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Subject: A cold-hearted review by S0laris rss

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Experience: 10 games
High score: 120 points


This is my second attempt to write a review, after reviewing The Gallerist. My target is to remain as much emotionally detached as possible when reviewing a game, that’s why I want to call all my (future too) reviews “cold hearted”, but this time did not work so good, because this game has really won me.

Broom Service is a light / medium euro game that came out at 2015 as a part of Aleas big box series. It’s artwork and mechanics caught my attention long ago, but some complains I had read in forum, combining with the not so brilliant Ravensurger’s distribution (cough-cough) at Greece kept me away.

While the game has the not bad at all 7.4 rating I have noticed the absence of positive feedback compared to the negative one. Luckily I listened to my heart and I bought it, making one of the most successful choices of my life. Surely I have some great games at my library (Fields of Arle, The Gallerist), even some games that I consider them being better than Broom Service (Terra Mystica I am speaking to you), but before buying those games I knew that there were awesome. In contrast, with Broom Service my (great) expectations have not only have been met, but also have been surpassed. Now let’s move to some more details.


image by user W Eric Martin

Production / Artwork

Vincent Dutrait has done a magnificent job. The choice of colors is perfect and the whole game feels like being in a fairy-tale. Some of my friends find it a bit old-fashioned, but I really love it. Because the images speak by themselves, I will have them float across this review in order to use your own judgment.

As far as the production value, it is just ok, given the game’s price. I have no complains about the cards, pawns, meeples (the witch- meeple is adorable) and tokens, but I wish the game board was thicker and had a better cut.

The rulebook is not the worst I have read, but surely it could have more analytical and specific sometimes.



Gameplay

There are 2 central mechanisms in the game. The first one is a simple pick-up and deliver. Each player has 2 witches. The board is full of towers. You have to move your witches to the towers and deliver a potion, taking the points that are written on it. There are 3 potion/ tower colors (purple, orange and green) and each kind of potion has to be delivered to a tower of the corresponding color. Also by using magic wands (a resource just like potions) you can remove and collect clouds from the board for end – game scoring. That’s it, just 4 resources and one specific kind of delivery for each one.

The second mechanism is the one that makes the game shine. All players have 10 identical cards. Each card has an action (4 for moving your witches, 3 for producing potions,2 for delivering potions and 1 for removing clouds) and two versions of that action, a coward and a brave, with the brave being a superior version of the coward one. At the beginning of each round, players choose 4 of the 10 cards that will use on that round. The first player plays one card. Then each player in clockwise order is forced to play that card, if he have picked it, or passes if he has not. If a player chooses to play his card cowardly, he just does the coward action. If someone chooses to play the card bravely, he waits. In case of any of the following players having the same card and choose to play it bravely, the turn of the previous player that played it bravely is canceled and now the new "brave" player waits. In the end of the turn, the last player who selected the brave action, performs it and becomes the first player of the next turn (so unless you are the last player, there is always a risk when selecting the brave action). When all players play all of their 4 cards of the round, the round comes to its end. After seven rounds the game is finished, with the player with the most points being the winner.

Also on each round a random event card will take effect.

One interest aspect of the game is that the map has two sides. One “basic”, where there are almost only towers and clouds and an advanced one where the ways to reach at high point-giving towers is more complicated and two sets of tokens are added to the map, making things juicier. Also there is a kind of a mini expansion inside the box, where there are added some clouds that are not giving you only end game bonus (like the vanilla ones), but also doing other kind of stuff. In my opinion, the real game starts (becoming a lot more strategic) when using the advanced map with the special clouds, so on the thoughts of the game I take as a given fact that these features are used. In defense of the simpler map, it is good for introduction (with the advanced game not being overwhelming or something though) and I could imagine playing it with small children.



Thoughts on the game

Randomness/luck: There is a number of randomness on this game. On one of my most memorable game I managed to win by two points just because of the event card of the seventh round. If any other event card would be in play, I would stand no chance. But the event gave me only 4 extra points of my total of 120, so it was a really tight game.

Also some people advocate that there is luck when you chose the brave action (because it is unknown if the players next to you have picked the same card and cancel your action). I strongly disagree with this opinion. There is luck in the game, but the kind of luck when bidding at a poker game. You know your chances and for sake of god, you can try to think what plans your opponents may have and guess their cards with big success. Generally, I have many issues with the luck factor on the games I play. I cannot stand the luck factor in game like 7 wonders duel, Grand Austria Hotel, Basilica and Castles of Burgundy (with 2 players). However, the (minor) luck factor on Broom Service is not annoying at all and in all 10 games I have played so far, the best player won.

Two players: The majority of my plays is been made with just another person, so the “meh” feedback about this game with two players was one of the reasons that postponed my purchase. After playing it I can safely say that the game scales really good. It is more entertaining with more players (still to have a 5 player game, but many with 4), but this does not derive from the game mechanics, but from the fact that board gaming is generally funnier with more than two players.

Replay value: Most of the things are putted randomly on the map at the start of the game, so in each game the balances change and you need to think where to focus (remove clouds, where to teleport, collect mountain amulets, chase forest tiles e.t.c.). Additionally, the banned cards and events are in different order in each time. Not to mention that the most interesting part, the dynamics between players with brave/coward mechanism, is, at least for me, not getting old from game to game. So, the replay value is pretty high.

Strategic Depth: I think that an experienced player would easily find an optimal path to follow on a given set-up, but probably will be more than one valid paths each time. Also there are some meta things to consider, for example if a part of the map is much more benefited, then it may attract too many “competitors”. The strategic depth is enough for me for that kind of game, but do not expect a deep strategic experience. The tactics through the brave/coward mechanism and guessing other players’ moves are more important.


image by user William Hunt

Concluding

Broom Service is a true gem that has yet to receive the attention that it deserves. It’s a perfect choice for a night with the family, for a night with friends and drinks, for a break between heavy euros at game night and (maybe not perfect, but really good) for a couple. It is an entertaining, easy to learn game, which keeps the tension till the end and most of the time the best player wins. What else could someone ask for?

Rating: 9/10

edit:Format, paragraph "Strategic depth"
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Ted Magdzinski
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Nice review and I would agree with your score. It's such a great game that gets more interesting the more you play it with the same people. There's really a strong metagame aspect of when to play your specific cards and trying to read other people and their actions.

It becomes super tense and exciting when you race up to the top for better areas.
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ScubaSteveKzoo wrote:
Nice review and I would agree with your score. It's such a great game that gets more interesting the more you play it with the same people. There's really a strong metagame aspect of when to play your specific cards and trying to read other people and their actions.

It becomes super tense and exciting when you race up to the top for better areas.


That's something I had not thought, but it is true. Playing it with the same group, really benefits the game experience
 
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Alexander Pfister
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Thanks for your review.
When Broom Service won the "Kennerspiel des Jahres" award in 2015, many thought it was a strategy award, therefore Broom Service has to be a great strategy game. But it's not a pure strategy game, so some were disappointed - there were some negative reviews. Yes, it has some strategy involved, but its strength is the emotions. Those, who like this, love the game. Others even may hate the game. That's ok, not every game is for everybody.
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AlexP wrote:
Thanks for your review.
When Broom Service won the "Kennerspiel des Jahres" award in 2015, many thought it was a strategy award, therefore Broom Service has to be a great strategy game. But it's not a pure strategy game, so some were disappointed - there were some negative reviews. Yes, it has some strategy involved, but its strength is the emotions. Those, who like this, love the game. Others even may hate the game. That's ok, not every game is for everybody.


You are welcome Mr. Pfister laugh. It's a great honor for me to read my review.
I totally agree that generally speaking, but also specific for Broom Service, it is unfair someone to have negative attitude towards a game because it is not the kind of game he expected. I personally dislike many games, but not for that reason.
Just to mention, as a mostly medium/heavy strategic euro player, the award giving was totally fair .
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