Last weekend I was at the Chicago AGOG (A Gathering of Gamers) and got a chance to play Friday the 13th. It was late at night, and I was playing with three others that were still at the game tables. I had seen the brightly colored box on the game table earlier in the day. Since I'm drawn to brightly colored things, I was more than happy to jump in when asked to play. I'm a passing Kiniza player... I know that when I sit down to play one of his card games I'm in for a light math puzzle. Also as background, I have to say that my all time favorite card game is the old stand by of hearts.
Everyone says this game is over produced. I'm not sure what they are talking about. OK, the three cauldrons are a bit over the top and the box is really big. But the kids I was playing with seemed that they would not want it any other way. The cards were of good stock, the colors were bright and inviting, and the colors were accompanied by different shaped bottle pictures so that if you can't tell the colors apart it is no biggie. There are 8 poison cards with a value of 4, then 3 suits (Red, Blue, and Purple) with card values of 1,2,4,5,and 7. And that is it. Over produced? Only if you want to actually travel with it or store it on a shelf. some people are just too picky.
I had the rules explained to me by someone who could not have been over 15, and his 8 (or so) old sister was playing with us. He did need to check the rules from time to time for very specific situations I brought up (can there be more tan one Red cauldron going at a time?). And as I've gone on line to look them up since then I can say that they are both straight forward and easy to understand. Basically, you are adding cards to a pile of like colored cards. If the card you add pushes the total to more than 13, the pot overflows. You get to take the cards that were there before you played and leave the cards you played to start the next brew. Play continues until each player plays all of their cards from their hand (may be an uneven number between players). At this point everyone looks at the tricks they've won. If they have the most of a color (not a tie for most) then they do not count that color in their score. Otherwise all colored cards are counted at 1 point and Poison cards are worth 2 points (even if you have the most). Really simple to teach and play.
Ok, it is a light filler game. There is no brain burning, no long term strategy, a bit of tactics, and a mix of screw your neighbor and get screwed by you neighbor here. As I said, I like hearts and this is of the same flavor. This is quick and easy enough to play while talking about something else at the same time. If you are expecting a masterpiece of balance and real heads up play, this may not be for you. For a playable lite fun game, this works just fine.
Over all fun factor
I had fun. The kids had fun. The colors were bright and inviting, even if the theme of poison is not the most touchy-feely. There were a lot of times where players exclaimed,"Anything I play is gonna stink!" And more times where someone played a 1 blue on 3 Poison cards and exclaimed "AH HA! I hope you have BLUE!" There was that Schadenfreuden (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreuden) in playing this game that really made it fun... I can totally see the Simpson's Nelson sticking his head in the game and going, "Ha Ha!" and then going along his way.
It is a fun game. The Gotcha is light enough that no feelings are hut. The cards are fun to look at and work well. It would travel easy if all you took with you was the deck of cards, and that is all you really need. I had a lot of fun playing it with kids, the bright colors and the fun of saying "Overflow!", and the GOTCHA! made it a hit. Over all I'll play this again as a filler and might even get a copy to bring to my normal game group.
As a filler it fits the bill nicely.
Picked this up at this year's Essen and now its just a card deck which works fine. Very nice little game which will see a decent amount of play as a light filler or game with the family.