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Subject: The Limelight Reviews: Techno, Techno, Techno Witches rss

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Type of Game: Racing, Spatial Awareness, Light
Number of Players 2 - 4 (Best with 4)
Length of Game: 30 - 60 mins.
Similar Games: Wings of War, RoboRally

With the popularity of Harry Potter you can colour me somewhat surprised that Techno Witches wasn't re-themed and released to take advantage of the movie and book series. This 2005 game can feel like a small scale game of Quidditch and it's certainly fun and simple enough to work for a wide range of age groups.


And we're off!

The Overview:
Techno Witches from Heinrich Glumpler is a game about witches, wizards and warlocks flying around on broomsticks, taking part in various games or races. The game has very simple rules and has a set of scenarios that gradually introduce new concepts to the game. The exact details of each scenario change, but the core mechanics remain the same each time.

The Winning Conditions:
Winning Conditions vary depending on the scenario, they can be first to reach a point, first to reach a point, get home and reverse park, first person to hold a cat for



The Component Quality:
Kosmos make great looking games, sure it's easier to point to Queen Games or Days of Wonder as the example of how to make a game look amazing on the shelf, in the box and on the table, but Kosmos are not far behind. Techno Witches is a great example of this. The game has attractive, hard wearing cardboard components with player pieces that are slightly three dimensional in their appearance, they don't need to be, but it's a nice extra touch that brings the game to life when it's on the table.

You get the following in the game:

A Player Piece for each player:



These come in four flavours, red, green, yellow and purple. Two are female, two are male and I'm very fond of the yellow one.

The 'Technophobic' Old school wizard (Who can be used as a 5th player in a pinch). This piece is only used in the final scenario in the book and he's a tricksy one I can tell you.

Castles (Obstacles):



Things to avoid when playing (along with other players), these can also provide markers to reach and mark the boundary of the play area.

Flight Tails (5, 1 for each broom)


Flight Tails in action!

These are kept behind each player's broom except when flight is occurring, they represent the trail of propulsion magic behind you.

Curves (to determine flight paths)



The curves are laid out in order when flight is undertaken, they have very deceptive shapes and are wickedly hard to judge.

Magic Books (for storing up curves):



This is where the curves are kept by a player before flight happens.

And, a Cat

(We were unable to take a picture of this cat, which is surprising, because cats love cameras.)

Used in a couple of scenarios as an objective, because we know how everyone's true objective is cat related. Yes sir.

As you can see, the components are nice, but they are just begging for a plastic remake with 3D Castles and other interesting obstacles. The box (always an important element of any game for myself as most of my games spend more time packed away than being played) is a solid affair with a custom insert that holds everything well, not perfectly, but close. Thumbs up!

The Rules:
(If you don't require a summary of the rules, skip to the next section)

The core concept of Techno Witches is simple, each turn you will either pick up a curve and add it onto the next free space of your magic book (left to right) or you will fly.

Taking Curves:
Taking a curve couldn't be simpler, you look at the board, decide what curve will help you best (judged on the game situation and the curves you already have) and then once picked you place it onto the first free space on your magic book and decide which way it points. Once you're done, there's no take-back-sies!

 

A Magic Book after 4 turns of taking curves

In addition these curves are taken from a shared pool and there is only two of each curve available, so you'll often be taking the curve that is nearest to what you want.

Fly:
Flying is the fun part of the game, you've spent the past turns collecting curves and now it's time to see if you've judged things correctly. You remove your playing piece from the board, leaving the tail in place as a marker and then you place, one at a time, each curve you've picked up in the order you selected them (first in, first out). If you hit something while flying the curve you just placed and everything that you were going to place after it is lost. In short, you fly as far as you can and then almost crash, hitting the brakes to avoid becoming a pointed hat buried into the landscape.


A close call indeed!

There are additional rules beyond this basic concept and the game teaches you them one at a time. These include reversing (a great surprise manoeuvre if you're good at judging it), ramming other players, snatching cats and the way the Technophobe moves. These are all simple increases and build on the game in a gradual fashion, it's not in any danger of becoming complicated but it is nice that things gradually become deeper and the winning conditions of the game alter from straight racing to semi-cooperative.

The Good Parts:
Techno Witches has the feel of Galaxy Trucker about it, you spend time building up your trail and then you're almost hapless when you decide to fly. You'll careen across the sky, looking like a winner, until you realise that you've misjudged a curve, another player has blocked your flight path or the edge of the table beckons. Then hilarity ensues.

There are also several ways to approach flight, if you have good judgement then you can save up all five allowed curves before taking flight and because you've taken only six turns to do this you zip across the landscape like Billy Whizz, on the other hand, if you're performing a difficult manoeuvre, or if there is a risk that other players may block your move you might move every other turn, which would take twelve turns to cross the same distance as the above player. There's a real sense of speed here, which couples well with the second element - picking the correct route.

It's immensely satisfying to unleash five curves and thread your little character through a tight gap, but it's also hilarious to fail, especially in a spectacular fashion. I recall games where after placing one curve I realised I had it turning in the wrong direction, every other curve afterwards was punctuated with the words 'No, no, no!' as my yellow wizard zoomed off closer and closer to the edge of the board - in the opposite direction... The only thing larger than my screams of anguish was the laughter of the other players.

The thing is, just like Galaxy Trucker, you don't feel hard done by when a screw up like this occurs. It was your choice to hold on that long before flying, you picked those curves; you did this to yourself... And even in the situations where another player blocks your flight it is still your fault, you could have launched a turn earlier, you could have figured for this and used a reverse to change your orientation before moving (risky, but possible). You could have avoided the disaster you've just flown into.

That's what makes the game great fun, it gradually gives you the rules over several scenarios and then sits back and says 'Well it's up to you now, you're the master of your own flight."



The Weak Parts:
Techno Witches is not a perfect creation, it's limited in scope and scenarios. The game tends to hand you a framework of movement rules, gives you a few sample scenarios and then lets you go. If you enjoyed one or two of the scenarios then you're golden, but otherwise you need to be able to come up with scenarios or find new ones online.

In addition, unless you're willing to sit down and learn all the rules in one go by playing all four scenarios (which will take about 2 hours), it's hard to build on your knowledge from one play session to the next and step up. I recommend that you learn the game by playing scenario 1 + 2, then next time 2 + 3 and then 3 + 4 - after that you'll need to come up with scenarios of your own (unless there were ones in the four you really enjoyed).

Also if you're bad at judging distances and estimating curves then this game can be very frustrating, it's fine if all players are at a similar skill level, but if one player has better judgement than the rest you'll need good humour and sportsmanship (or cunning blocking moves) to get through this.

Frankly, these are minor points at best, for what it is I adore Techno Witches.

The Summary:
Techno Witches is an enjoyable and interesting creation that surprisingly hasn't been built on in any significant fashion by designers. There's an interesting engine in it that could be used for a wide range of spatial racing games, like driving (say a demolition derby style game) or even puzzle style games where players try to get a beam of light to reach a certain destination.

The game itself is something of a frame around witch which players can build their own scenarios.

Finally, may I recommend putting two copies of this game together and playing a sport style game with teams and goals? It's fantastic fun and it's impressive how the game combines so well with itself.

Techno Witches is not going to set the world on fire, however it is something that should be in any self respecting board game collection because it is a unique creation that has few other games (apart from Wings of War) that are similar to it.

Too Long; Didn't Read:

Pros:
+ Simple to Learn
+ Fun
+ Hilarious
+ Promotes Spatial Awareness
+ Good with Kids
+ Encourages creation of own scenarios
+ Great with 4 or more players
+ Visually attractive

Cons:
- Not much depth
- No Harry Potter tie in version
- Limited number of scenarios that can become tired after a while
- Techno Witches? Seriously? Why not Zoidberg Witches? (Should really have been just about Witches. In other words, theme is a little whack).]
- Only 4 Players, could easily have been 8
- Better with more players
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Heinrich Glumpler
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Hi,

thank you for this great review.

I would like to forward interested players to my website www.erlkoenig.net where you will find variants for this game, especially...

http://tinyurl.com/bogmc

* an 8 player variant
* a dogfight variant (with shooting - really - errh - of some sort)

Best Regards
Heinrich
(the author)
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fen
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Thank you for the game, it's on my 'do not trade away' list. :)

8 Player Variant! Well that's one of my complaints/wishes sorted, thanks!
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Rob Rob
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Quote:
With the popularity of Harry Potter you can colour me somewhat surprised that Techno Witches wasn't re-themed and released to take advantage of the movie and book series.

IIRC, they had intended it to be a HP game but were unable to get/afford the license. That's why they are riding vacuums instead of brooms.
 
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Heinrich Glumpler
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Hi Rob,

no. Nothing like that - at least not for the original (german) edition.

I designed it as a rocket game and they (Kosmos) did not like the theme. There never was even a discussion to use a HP theme.

I do not know, if Rio Grande would have preferred a HP theme, but I doubt it.

Best Regards
Heinrich
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