Poison is a simple amusing little game that can be casually played with a small group of people in a non aggressive atmosphere.
Players loosely assume the role of a mad scientist or some sort of alchemist who is trying to add potions to a cauldron without overflowing it and “drinking it”.
The aspect that attracted me to Poison from the beginning was the artwork. I found the cards very sharp and so well done that I wanted to pick it up for just that reason. Another contributing factor is that the game is priced reasonably well. So you can pick this game up without breaking the bank and still get a reasonably fun and simple game that doesn’t collect dust on the shelves.
Poison is played out in a series of several quick game rounds where players place potion and poison cards into 3 cardboard cauldron flats to try and force other players to gain points while you keep your score as low as possible.
As I mentioned, my favorite part of the game is the game cards. There are 4 different cards found in the poison deck. The cards are on a black background with vibrant colored potions that create a beautiful contrast that makes the cards stand out. There are 3 different colored potions, red, purple and blue in a variety of filled amounts. The potions have different quantities marked by a number, and the potion picture is more filled up than others. I appreciate this subtle appearance variance to the cards.
The fourth set of cards is the dreaded Poison card. The poison cards are bright green potions that are mixed in with the other 3 colors to add an element of aggression and chaos to the game.
The only other components are 3 thick cardboard cauldrons that are used to place the cards on as the rounds play out. These are also very nicely done and add to the visual appeal of the game.
In Poison, the game is played out by dealing the entire deck to each player who amasses a decent sized amount of cards to give them options to play each turn.
All you do on your turn is play a potion into a cauldron. It is that simple. Then the next player does the same thing and so on and so on until cauldrons fill with potions and poison until the limit is reached and people must “drink”.
The rules are that each cauldron can only hold one color of potion, red, blue or purple, but poison can be played in every cauldron to mess with the flow of the game.
Once a cauldrons potion number goes over 13 the player who added the last card to it has to “drink” the contents and add them to their score pile for later tallying.
Here is where we yell out in a fast shrill voice, “DRINK YOUR POISON!!!”
That adds a few laughs and makes the game a bit amusing.
The round ends when the last card is played and all players count up their points.
The winner of the game is the one with the lowest score after a series of rounds are played.
Here is where the strategy comes into play. You score points for each potion card you drink, unless you consumed the most of that color. So a strategy of the game can be to find a color that you have a lot of cards of, and try and drink as much of it as you can. But be careful because if you drink a lot of one color and end up not drinking the most, you gain all the points of what you drank.
Here is where the poison cards come into play. A poison card can be added to any cauldron, so if you see one player drinking a lot of purple and no poison, meaning they will get no points at the end of the round, you can place a poison card in the purple cauldron making the player a little hesitant to continue drinking that color. Every poison card you drink adds 2 points to your score.
I really enjoy the poison cards because they are the element that makes the game more interactive. If one player has a low score, other players can gang up and place poison in cauldrons they will most likely drink. It is fun and suspenseful as the rounds go on and you have few cards remaining in your hand, thus limiting your choices of which cauldron to place into. You may find yourself with only red cards in your hand, and there is a red cauldron filled with poison, so you have no choice but to drink it.
There is a decent element of strategy involved in this game. Do you aggressively consume the color potion you desire? Or do you try and play conservatively and try not to drink any potions? Where do you place your poison? You don’t want to actually end up drinking poison cards that you placed in cauldrons that other people suddenly do not drink.
PROS and CONS
I love the artwork. A good visual feel adds a lot to a games fun factor for me.
The game flows smoothly and is easy to pick up. The strategy element seems very luck based at first, but there is a strategy to playing higher valued cards verses lower valued cards at the right time.
The game can be played in under a half hour so it is over before you know it. It never seems to drag on.
There is a lack of control feel to it due to the randomness of the card draws. It can be frustrating to be thwarted in your plans by other players just simply playing their cards and unknowingly forcing you to drink cauldrons you tried to avoid at all costs.
I give this game 6 out of 10. It is a quaint little game. I would never say, “Hey guys! Want to come over and play Poison?” It is more of a, OK that game of Killer Bunnies or Descent was a bit long, how about something simple like Poison to turn the intensity down a notch?
This game never stays on the shelves too long. It is not a game for serious intense sessions, but it is a great bridge game to be played between other more serious ones on a casual game night.
With poison, you get what you pay for and them some. I only give it a 6 because I can see playing it too often would make it a bit boring and interest would be lost, so don’t over play this game.