Games In the Stacks! Broom Service

Welcome to Broom Service! Ours is a delivery service where we enlist the services of the finest and most dedicated witches, druids and gatherers, to find and deliver a selection of fine potions to your tower. No matter the location, the distance, or the obstacles, we’ll get it there. Don’t waste your time with the competition, even though they will likely feed you the same line since we all are competing from the same pool of magical talent. The play is simple —  For each of the seven rounds of the game, players will choose four of ten role cards to help them gather potions, fly across the board, deliver potions, and clear obstacles. However, each role card has a safer, “cowardly” action and a daring, “brave” action. If you go for the gusto and take a brave action you may lose everything. If you sit back and play it safe, everyone may leave you in the dust. You’ll need to read your rival delivery services and do both to make it in Broom Service.

The Game

Designer: Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister

Publisher: Ravensburger
Number of Players: 2-5
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30-75
Mechanic: Pick-up and Deliver, Press Your Luck, Simultaneous Action Selection, Bluffing

The Setup for Broom Service (Image Credit: Meaples Magazine)
The Setup for Broom Service (Image Credit: Meoples Magazine)

The Rules

as stated above the core mechanic in Broom Service is role selection where players will choose which roles will allow them to collect resources (potions and wands), move across the board to new territories, and drop off potions at the proper tower in order to score points and bonus resources. The tricky part though is the bluffing element in the role selection.  Each player has the same ten roles which make up their hand and their two pawns on the board are in the same two castles at the start of the game. So, it is likely everyone is going to choose similar cards at the start of the game.

The Role Cards:

At the beginning of each round, players will choose four of the following ten role cards to place into their hands. Additionally, an event card will be flipped over which will have some effect on points at the end of the round (either bonuses or penalties). Either way, these event cards shape how players will create their hand. Also, for games with less than the full compliment of five players, a few role cards will be drawn from an unused deck to be “bewitched.” These cards will incur a penalty if players use them.

  1. Gatherers (3): The gatherers are three different colors and collect three different colored potions (orange, purple, and green). A “cowardly” gatherer would take one single potion from the reserve. A “brave” gatherer would collect up to three resources (potions and wands).
  2. Witches (4): These are your primary source of transportation around the board, allowing your pawn to move from one area to a connecting area. Each witch corresponds to a specific landscape (Hill, Mountain, Prairie, Forest) which is the only type of area on the board they can travel. A “cowardly” witch allows the player to move a pawn into a corresponding, adjacent region. A “brave” witch does the same thing but can also deliver a potion to a tower. Delivery to towers is one of the primary ways points are scored in the game so the witches get used often.
  3. Druids (2): These slow moving fellas deliver potions to towers within certain landscapes. A “cowardly” druid just delivers the potion and gains the victory points on the tower. A “brave” druid gets those points plus a 3 point bonus.
  4. The Weather Fairy: The weather isn’t the best and only the weather fairy can disperse dangerous storm clouds to allow the witches access to an area. Additionally, clouds can be dispersed (through the spending of wands) to gain additional points at the end of the game. .

Bottom line: Gatherers get the goods, the weather fairy clears the way to allow witches and druids to transport the potions into the appropriate tower.

A gatherer (Image Credit: Meople's Magazine)
A gatherer (Image Credit: Meople’s Magazine)

Cowardly vs. Brave Actions:

Each card has two actions: A “brave” action and a “cowardly” action. The brave action provides a greater benefit to the person playing it, but it can also be overruled by another player with the same card, leaving the original player without any benefit. Here is where the “Duty To Follow” rule can really mess you up. It requires that you follow a previous player’s card with your own if you have the same card. You may have planned something in a specific order but now you need to quickly rethink your plan and try to save the round and gain some points. This is how you need to think in this game. Each selection of cards should be able to be played out of order in order to gain some benefit in points or in a set-up for a future round.

The “cowardly” action is safer but provides less of a benefit. However, it is taken immediately so you get something. The core of the game is that only one player can take a “brave” action for each of the roles. So, say that you play the Weather Fairy and state that you are a brave Weather Fairy and you are totally going to dispel these clouds and make some bank. However, if the person next to you has the Weather Fairy in her hand, she has a “Duty to Follow” and will play her card. If she takes the “brave” action, you are left in the dust with nothing. If she takes the “cowardly” action she get to take it immediately and you can still retain your brave action…at least until subsequent players who also have a Duty to Follow play their cards. They may play the Weather Fairy (cowardly or brave action). This continues until all the players either passed or played the card if they have it. The last person to claim the “brave” action, takes it, plays the next role and the whole thing starts again. Once everyone is out of cards, a new round begins, a new event card is flipped, people pick four roles, and the last person to take a brave action in the previous round will start this round.

That is pretty much it! You will score points (in the basic game) by delivering potions, dispelling clouds, and keeping sets of resources at the end of the game. Some towers will only have room for one potion so once it is delivered, nothing else can be delivered there. Other towers can take as many potions as you can deliver to it. Some towers are in the middle of a particular landscape (such as right smack dab in the middle of the forest) while other towers lay on the boundary between two or three different types of landscape. In this case (say a tower is on the border between Hills and Forest) both witches of those corresponding types can deliver a potion. Each cloud has a number and an amount of lightning bolts on it. The number represents how many wands it will take to dispel the cloud with a Weather Fairy and the number of lightning bolts are tallied up at the end of the game. The more lightning, the more points at the end of the game.

The round towers take one potion and the square towers take multiple potions (Image Credit: Meoples Magazine)
The round towers take one potion and the square towers take multiple potions (Image Credit: Meoples Magazine)

The Review

I admit to being a bit skeptical when this game won this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres award. It seemed that the competition (Orléans and Elysium) were both games that provided a wider decision space and more of a strategic experience. I say seemed since I have not had the opportunity to play either of them but I walked into this review doubtful that I would enjoy the game. Broom Service seems lighter (and it certainly is a lighter game than previous winners Istanbul, Legends of Village, and 7 Wonders) and is very chaotic especially in the higher players counts. However, there are several things I really enjoyed with Broom Service.

The Role Cards: The Role Cards are the most clever part of this game. They allow you to gather the resources you need, move them to where they need to go, and clear out obstacles in your path. The ability to take a safe (cowardly) and risky (brave) action really plays on your ability to read what other players have in their hand or predict what they might do. Unlike other role selection games such as Citadels or San Juan your action is not guaranteed. This provides the pivotal decision of the game — go for the brave action (if you think no-one else has the card) or play it safe and take the cowardly. Either way, you need to read your opponents first if you want to ensure yourself a good run.

Multiple Plans of Action: It seems so simple to pick four role cards that will chain together to gain you some points. The gatherer will get me some potions, the weather fairy will clear out some clouds, the witch will deliver the goods, and then another gatherer will get me some potions for next round…however, it rarely goes as planned. This forces you to determine some random paths to points on your turn. This leads to the core emotion of this game — unbridled frustration. You plans will ultimately be ruined if your role cards you are chosen by others and then played out of the order you set them.

Initiative: The other tricky thing about claiming a brave action is that it may give you initiative in the next round. Going first isn’t necessarily the best option for you to play. If you sit last in line after your original plan was ruined you can gain small benefits while other people take the risk. I’d also like to say that with player counts less than 5 you have cursed roles that penalize you for using that role during the round. This provides a great opportunity to play those cards and score some big points while taking the small deduction of points. 

Theme: I’ve heard some complaints that the theme wasn’t particularly tight in Broom Service but I really enjoyed the idea that each player was a potion delivery company vying for the services of all these independent contractors on the board. You think you have the Hill Witch in the bag to deliver some potions but your competition keeps on snagging them out from under you. It may be a slight stretch on the mechanics but it works.

The board looks like Small World, the components are cute as heck, the artwork on the cards are amazing. It looks gorgeous and approachable for such an, at times, frustrating, bluffing game. (Image Credit: Meople's Magazine)
The board looks like Small World, the components are cute as heck, the artwork on the cards are amazing. It looks gorgeous and approachable for such an, at times, frustrating, bluffing game. (Image Credit: Meople’s Magazine)

The Rub

Broom service is an entry level pick-up and deliver game with added bluffing. The map on the game board greatly resembles Small World and has some amazing artwork on the cards which really invokes the theme.  And also similar to Small World, the game shines at the higher player counts when there is very little room for everyone as you rush to deliver potions. The artwork and design is beautiful and deceiving. It lulls you into the belief that this is a nice children’s game but the game play can be brutal and stressful. This will lead you into a whirlpool of self-doubt about which cards you should play in a round. “Is this too obvious?” “I’m sure that Susie is going to go with the Hill Witch but I really need a Hill Witch…maybe I’ll just go with a Weather Fairy. That seems safe.” Meanwhile Susie was thinking the exact same thing. That said, the game teaches quickly, and the core mechanisms are simple enough for emerging gamers to learn on their first try. The added variants will provide enough variability to ensure a few more games without adding to much complexity and the bluffing surrounding the roles leads to expressive game play. We laugh. We groan. We curse the gods. And isn’t that what games are all about?

broom service

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s