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Hocus Pocus: The Game

Work together to defeat the three witches with the aid of Binx the cat. However, due to the powers of the witches, communication is limited so you have to play carefully if you hope to survive Halloween night.

Designed by Prospero Hall and published by Ravensburger, Hocus Pocus: The Game is a light cooperative card game based on the Disney movie from the 90s. Does the game do its source material justice?

Gameplay

The board is placed in the center of the table. The board has five spaces for cards, each of which shows one of the game’s five ingredients and one of five colors. Each player is dealt a hand of three or four ingredient cards based on player count. Each card shows an ingredient type and a color. When you play a card onto one of the five spaces on the board, it must either match the ingredient or the color of the space or card currently on top of that space.

On your turn, you begin by asking one question. You either ask if the other players have a specific ingredient type or a specific ingredient color in their hand. The other players then respond with 'yes' or 'no' but cannot say how many of that card type they have. This is the only communication allowed about your cards. Next, you must play one ingredient card to the board and then draw one card from the ingredient deck. If you cannot legally play a card, you must discard at least one ingredient card (you may choose to discard more if you wish) and then draw back up to full hand limit. However, you must also draw a card from the witches' spell deck.

When you draw a card from the spell deck, you must perform the action shown on the card. These may create havoc such as causing cards to be discarded from the ingredient deck or removing cards from the board. The spell card shows which of the three witches is casting the spell. If the witch casting the spell is currently stunned, you ignore the spell and do not perform its action.

Some ingredient cards you play will show either Binx the cat or the spell icon. If it shows the spell icon, you must draw a spell card. If it shows Binx, you take the Binx figure and place it in front of you. As long as Binx is in front of you, you play with your cards face up on the table.

If you manage to get five matching ingredient cards (either type or color) showing on the board at one time, you have stunned a witch. Which one depends on whether the match is by type, color, or both. When you stun a witch the round immediately ends. The last person to play a card draws back up to their hand limit. You then take all the ingredients from the board and the ingredient discard pile, shuffle any that show Binx or the spell icon back into the deck, and remove the rest from the game. If any player currently has Binx in front of them, he is set aside, waiting to be reclaimed. A new round then begins.

Players begin the game with four trick tiles at their disposal. Players may spend these once per game. Each one grants its own unique ability — for example, one allows you to ignore the spell you just drew and draw a new one (note: there is a misprint in the rulebook for this ability but it is written correctly on the tile) while another allows you to swap an ingredient card with another player.

If players manage to stun a witch three times, they win the game. If you must draw an ingredient card due to discarding after being unable to play an ingredient or because of a spell, and there are no cards left in the deck, you lose the game.

Hocus Pocus: The Game Components

Review

Hocus Pocus: The Game is deceptively simple. When you first start playing, it can seem quite easy, but by the final round you realize it’s not that simple to pull off a win. The game is fast enough to teach rather quickly, but still challenging.

The communication restrictions really make things difficult, especially as more and more cards are removed from the deck. There’s an element of learning how the other players think, across multiple games, as you figure out the best ways to communicate with the restrictions placed on you.

There is plenty of luck of the draw involved, but it’s weaved throughout the game fairly well. The right card can help or hinder you, but you can plan accordingly by trying to stun the right witch based on what spells have or haven’t come up, or trying to keep as many cards in the deck as possible during the early rounds. This gives players some control over the luck, particularly once you become more familiar with the game and the cards.

Hocus Pocus has great-quality components. The cards are thick and shiny, the cat meeple is adorable, and the artwork colorful and fun. The game has a very family-friendly look to it that might turn off some older players — particularly, the board looks like it's targeting a younger audience — but in general we liked the look of the game, especially the artwork on the spell cards and witches.

The theme may get some mixed responses. A lot of people will be familiar with the Hocus Pocus movie, but not everyone will be a fan. That being said, there are plenty of people with a lot of nostalgic love for the film, and the game’s theme is largely accessible even if you are not familiar with the movie. It’s witches and black cats and magic spells. You may wonder who this Billy Butcherson character on one of the trick tokens is, for example, but generally speaking you can get the flavor of the theme regardless of having watched the movie.

If you’re looking for a light cooperative game that is still challenging to master, Hocus Pocus: The Game fits the genre well and keeps game time down to twenty or thirty minutes. It can be enjoyed by families with older children, but is just as much fun for adults. It would also make a solid edition to a Halloween game night.

Pros: Light rules but challenging gameplay, ways to account for luck of the draw, great component quality

Cons: Some of the aesthetics are intended for young players, theme may turn off players who are not fans of the film

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.