Monday, September 14, 2015

A Battle of Wits, by Matthew O'Malley

A Battle of Wits, by Matthew O'Malley

Fans of The Princess Bride who’ve always wanted to see if they could outwit Vizzinni and survive the poison cup challenge - this is the game that you’ve been waiting for. Now, for once and for all, you can find out who is right - and who is dead thanks to Matthew O’Malley and Game Salute.

 Like this, but minus the actual dying.

Players begin the game with a number of goblets on the table equal to the number of players and an eight card hand: the numbers one through seven and a “Sicilian” card (to keep from having perfect knowledge of your opponent’s hand from the start). Players then take turns placing wine (their even numbered cards) or poison (their even numbered cards) into the goblets - or using the numbers on their cards to bid on which cup they hope to drink from at the end of the game.

To make the game not just guessing what’s in the goblets, though, at the start of the third, fifth, and seventh rounds, the card closest to the goblet will be flipped over, revealing the contents. Though more cards can be played to this goblet later, players will now have some information about what the goblet holds.

At the end of the game - once all players have played all of the cards from their hands - players flip over all of the cards used to bid on the goblets. Winning players, then, will be drinking from their goblet, provided they didn’t begin a land war in Asia (which isn’t actually a mechanic in the game). Any players whose cups have more wine than poison survive and are the winners. That’s right folks - it’s a game where you can have multiple winners!

From the Kickstarter - since I was a dummy and forgot to take pictures.

Overall, I had a fun time each time I played the game, though it’s the sort of game where players need to engage in tabletalk to make it most enjoyable - especially if players know the movie well enough to speak in character. It’s a party game, so the level of strategy isn’t as deep as others, but there’s enough information that you can make a somewhat informed decision - but only somewhat.

Two of the Sicilian cards (the ones randomly dealt out), though, took away from the game for me. One allows the player who uses it to switch goblets with another player at the end of the game once winning bids have been revealed (but before contents have been revealed). The other grants the player immunity to any of their own poison cards - but not other players. These two abilities, since the canny player will wait to use them until the final turn, seem to allow the careful player an almost guaranteed win.

Other than those, though, Battle of Wits is a quick, fun game for 2 to 10 players that fans of the movie should enjoy. It distills the age-old “poison cup” mechanic to, well, a literal set of poison cups. (Okay, not exactly literal. None of you will actually be poisoned.) And while I much prefer O’Malley’s Diner to Battle of Wits, I’d happily play if someone brought it out at a gameday.