Cauldron - Board Game Box Shot

Cauldron

| Published: 2015
22 13 9

Cauldron is a competitive board game set in a fantasy world. It combines the excitement and ease of traditional board games with strategic depth and replayability of modern ones. Taking on roles of powerful mystical characters like the Druid, the Shaman or the Wizard, players will brew potions to grow their magical power, while casting spells to stop others from getting ahead. Cauldron is a resource management game that plays with 2-5 players aged 11+ in just over an hour.

Cauldron gameplay
Work in progress - images © Altema Games

Features

  • Jump right in and keep coming back – New players will enjoy it right away and veterans will find depth and a variety of strategies.
  • Unique victory point mechanic – Magik serves as both victory points and currency – make careful choices on how to invest it!
  • Every game is different – Seven characters with unique playing styles and variable in-game effects makes for strong replayability.
  • Player interaction is key – Compete for a limited amount of shared resources, steal from others and cast spells to foil your opponents!
  • Have a good time – The game does not take itself too seriously and aims to let you have fun – it is a great fit for family game nights.

User Reviews (3)

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7
Baseball Fan
Book Lover
Plaid Hat Games fan
Comic Book Fan
9
54 of 61 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“Double, Double, Toil and Trouble”

The first time I played Cauldron it was in its early conceptual stages; when it was still pouring forth from Artem Safarov’s fertile mind. The moment he explained the concept to me I knew I would adore this board game.

I will play or at least try most board games but my preference is for games heavy on theme, immersive, and strike a balance between luck (because life is random) and strategy. I steer clear from games where the winner is obvious well-before the conclusion of the game. There are a few games out there like this and they leave me deflated and frustrated. I’ve burned through half of my life expectancy and I don’t have time to muck about with games that do not entertain me.

Cauldron is immersive, balanced, thematic, demands a goodly amount of strategy tempered with luck, is replete with amazing art, and all can be in it to win it until the end. And it has a nice balance of focusing on brewing your potions for Magik points (you win by moving your player token to 35 on the Magik track) while messing with other players’ plans. In short, there’s an extensive amount of player interaction.

Treating Magik points like currency is a great game mechanic. Cauldron allows, nay demands, you spend your accumulated Magik to advance your own goals or benefit the group (and that includes you!) by purchasing ingredient-producing tiles (which are gorgeously designed).

You’ll flail and fall behind unless you purchase spells, potions or additional tiles. But you must spend prudently and strategically. Further, each character has unique abilities, which makes character choice matter to gameplay.

The two seasons, harvest and market, allow for plenty of variety and keep you plotting and strategizing. If someone steals that dragon’s egg you had your eye on, you can either re-plan or attempt to steal back that ingredient.

That takes me to some of the more adversarial elements to the game. Some gamers thrive on wickedly foiling opponents’ plans. Cauldron certainly allows for some pretty fierce play, but if you and your friends are more laid-back gamers, nothing compels you to be evil. In other words, there’s so much variety and depth to this game that it can support a number of styles of play.

While most of my gaming is spent with adults, I also play board games with my children. I can see this as a touch advanced for my 5-year-old, but my 8 –year-old could play Cauldron with ease and would derive as much joy from this game as I do. Further, as a Harry Potter fan, I can see her gleefully and impishly brewing up potions and handily beating her dad.

Cauldron will be a treasured and well-played game in my collection

 
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I Own a Game!
9
54 of 62 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Cauldron - great mix of strategy and silliness ”

I’ve played a prototype of this game a few times and thought I’d let others know what it’s like.

About me: I generally like games that don’t involve too much overarching strategy and give the players a fairly equal chance of winning regardless of experience level, and I play for fun more than to win. I also enjoy whimsy and thematic depth. If that sounds like you, then you will definitely enjoy this game.

Overview: The game is based on collecting ingredients and using them to brew potions; each potion brewed will get you Magic points, which you use to advance toward the goal of 35 points. You also use these points to purchase things like more potion recipes (giving you more options to get points), spells (which give you special abilities), or fields (which grow ingredients.) Each player plays as a character, having 2 unique abilities.

Gameplay: game starts with a number of fields bearing various ingredients, and each player as a unique character; each player draws 2 random potions and a basic spell. Players take turns harvesting an ingredient from the fields, stealing an ingredient from another player, making a potion, and/or casting a spell. When the last ingredient is harvested, the season is over – unused ingredients are discarded from the players’ hands, the fields are repopulated with new ingredients, and players get a chance to spend their victory points on new recipes, spells, new fields, or cellars (which can hold 1 ingredient between seasons.) Every season, an Omen card is played, which has an effect on gameplay lasting the entire season (for example, forcing certain fields to produce double the ingredients, or making them infertile.)

The fields are hex tiles of cool and weird ingredients, such as frog legs, spider webs, crystals, snakes. Normally fields grow one ingredient per season, but that can change with spells and Omen cards. If the field of your desired ingredient has already been harvested, you can try to steal one from your opponent by rolling a die for 4-6. New fields do not randomly generate, but must be added by players at the beginning of each new season.

The potions require a few ingredients; naturally the more points a potion gives you, the more ingredients it requires. Brewing a potion, like harvesting an ingredient, is an action, meaning that if you take an ingredient on your turn and you are ready to make a potion, you must wait until your next turn (the exception being quick potions, which can be brewed without using up a turn.)

Spells can be played at any time in the game, and give abilities like harvesting an extra ingredient, stealing ingredients from others, forcing others to skip a turn, or cancelling a spell cast by another player. Spells add another level of interaction between players, and can greatly alter the momentum of a game, especially the advanced spells; they make this game noticeably different from other resource-gathering board games I’ve played.

There are 7 characters, each with 2 special abilities that can be used once per season, like harvesting an empty field, brewing two potions at once, getting a free spell every season, etc. These initially don’t seem too important, but can be of great use if you build your strategy with them in mind.

The board used to keep track of Magic points has a number of “checkpoints” where players either get bonus points, or a spell, or the ability to get advanced spells/recipes. It is designed to keep things from stagnating and to prevent domination by a single lucky (or skillful?) player, and it seems to work well in both respects. The use of points for winning and also for buying recipes/spells is clever, and forces the player to prioritize being closer to winning vs having more options to advance.

All the art is very well done and the game pieces are enjoyable to look at, especially the character cards. The spells and recipes all have unique D&D-ish names, and the alchemy/potions theme is very strong throughout the game.

Playing the game: the game has a very smooth and easy flow initially, which becomes more jagged and unpredictable as some players score big points, and becomes dramatic toward the end when almost every player is a potential winner, and some players are certain they’ve just won, only to be knocked back with an advanced spell. It generally doesn’t take long for players to make a decision each round, so there are no long pauses in action.

At the same time, the spells and the ability to steal ingredients from each other makes the game very interactive and dynamic, and you always have to be on guard as to what other players are scheming. This makes the game feel very different from something like Settlers of Catan, where you mostly mind your own business and try to get what you need, with an occasional trade. Everyone’s potion recipes are always facing up, and you can see who is vying for which ingredients. If a player can’t get the ingredients needed for a potion, he/she is very likely to try to steal it from another player, who will also try to steal it from someone else or play a spell, the end result being a lot of changes to the board in a few turns. This might sound overly complicated but in fact, the only way this game could be more fun for me is adding more chances to use spells against other players (but then again, I’m the type who takes pleasure in ruining others’ carefully-planned strategies. Maybe this is why my friends rarely invite me over, hmm…)

In between seasons, before the fields are repopulated with ingredients, players get a chance to do one of the following: add a new field, get a new recipe, a new spell, or a cellar (each of these cost a certain number of points, setting you back on the scoreboard.) Initially I felt that the limitation to just one purchase will make the game feel too slow, but it worked out fairly well. Spells and recipes get more expensive the more you already have, and there are usually enough new fields being added to provide ingredients for the increasing number and variety of recipes.

Weak points: This still feels like a new game to me, and as such I haven’t hit on any serious deficiencies. I haven’t played it as a 2-person game, but it feels like it might lose some of that magic (pun only slightly intended) of unpredictability and player interaction. I also feel like the game was over too quickly – I would have liked to play longer, to have a larger board and to have more chances to use the advanced recipes and spells – but I imagine that can be remedied by playing to a higher score. I’ll have to try that variant next time.

Overall: This game was wicked fun, and I’m looking forward to playing it again, as different characters and using different strategies. I feel like most people will get the hang of it fairly quickly, even without previous exposure to similar types of games. I didn’t end up running into any situations where the game mechanic got too complicated to figure out, though it certainly helped to have the game’s creator clarifying the rules. It might be a bit busy for someone’s first board game ever, but I think this game will appeal to anyone from casual to experienced gamers, with lots of replay value without being inaccessible or esoteric.

 
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1
Gamer - Level 1
10
54 of 62 gamers found this helpful
“when there's competitive alchemy... everyone wins!”

I don’t think there is one BEST game, but it’s about context — where you are, who you are with and what else is going on. For example, Cards Against Humanity is never a game I’d like to whip out at a family camping trip, and Scrabble tends to be a buzz kill at larger/rowdier parties… unless someone takes it upon themselves to only use dirty words or somehow else hijack the game in a ridiculous direction. Considering this, I think Cauldron is best for smaller (but not necessarily tiny!) gatherings of friends/family, where people would like to engage in an interesting strategy game without going into a world of self-absorbed plotting from which silence will descend for the rest of the evening. It does require you to think and plan, but not in isolation — you do continuously interact with other players as you compete for resources and do spells to gather points… and there are chances for moves that can throw another player off-course (think Munchin-like trickery!).

I first got the chance to play Cauldron while it was still in its development phase — the rules were all in place, but we were still using some makeshift pieces… and I immediately liked the game. To play, you collect resources from the board (e.g. frog legs, spider webs) and then brew potions and cast spells to gather points. As you move along in the game, there are chances for more complex spells and for purchasing specialty items (and gloating). The rules are well-balanced. They aren’t so complex that they become burdensome and confusing, and with just enough randomness so that the game remains a bit unpredictable without you feeling your moves to be futile.

The characters in Cauldron each have a unique set of special powers/attributes that would require a different gaming approach and strategy. Because of this, each game of Cauldron has the potential to be slightly different — you can rotate characters and try their different specialities out. Or you can just pick one you think to be your alter ego and try to outcompete your fellow players with your expertise. Either way, you’ll never get bored.

The look and art of Cauldron is fantastic — it’s imaginative, intriguing and friendly. It’s also fairly unique in its design, as even more archetypical characters (e.g. Druid) do not look typical or boring, and with unlikely characters included as well (e.g. Alchemist). It’s a good mix of familiarity without being un-relatable.

Overall, I found Cauldron to be a very well-balanced game — chance and planning; strategy and social interaction; familiarity and uniqueness. Again, a great game for a smaller gathering (3-5 people), and one round won’t take up your whole evening (unless of course you want it to!). Would recommend for players of all ages and all levels of gaming expertise! I am thoroughly impressed with this game and all of its creators and collaborators…!

P.S. Would also like to mention it was created in Canada!… Wooooo Canada!

 

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