Wie verhext!


Andreas Pelikan

ALEA 2008

No. of Players:
3 - 5



In the last few years the RAVENSBURGER offspring ALEA has made itself a name especially in the sector of complex specialist boardgames, keeping among its choice of games award winners like Tadsch Mahal, Puerto Rico or Louis XIV. As a sideline, ALEA also has produced a few card-based games in sized-down boxes, but all of their games have a considerable playing depth and a palpable strategic background in common. Thus, I was left quite surprised after a few rounds of their new cardgame Wie verhext! by Andreas Pelikan, since the game is a fast paced game of trumps which stands quite apart from the other titles ALEA has released so far. But let's first have a look at the rules...

Wie verhext! stands before a background of magic and sorcery, and the players have to try to win most victory points by brewing valuable potions and stealing gold and ingredients from their competitors. At the beginning of the game five stacks of cards are prepared and placed in the middle of the table: the three Cauldron decks (each consisting respectively of seven iron, copper or silver cauldrons) and the two Shelves decks (each with five ingredients or gold shelves). Each of these cards features a victory points value in its lower right corner, and the cards in each deck are arranged in a way that the cards with the lowest value lie on top of the stack and the cards with the highest value go to the bottom. In addition, a deck of spell cards is shuffled and the top card is placed openly on the table. As a starting equipment, each player receives 2 gold, one drop of each kind of ingredients (red Wolfblood, white Snake poison, green Herbal stock). Also, each player receives an identical deck of twelve different character cards which he will use during the game.


The game is played in rounds, and at the beginning of each round all the players simultaneously and secretly chose five of their character cards which they want to use in the current round. Once all players have chosen their cards, the current start player will chose one of his character cards and place it openly on the table, proclaiming himself as being that character in the current round. In clockwise order, the other players now have to check their hand cards whether they have chosen to take the same character card to their hand for the current round. If they should not possess the card, they will simply have to pass, but if they should possess the character as well they have to play the card and will be faced with a choice:

  • On the one hand, the first player with the character card can be identified as an impostor, with the later character card consequently overruling the earlier character card of the start player, thus giving the later player the chance to proclaim himself to be the true character. However, this action is connected with the inherent danger that an even later player in the clockwise order may have the same character card as well, so that he once again may overcome the current player and take the identity to himself.
  • On the other hand, the player in possession of an already revealed character may refrain from challenging the earlier player, and he may simply agree and ask for the character's boon.

The difference between the two ways to player a character card is concerned with the powers of each character card. The player who has assumed the role of the character for the current round will be allowed to use the character's power, whereas a player who has refrained from challenging a revealed character will just be granted the character's boon. The real power of a character always is stronger than a boon, but it is dangerous to go for the power since there is always a possibility that a later player may overcome an earlier character card, thus leaving the earlier player empty handed. The boon on the other hand follows the better-safe-than-sorry-doctrine, granting the player(s) with the boon a minor advantage.

The powers of the characters range from providing ingredients to brewing potions or special actions like the stealing of gold or ingredients or the casting of a spell, and as a rule the boon of each character gives a similar advantage which is of a reduced value.

  • The Wolf Keeper has a power to provide three drops of Wolfblood, whereas a player with the boon only receives one drop. The Snake Catcher and the Herbs Collector work likewise, but they provide Snake poison or Herbal stock respectively.
  • The witch has the power to brew the topmost iron cauldron (forcing the player to hand back the ingredients shown on the cauldron card), whereas players with the Witch's boon may brew the topmost iron cauldron only at a surcharge of two gold. Once again, the Druid and the Wizard have a similar function, but they will brew the topmost copper of silver cauldron.
  • Gold is created by the Alchemist, and he has the power to turn one ingredient into five gold coins. As a boon, he will only provide two gold for an ingredient.
  • Apart from paying gold as a surcharge when brewing, it can also be handed to the Thruthsayer. She has the power to turn one gold into two minor potions each of which will be worth one victory point at the end of the game. As a boon, the player only will receive one minor potion for a golden coin.
  • Also, gold can be used to purchase new ingredients if it is handed to the Apprentice. His power is to purchase three freely chosen ingredients for one gold, whereas a boon only will yield one ingredient for a gold.
  • On the other hand, the loss of gold also may come rather involuntary if the Thief is used. He steals a third of the gold of each player, and the gold is placed on the topmost gold shelve card. The player who has applied the Thief's power may freely add any of his own gold to the stolen amount, and if the total gold on the shelf card equals the amount of gold shown on the shelve card the gold will be returned to the bank and the player will receive the shelf card. Once again, the Mendicant is a comparable card, but instead of gold he will take a fourth of each player's ingredients and place them on the topmost ingredients shelf card. The boon of both characters is that one less gold or ingredient must be handed in when another player uses the character's power.
  • Finally, the Warlock's power is changing each round be revealing a new spell card which will describe his current power. This will range from the creation of ingredients or minor potions to the brewing of cauldrons with deviation from the recipe.

After all players have either passed or proclaimed themselves, the players with the boon of the current character will be allowed to act in clockwise order. Afterwards, the player who has the privilege to use the character's power will have a possibility to act. This fixed order may cause some hazards especially when it comes to brewing a cauldron, since the upmost cauldron cards may be taken by one or more characters with a boon. This may leave the player who may use the character's power with a more valuable but likewise more expensive cauldron. And there may be a chance that the player may not use his power because he lacks the required ingredients. Anyhow, the player with the power finishes the turn, and he starts the next turn by playing another character card from his hand.

A round continues until all players have used up their hand of five character cards, and thus - depending on the choice of characters made by each player at the beginning of the round - it is quite possible that a lot more than five characters will be played during the round. When all players have used their five character cards, a new round is started and once again each player is allowed to chose a hand of five characters from his total set of 12 characters. The game continues in this fashion until a total of 4 cauldron or shelves cards displaying the additional symbol of a Raven have been won by the players. These cards are located in the lower part of each deck, and the winning of four such cards marks the end of the game. Now each player adds up the values of his cauldron and shelve cards and add an additional victory point for each minor potion in his possession. As usual, the winner is the player with most victory points.

As you can see, Wie verhext! is a quite unusual ALEA-game since it does not offer a high potential for strategy or planning. Instead, the players have to speculate a lot which characters others might chose for the round and whether it would be more wise to go for a character's boon instead of his power. Here some basic strategic risk calculations are possible, because the danger to be identified as an impostor gets less and less the more a round proceeds since the players will have less cards on their hands. Likewise, the risk to lose a power is reduced in a turn if only few players still have a chance to play a card later on.

The German proverb Wie verhext! means that something is "jinxed", and so the title of the game is chosen rather well because a player's plans for a perfect round regularly will be spoiled by the characters chosen by all other players. Even more, a player may succeed to apply the power of a desired character, but then all his intentions may go astray because the cauldron cards on display have been changed by a player who acted earlier because he has chosen a boon instead of the power.

However, the reduced strategic potential of the game means no reduction for the players' fun and replay value of the game. Quite the opposite, the speedy gameplay and the ever-lasting challenge to beat the other players to get the most valuable cauldrons make the game quite attractive in my eyes, and this opinion seems to be justified because the game also had ranked quite well on the poll for the Deutscher Spielepreis 2008.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany