Cast the ritual was sent to me for preview purposes. It also bears saying that the copy I received is a prototype and will inevitably change before release.
This preview will be a little different than usual as the game doesn’t have a completed box and most of the art is still placeholder. Thus the lack of pictures and visual aids.
Cast the Ritual is a game all about hand management and interfering with your competition. You will do this by trying to arrange your hand in the proper order to combine the cards in the ritual. The current ritual is represented by the cards in the middle of the table. The first round starts with three cards, then four, and the last round is five cards in the center of the table. You select your character (each has a specific ability) and then you are dealt your five cards at the beginning of the game and you may not put them in any other order once dealt. You are given one free move per turn and that allows you to swap a card in your hand with the one next to it. This is the primary way in which you’ll get your cards into the correct order to claim the round. Your hand is always read from left to right. Your hands maximum card limit is five plus the number of cards required for the ritual so eight, nine, then ten cards. The actions you take during a turn are as follows. Draw a card from the deck, you may move one card left or right in your hand, then you take one action. The available actions are drawing an additional card from discard or deck, moving an additional card (includes previously moved card), discard cards for gold which you then use to draw additional cards, you may play a card for its action, and last but certainly not least you may cast the ritual which ends the round. Once cast all other players get one more play to try to do the same. There are a few little wrinkles but this is basically the game. Once the ritual is cast points are scored. You get 4,5,6 points for being the first to cast in the 1st,2nd, and 3rd rounds respectively. If you are able to cast on your final turn you’ll receive one less point and the ability to draw additional cards. You also receive partial points for a partial spell etc.
This brings us to my thoughts on the game. I have to admit I just wasn’t feeling this one. First there are only six or seven possible ingredients for a ritual meaning there is not much variety in the patterns you’re looking for and thus several ingredients carry through rounds. This also breaks the immersion of theme. The game is expected to be played with you holding your hand but we found it was just easier to play them face up on the table. It just got annoying trying to keep cards in the same spots while holding them in my hand. Several of the cards had similar effects or effects that just seemed anticlimactic. We hardly ever felt compelled to directly interfere with one another’s card orders. Also nobody ever used the gold system to purchase cards. There are a couple of balancing issues that could be worked out etc. This brings us to the theme. This theme could have been anything, it just feels really pasted on. It fails to really stand out from other games I’ve played with similar or the same mechanics. The other issue is the game could do without some of the mechanics or at least they need reworked. Now I know this has been largely negative and that’s not entirely fair. The game is competently designed at its core and could be a lot of fun with some tweaks. I feel like there is a gem of a good maybe not great game in here I just have not found it yet. I however am excited to see the further evolution of this game before and after it hits Kickstarter.
I would like to close by thanking Mr. Cliff Stornel at Cliffside Games for letting me have an early look at his game and hopefully he isn’t discouraged by my somewhat harsh criticisms.