Board games are magic. They can create an air of light, puzzling enjoyment or deep, perplexed confrontation. Normally ending with a in-depth discussion of how things could have gone, one way or the other. And some games have the bizarre ability to make laugh in the pursuit of achieving your goal. Party games fall into this cauldron of games, casting a spell that makes you say or do silly things.
A previous title from Buzzy Games, Top Face, preformed this trick seamlessly. Where one player would draw a card from a deck. Then have to make the same grimace as the image depicted on this card. While the other players had to race to find that face, from a large selection of face-pulling pictures scattered on the table. Simple, amusing and fun for 10 minutes. Longer, if playing with a large group of children and even longer, with a handful of tipsy adults.
Abra Kazam builds off of this game, which is basically the same concept. One player takes the role of the spellcaster and performs an action and the others race to find that action. In regards to the action, Abra Kazam has you casting spells, Potter style. The game comes with a cutely decorated magic wand, which players will be waving in the air, instead of pulling a face. It will be the movement of this wand that will point the other players (or wizards) to discern which spell is being cast by the spellcaster. Unlike Top Face that has around 60 different cards to choose from, this game has a select 24 cards. Narrowing down the choices a tad, but by no means making it easier.
There are four different coloured sets of spell in the game, that are housed in a beautiful but slightly strange box insert. Only two of these sets are used per game, which leads to a slightly different game each time you open the box. On one side is the spell name and a star constellation like drawing, that the movement of the wand needs to follow to activate the spell. The reverse side of the card has the effect of the spell, which I will get to a little later. A duplicate set of these spell cards, with only the spell image are also in the box. These are the cards that the spellcaster will draw from after they have been shuffled. The nice subtle thing about this smaller deck of cards, is that the drawn spell is the reverse to the larger spell cards. So when a spellcast cast their spell from the small card they have in their hand, they will be drawing it in the air, in the correct orientation for the other players.
Each player will have one chance to guess which spell is being cast. Pointing to it and shouting out it’s name. The fastest to do so will win you and the spellcaster a point. Carnage will ensue when kids all scream out, what they perceive the spell and spell name is. “Intellectualis” will become “Intolltacules,” or “Gallinarum will become “that one.” Fingers flailing everywhere. One minute here, the next there, and all because their mother pointed to the same spell too. Guessing incorrectly will mean that you sit out for a while, until someone or no one finds the spell. Finding the correct spell means, both the spellcaster and correct player, takes either the small or the large card into their spell book (a coloured card with a book on it). Each card in your spell book is a point at the end of the game.
Here is another change from Top Face, and evidently, the magic of this game. The player that guessed correctly becomes the new spellcaster. But they have had the previous spell cast on them. They will read the spell effect on the card they have just collected and have to perform the next spell in that fashion. You could be transformed into a Unicorn and have to attach the wand as if it was your horn, casting the next spell with your head. Or a smoke spell covers your eyes, meaning you cast the spell with your eyes closed. Or you are transformed into a snail, casting your spell extremely slow. Whatever you do, the game forces you to mime and act a little. Not too much that you feel like a fool, but a bit. This generates giggles from kids as they watch their parents do crazy things and fits of laughter when merry Uncle Mike does something very bizarre. Performing these actions with a spell becomes a challenge for the young one and also a source of amusement. And once the laughter has died down, the wand has changed hands and you carry on playing.
The game never outlives its welcome, with it’s built in timer. 10 spell remain on the table means it’s game over. Count your cards. It also balances itself, becoming quicker as you remove spells, leaving less possibilities to choose from.
In amongst it’s four types of spells, there are the red spell cards. These are not recommended for your first game. Although there is nothing difficult about them, they add another layer to the game. Making it more of a party style game. These cards have permanent spells that, when cast on the player, stay with them until they guess the next spellcasters spell. Nothing to difficult. Maybe you are now a Cyclopes, watching the game with one eye open or you’ve been turned into a dog, panting with your tongue out. This adds more amusement to the game but only to those who wish to participate in the crazy shenanigans. It might not be ideal for Grandma Gladdis to be tip-toeing around imaginary mice, at the age of 90.
At its heart, this is a family game, aimed mainly at children. And those of a disposition to all things Potter. Adults will probably take it or leave it, but the kids will want to play again and again. And hopefully won't start fighting over the wand. As a party game or cocktail game, it will work at certain parts of the evening. But the game nudges you to be silly, without pushing too hard. And you may or may not like that. Plus, you must alway have space around a bit table, for arms and legs to go flying.
Technical review 9/10
Some magical artwork with a cool magic wand and interesting, yet quaint insert. Simple presented rule book with light mechanisms for families, but party style may not be for all. Not interesting with 3 players.
My BGG score 6/10 (OK - will play it if in the mood)
The presentation is well done, but I like my humor in a game to come naturally. Always fun with new people and when I’m finished. I’m finished. I don’t feel the need to replay. I would recommend playing Top Face instead. It’s cleaner, more natural and you know what your letting yourself in for.
Combined score 7.5/10