When I reminisce on my academic career, past college, past the abject terror of high school, I settle somewhat comfortably back in the days of my budding nerdiness: middle school. I had found my niche in a small group of also-nerdy friends, and we all luckily shared a class and could congregate in our cluster of desks, pass notes, laugh at our inside jokes, and enjoy being around each other.
Times were good and simple, and my concern was reading the next Harry Potter book or at whose house we were going to play Kingdom Hearts on that particular weekend. Lucky for me, that class that we all had together was English, the subject that came most naturally to me…
Not only did my love for words and talent with the English language mean that I could goof off with my friends in class at twelve years old and still pass the spelling test, but it also means that I now have a certain adeptness for word games that I can lord over my dear husband, Adam, who normally decimates me when we sit down to play… anything at all.
So, naturally, when I realized that the next board game on my list was a word game, I was ELATED, and so very prepared to use my vocabulary skills to take revenge on my gamer husband. When I first set eyes on my next item from Renegade Games, Christopher Chung’s Spell Smashers, I was hooked. When I set eyes on the gameplay instructions, however, I knew I had found a special game: a game for me.
Spell Smashers: Let Me Spell It Out For You…
The main function of Spell Smashers is to earn points by using the letter cards to spell words! Sounds simple, but add in equipment cards (with some really nifty boosts and bonuses!), different alchemical concoctions, and the terrifying (but actually helpful) wound cards, and it gets a little trickier.
- Letters: Most likely obvious by now, the main function of the game is to use the letter cards in your hand to spell words, thereby collecting points; each card has a point value, and sometimes can count double, based on the monster’s weaknesses to the listed element (water, fire, earth). Create words of different lengths and mixture of consonants and vowels in order to fulfill…
- Quests: Part of the main game function is to draw and choose to take on different quests; they range in difficulty from “create a word that shares two letters with the monster you are attacking” to “use all the letters in your hand”, and have a point value assigned, based on that difficulty. It’s pretty simple: complete the quest, earn the points.
- Ale: Ale yeah! Each ale that you collect (either by doing damage to a monster or by visiting the tavern and paying a fee!) is worth 1 victory point (VP) in the final scoring! Hint: Each wound card you have in your hand is worth 1 ale at the tavern! And, let’s be honest. Who doesn’t like a little beer with their monster-slaying?
- Money: And if you’ve got beer, you’ll need money to pay for that beer (and other things)! Defeating monsters not only wins you monster tokens, but money, too! Each monster has a designated point value, and each point of damage dealt counts as $1 that you get to take from the monster in question! In the end of the game, each $5 you have counts as one VP.
- Wounds: Some monsters carry damage that they deal to you when you attack them! These monsters will have an attack strength value printed on them, designating the number of wound cards you must draw after attacking. Each wound counts as -1 VP in the final scoring. Wound cards provide letter combinations (“ing”, “est”, etc.) that you can use in creating words. Treat them as you would a letter card, but be careful! If you end a round with too many wounds, you will have to visit the Shaman on your trip to town… and suffer the penalty!
- Potions: Visit the Alchemist to stock up on helpful items to assist you on your way to victory! Elixirs, antidotes, and tonics can be purchased to help you change something about your current situation in the round: damage types, letter cards, wound cards, and even monster trophies can be altered.
- Gear: The Armory can supply you with plenty of helpful gear that you can equip to help beef up your strength against monsters! You are allowed to equip one weapon and one piece of armor per round, and equipment can be swapped out at the beginning of each round. But that’s not even the most helpful part of keeping a hefty stockpile of equipment: each 2 pieces of gear are worth 1 VP in the final scoring.
Spell Smashers: This Game is B-E-A-Utiful, and I’m Going to Tell You Why
It Makes Me Feel Like A Kid Again (But Not Too Much): I think the reason that I enjoyed this game, most of all, is that it feels very nostalgic for me. It captured the lighthearted, fun, not-too-serious-but-still-goal-oriented feel of the games that caught my interest during childhood. Spell Smashers has a fun, colorful, memorable appearance (shoutout to Mihajlo Dimitrievski and Cold Castle Studios–responsible for illustration and graphic design, respectively).
It’s carefree and upbeat, but still provides a challenge. There were several times when Adam would snag a monster token right out of my grasp, or I would repeatedly come within one letter of completing one of the more difficult quest cards, that I came to really appreciate how challenging it actually was, making it fun for a good range of ages.
It’s Educational: That’s right! I’m talking to you nerds with kids! This game is rated as appropriate for ages 12 and up; perhaps you have a whole family of nerds at home? It can accomodate 1 to 5 players. Perfect candidate for a future family game night! Doubles as practice for a spelling test.
Strategery!: There are many, many ways to play this game and many things to focus on as a point-earning-game-winning strategy. The sheer amount of point-scoring collectables in this game gives players a lot to explore and toy with and discover the most effective ways to collect points. For instance, do I keep as many wound cards as I can without being penalized and visit the tavern every round and focus on collecting ale tokens, or do you focus more on gathering all of the coins you can and buying from the armory? The possibilities are vast, and there are many ways to win!
Spell Smashers + English Major = I’m a C-H-A-M-P!
So, if you couldn’t already tell, I was absolutely wowed by this game! I would give Spell Smashers an A+, all around (and not just because I was able to win!!). The versatility of this board game is so refreshing; it can be played so many different ways using so many different strategies by so many different people, and I absolutely love it.
I have played with friends, I would bring this to family game night, and if I had children, I would most definitely try it with them. But, for now, I’ll just stick to playing with Adam, and being the slightest bit obnoxious about it when I win.
Renegade Game Studios has priced this game at $45.00 and is set to release October 24, 2018. Preorder it here!
[Disclosure: Renegade provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Spell Smashers in exchange for an honest review.]