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Subject: No Need to Reinvent the Wheel: A Hocus Review rss

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Brandon Wilson
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This will be the first review I have written on BGG, and I could not have picked a better game to start with. That should give you a hint as to how I feel about this game

If you want to actually learn the rules, I recommend the video made by Grant. He does a better job than I could, so I will focus on reviewing the game instead.
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/71328/hocus/hocus-how-pl...

OVERVIEW:
The main goal of the game is to win hands using traditional Texas Hold 'Em rules (two-pair beats one-pair, flush beats three-of-a-kind, etc...). Each player has up to two "pockets" of face-down cards that only they can use, and they combine these with face-up "community" cards that every player can use. Betting on hands is accomplished by playing cards into face-down "pots," with each card having a points value independent of their card value.

Hocus is much more than a simple re-imagining of poker. It takes the classic mechanics and elevates them to a new level. Rather than relying on the "luck of the draw," Hocus puts all the power in the hands of the players... literally.

During the game, players will alternate placing cards into the various areas of the board, choosing what cards they want in their hands (pocket), the shared card pools (community), and even the prize pool (pot). This results in a fast-paced struggle to create the most advantageous table for you, while countering your opponents' attempts to do the same. Skill and planning are key, as your actions and cards are limited in a round, yet flexibility is a must in order to adapt to your opponents' actions. Because the only face-up cards are the community cards, bluffing is still very powerful, staying true to the classic Hold 'Em appeal.

The main twist to the game comes in the form of Advanced Spells. Each player chooses a set of Advanced Spells to begin the game, and these give each player a unique set of actions to use during their turns. Advanced Spell actions provide powerful effects that change the game, allowing players to swap cards from communities, draw extra cards into their hands, and even steal points from the pot!

Just like poker, the winner of each hand takes the points from the pot, and a new round is played.

THE GOOD:
The best part of Hocus is something that very few games manage to capture, and I was surprised that a "light" card game was able to do so. In Hocus, every choice matters! Each action presents you with new decisions to be made. Do you save your high value cards for your pocket in order to beat your opponents, or do you toss them into the pot as points hoping to win big? Is it worth taking a turn to stack a community in your favor, or do you need more pockets to compete in multiple hands? If you play a card to a community to help your own hand, how will that same card help your opponents? As a (relatively) skilled Hold 'Em player, I was shocked by the level of strategic depth Hocus offers in its choices, and yet I was comforted by the familiarity of it all. This game still feels like poker, but with all the nuance of a modern board game.

The art is beautiful. The Owls depicted on all of the "staff" suit cards are my particular favorite.

Hocus is simplicity at its finest. It's quick enough to be played in-between other games, but is so addicting that you'll probably end up playing multiple times

THE BAD:
The theme of Hocus is "pasted on." The premise is that you are a bunch of wizards playing an ancient card game, but the actions and game mechanics could lend themselves to any genre: a group of cowboy card-sharks each with their own set of "cheat" skills; alien races who have long given up conventional warfare to solve their differences through non-violent contests, each with their own unique "tech" abilities; etc...

However, I feel that this is not actually a problem. The game does not suffer in any way for its lack of thematic integration, but is enhanced by the flavor of its theme. If you just want to play a great card game, you can. If you like to pretend you're a group of wizards while you play that great game, you can! It's amazingly fun either way.

CONCLUSION:
If you have never played poker, or just do not like it, fear not. Hocus is easy to learn for novice players, and it adds so much on top of the traditional framework that it will convert die-hard poker "nay-sayers." If you are a poker fan, however, don't think that will give you an edge... I made that mistake and payed dearly for it. I taught my girlfriend how to play Hocus, and she has never played poker before. After only one game, I found myself being baited into stacking a pot I thought I would win, only to lose it all to her full house... good times!

Hocus does not reinvent the wheel, but it certainly upgrades the heck out of it. The rules are streamlined and straightforward, yet the strategy is deeper and more engaging than traditional poker. It has the ability to bring poker enthusiasts and "board game geeks" together on common grounds, and never compromises the fun or integrity of either genre. This is a must own game for every gaming table!
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Grant Rodiek
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Thank you so much! You're right -- the game isn't very thematic, and honestly, we didn't want to try to force something wrong on it. We chose our 'theme" due to the artistic possibilities, but the game is really built around the mechanisms.

Thank you so much for the review!

grant
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Jiryfoe Man
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Basic Hocus (no Owls or advanced spells).

Traditional poker players would lean towards this I'm guessing.

I wonder if a house rule for the loser to gain an ability (spell) of their choice/random for the turn would be acceptable to the diehard poker fans.

Great game by the way!

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Joshua Buergel
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We think that there's a lot of room for some interesting uses of the Spell cards, and to provide for a series of optional rules for folks to try out. We compiled a list of suggestions for people to try during the Kickstarter campaign, and it would be great to see other ideas pop up. If you give it a try, let us know!

Incidentally, a very, very early version of Hocus had losers gaining spells in hands, but that was a long time ago.
 
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Grant Rodiek
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Jiryfoe wrote:
Basic Hocus (no Owls or advanced spells).

Traditional poker players would lean towards this I'm guessing.

I wonder if a house rule for the loser to gain an ability (spell) of their choice/random for the turn would be acceptable to the diehard poker fans.

Great game by the way!


The variant document Josh mentioned is here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LdI9zz1braI7mxRGsvY3rY0a...
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