The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits
- Designer: Matthew O’Malley
- Publisher: Game Salute
- Players: 2-10
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Game Salute
The Princess Bride is one of the iconic movies of my childhood. Released in 1987, I would say that I have conservatively watched it at least 100 times, and I’ve worn out more than one pirated Betamax copy of the movie due to overuse. Some of the quotes from the movie remain in my lexicon to this day. Inconceivable? Not so much.
To the surprise of some, this 28 year old movie is still selling off licensing rights – and Game Salute continues their series of games which started with The Princess Bride: Prepare to Die back in 2013. There is a set of three new releases, all small card based games, for 2015 that bring the movie back to life on your gaming table. Though each of the three games stands alone in its own right – we have enjoyed playing them together as a set.
A Battle of Wits pits the players in the classic Sicilian deathmatch of deciding to drink from a cup filled with wine or one filled with poison. In setup, a number of goblets equal to the number of players are placed on the table. Each player chooses (or is dealt) a character card, and each is given a 7 card deck (numbered 1-7) with their icon on the back – all of the odd cards are poison and all of the even cards are wine. Each player is also dealt a random Sicilian card – this has a number between 1 and 9 on it, and it should be noted that the value 8 and value 9 card have a special ability on them.
A start player is chosen and that player places the Day/Night card next to him – with the Day side face up. The player to the left starts play. On each turn, a player chooses a card from their hand and places it face-down either above OR below one of the goblets. If it is placed above a goblet, it represents the contents of the cup. A value equal to the number on the card of either wine (if the number is even) or poison (if the number is odd) will be in that cup. If it is placed below the goblet, it acts as a bid (of the numerical value of the card) – the player with the highest valued bid under a goblet at the end of the game will be the one who gets to drink that goblet.
The player’s icon is on the back of each card, so while the other players may not know what the value of the card is – they can at least tell which player played which card. Remember that each player also got a randomly dealt Sicilian card – as there are only Sicilian icons on this card, they can only be played as goblet content cards. There are two cards which give special abilities: Immunity (which makes you immune to your OWN poison cards) and Switch (you switch all the bid cards of two different goblets). If you are dealt one of these, you can use the special ability by simply playing the card face up in front of you (and thus, not on any goblet).
Each time that after the Dealer plays, he flips over the Day/Night card. Each time that the card is flipped over to the Day side – thus, at the end of Round 3, 5, 7 – the Contents card closest to each goblet is flipped over to reveal the contents. Thus, as the game moves on, you will get a little bit of information about what is contained in each goblet.
The game ends when all players have played all of their cards to the table. Then, the Bid cards are flipped over – making sure to keep their same relative orientation with regards to the cup. You see which player has the highest bid on each goblet. If there is a tie, it is broken by the card closest to the goblet. If a player wins more than one goblet, he must choose which one to drink from. His bids are retracted from the other unchosen goblets, and those are awarded to the new highest bidder. After all bid winners have taken their goblet, all players who did not win a goblet select from the unclaimed ones. As there is one goblet per player, each player will end up with exactly one goblet to drink from.
Now, each player reveals the contents of his goblet – again keeping the same relative orientation with regard to the cup. If there is more wine than poison, the character lives and he wins! If there is more poison than wine, the player dies. If there is a tie, it is broken by the card closest to the cup. There can be multiple winners in the game as everyone who drinks wine wins the game.
My thoughts on the game
This started out as a clever little bluffing game as players try to outwit their opponents by choosing the best goblet to drink from. Watching the contents cards be slowly revealed often gives you some insight into which goblets contain wine or poison. You can also possibly gain some information by watching which goblets your opponents bid (or do not bid) on.
It’s meant to be a light game, and the play length of 15 minutes is accurate. Though it is short, I am not a big fan of the Sicilian cards. As only two of the 12 cards have special abilities – each of which can truly change the game – I dislike this imbalanced distribution very much because a player who is dealt one of these has a truly huge advantage over everyone else. Even if you don’t get a special action card, a player who gets a value “1” card is a bit worse off than a player who gets a “6’ or “7”. If I were to keep playing this one, I’d likely just nerf at least those two special cards – and, in fact, one of the variants in the rules tells you to simply not use any of the Sicilian cards.
The art is simple enough, though a large part of each card is devoted to flavor text, and I wish that the numbers and icons were bigger and more easily distinguished. While the cards are pretty, they are not overly functional as the important information is hard to read. As the flavor text on the character number cards are all identical (for any given number), I’d prefer more emphasis given to the actual game part of the card here.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y, Craig V, Karen M
- Not for me…