OR wild cauldron card deck. Replenish the cauldron supply pile back up to 5 each time a card is taken in this way. Then the next player in order takes their turn.
Once all players have completed their turns, the ingredients supply pile must be replenished to its starting number of cards and the tie-breaker meeple must be given to the player left of the current holder. Players also set aside (face up) the witch card they used this round, giving them one less to choose from in the next round. When players set aside their final witch card in this manner, they pick up all 5 cards again.
Each ingredient card indicates how many spell points players get for adding that specific type of card (Frog’s Blood, Raven’s head, Spider Venom etc.) to an individual cauldron card. The scoring system also indicates how many of that type of card is needed to score that many points.
The final round is when the ingredients deck has been dealt and depleted. However, in the event that there is 1 card left in the ingredient deck, place this card in the supply pile and this would be the final round. Incomplete cauldrons do not score points. The player with the most spell points wins! Players may also play “first to win two games” to be crowned the Cauldron Master.
Cauldron Master is a great little filler game that takes a lot more strategy than you may realise. I was quite surprised by Cauldron Master as I expected a nice simple game with not much to it, but I was very wrong. What originally drew me to this game was both the art and the theme. I liked the idea and thought it kind of felt like a MasterChef or Great British Bake off but for witches. The idea of this made me chuckle and I thought the game play would be minimal. But I was very wrong, as the game play is actually super fun and isn’t little at all. There is a lot of strategy, planning and forethought in this game. You are not just playing the cards on the board, you have to outwit and out-think the other players.
In Cauldron Master, you really have to be fully aware of all the cards that are out on the board, ie. other players’ Cauldrons and their requirements, and then predict what they will do next based on what has been previously played. I had a quick 2 player game with my housemate, as I thought this would be a light simple game and as she is a non-gamer I thought this would be easy. But after playing a few hands, I realised this wasn’t the light game I thought it would be, so I then organised a time to play this with another group of gaming friends to give it a harder workout.
I quickly explained the game and we started with a few games. 3 of the 4 people really enjoyed it and were impressed by the level of strategy of this game. One of my favourite parts of this game is how the witches work. It’s a consistent toss up of do I want to go first and get a small payoff but know I’m going to get exactly what I want or go last and hope for a large payoff. My other favourite bit which may sometimes be overlooked is how you are positioned at the table. If you only need one card and you therefore use the Quick Witch card, but you are the 3rd person away from the meeple, it could mean someone else has the same idea and can snipe your card before you can get it. Not to mention if you just need one card and have already used the Quick Witch, you have to hope you can still get the card with the remaining Witches in Hand. It is this strategy and forethought that truly makes this game fun.
The learning curve is probably about easy to medium, as I believe the rules take a little work. It doesn’t affect the gameplay , but I found myself having to read sections of the rules several times as they weren’t always clear, and can get a little long winded in some areas which over complicate and confuse things. Once you have learnt the rules though, the game is quite easy to teach and for others to learn.
Please Note: the rules have slightly changed to those above, as the rules were updated a day before this article was released. These updates also help to fix some of the issues I had with the rules, and are easier to follow. You can download the new rules on the Board Game Geek page.
The art on this game is awesome. As stated earlier, it along with the theme was what originally drew me to this game and it really is beautiful. I love the witch cards; each tells a little story and is a perfect representation of the name. My favourite one though has to be Quick Witch; it just has that iconic bewitched style to it. The moon in the background; with the witch riding her broom across it; the striped stockings and the pointed hat, it is just so classic it’s hard to go past.
Just an FYI – As you can see in the photos, some of the artwork is a bit dark. I have spoken to Caesar at Alley Cat Games and though the artwork you see is final, the review copy had some issues when they were printed and some of the colours bled which have made the artwork look darker than the final copies which will be printed by a different company.
Overall this game was a great little surprise. I expected a great theme and artwork but only a little light gameplay, but what I got was a great little strategy game that really impressed me. So for me this is a great little game that has been well thought out and is one I plan on backing.
You can check out there Kickstarter here, which is due to go live on the 2nd of March (our time).