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21 Days Left
Bellwether was designed by Mark Hanny and published by Joe Magic games in 2011. It is playable by three to five players in a bit less than an hour.
What You Get
Joe Magic Games is a pretty small outfit, and for such a size they have managed to put a decent package together. There is a laminated map, decks of cards, some plastic chips, and plastic cube markers. The box is attractively illustrated. I found the cards to suffer a bit from the FFG thing: too dark, and all the creatures a bit over-the-top nasty looking, but no matter. The cards were nice. In all, a pretty good outlay of bits.
What You Do
Rather than repeat, I think Bellwether - So, Elminster Meets Bob Vila At A Bar One Night To Discuss Ratios... does a good job describing the game play. Basically, you try and score points in collecting spells, building buildings, and defeating monsters. To do this you collect and spend chips from a common board. I'd rather go directly to...
What I Think
First of all, kudos for the unique theme. The Great Battle With The Bad Guy is already over and done with: your job is to mop up the remnants of nasty guys and re-establish civilization. That is a new theme to me!
I found early in the game it was pretty dull just collecting chips. Sure, the turns are quite fast, but maintaining the chip sets and trying to use my findernails to get the last chip, only to do it another couple rounds kind of didn't get me excited. I think the game could use a 'standard chip starting set' or something.
The building and spell collecting and battling were all relatively interesting, but the scoring didn't work out at all. It feels like the balance is off: the guy that constructs buildings will never get the payback of the monster hunter or, indeed, the guy who just sits and collects spell sets. This is a pity, and should really be addressed.
I liked the 'take the top spell card and discard back to the top if not taken' mechanism, as well as the choose when to trigger the event on the spell cards. Makes for some choices.
Overall, the game was ok, but not great. There has not been a clamor for more playings, but at the same time, people thought it was all right with some germs of really nice ideas in there. I think with some tweaking of the scoring rules, there could be a tighter game in there.