Time: ~45 minutes
Times Played: 15+
There is always talk about trying to unearth underrated gems and games that sit just outside the top BGG 100 that deserve more love and every time I hear and see this conversation unfold, Broom Service is mentioned within the first ten comments. It’s so criminally underrated that it’s almost in the ‘rated’ category as it’s brought up so often.
But this begs the question, why is Broom Service only talked about in the vein of two topics: underrated board games and board games that are good for Halloween? I’m not any different. This is finally getting a write-up from me because it’s almost Halloween. I’ve thought about writing about Broom Service before. I started the template and took some photos but always pushed it to the back burner.
Why is that? Is it the cute cartoon witch theme that masks the cutthroat mechanics of a ruthless game? Is it the guessing, over-guessing, and second-guessing of each turn and the analysis paralysis that affects players? Is it the awkwardness of announcing to the public that you’re a brave or cowardly witch?
Broom Service is a re-implementation of Witch’s Brew, a card version with similar mechanics but a different feel. I have not played Witch’s Brew and as it’s currently out of print and expensive as all get out, I’ll probably never play it so I cannot provide any more of a comparison of the two but I felt it important to make this note.
Broom Service is incredibly easy to teach. While there’s some complexity and strategy for the players turns (as they decide what to do and bluff/not bluff), what a player is doing and their end goal is simple.
Play a card.
Verbally choose Cowardly or Brave. If cowardly, perform the action immediately. If brave, go around the table in player order and see if any one has the card and wishes to play it as a brave action. This will cancel your action. If no one else has the card, perform the action (which is better than the cowardly version).
The actions you’ll choose are typically creating a resource or delivering a resource. The game, at its core, is a resource gathering and delivering game
Rinse and repeat for seven rounds. There’s actually a brilliant one-minute video by Best Play that provides an overview of the rules and gameplay that I recommend.
The deduction that occurs each round feels different than the similar feeling of other card games. Since players are choosing their cards, the randomness is removed and players are making their decisions based off not just the information in front of them (resources, map configuration, remaining rounds, etc.) but what they think their opposing players are going to do. You are playing the game as much as you are playing one another and this is what creates such an interesting dynamic when compared to other games.
It almost feels like you’re programming or creating an engine with the caveat that you don’t know what cards to choose from. Whereas most games want to reward a player for planning ahead in a logical and strategic manner, Broom Service offers the opposite and creates a more flexible environment for players to manage.’
Make no mistake about it, Broom Service is a game with direct interaction and players can (and will) cancel out one another’s turns. This can be frustrating for some players as their plans cannot come to fruition as they either get blocked or don’t adapt to the players around them. If players don’t enjoy such interaction, they will not enjoy Broom Service. However, if they can handle this ruining of plans, this is a game that might endear itself to them. It’s incredibly social and gets all players involved.
Broom Service plays well at any player count. It’s shocking, I know, but the game works and scales at each level. At two-players, it’s a tense cat-and-mouse game and at five-players, it’s a hectic game where strategy becomes incredibly important as players might need to think outside the box to score points. Two-player games will have more opportunities for Brave actions but also the possibility to lose points due to the “Bewitched” mechanic (which penalizes players for using certain witches each round at random).
As far as game-time, ~45 minutes with four or more players and 30 to 40 when playing with two or three. The game feels twice as long (and I mean that as a compliment) as players try to decide which cards and which tactics to use on the current round. For stress and decision making, I would put Broom Service up against any game in my collection. Obviously, it won’t have myriad of options that The Gallerist has or the direct confrontation that Scythe can offer but that doesn’t make the decisions less important.
Broom Service is a game that while not heavy or complex rules-wise, I would recommend as the next step after a gateway game. Feeling ready for a new challenge after curing Pandemic diseases, completing continental routes in Ticket to Ride, and crafting kingdoms in Carcassonne? Broom Service will offer an experience that none of those games have given a player up to this point.
The game features a double-sided board with one side being the “easy” side and the other adding more complex variants and variables to the game. For everything in the box, you gain an incredible array of different ways to play and explore Broom Service. I wouldn’t say the non-easy side makes Broom Service a heavier game by any means but it does increase the options available to players.
Another issue that gets mentioned is accessibility. The orange and green potions and towers tend to skew towards the same hue for individuals with certain forms of color blindness.
An aspect that causes confusion is what region the towers are residing in? To clarify, the base will let you know where that tower sits and what region you need to be in to score it. Some towers do straddle the borders of regions so it’s possible to score from multiple areas.
Broom Service is not in my top ten games but it’s definitely sitting comfortable in the mid-tier of eleven to twenty-five. I’ll never turn down a game and enjoy playing at every player count. I’m also the absolute worst player at Broom Service. As far as I know, I’ve only ever won once and typically Rachel is wiping the floor with my potion delivery carcass. Everyone has the one game that they’re great at and that game that they’re terrible at and Rachel and mine overlap.
Yet I keep coming back to Broom Service because it’s a great game.