Published on August 12th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich0
A Battle of Wits, To the Death!
“The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right…and who is dead”
The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits
Releasing at GenCon this year were three officially licensed Princess Bride card games. We were able to play with a copy of A Battle of Wits, a game designed by Matthew O’Malley. This game brings to life the memorable scene of the Sicilian versus The Man in Black in a game of high stakes bluffing- where DEATH is one the line! If you’re a fan of thematic, quick card games like Love Letter, A Battle of Wits is a perfect game for you.
I Clearly Cannot Choose the Wine in Front of Me
A Battle of Wits is a game for the Princess Bride fan. All the art, design and text evokes the beloved franchise from the scheming Sicilian quotes to Wesley’s heart-melting smile. This game is supposed to invoke the various trickery, smack-talking bravado and lying that occurred in the movie scene between the Man in Black and Vizzini. At the end of this game some players will live and others will be tragically poisoned.
The actual gameplay is so simple: players pick a character from the Princess Bride. Your choices are… varied to say the least. You can play as the main heroes (Buttercup, Inigo) or villains (Prince Humperdinck, Count Rugen), but you could play as the more obscure options like The Albino or Miracle Max (as portrayed by Bill Crystal). Players receive their character’s starting deck, which are identical except for the character icon, to identify who has played which cards. These cards are all numbered 1-7 with odd cards being poison cards and even cards being wine cards. Players also each gain a randomly drawn “Sicilian” card.
Players take turns placing cards face down “inside” the goblet, or under it as your bid. Once all players have placed all their cards, bids are revealed to see who drinks from which goblet- the player who bids the most has to drink that goblet. Then, going in ascending goblet order, the contents are revealed. Players add the sum of the wine and poison cards.
The higher sum determines the goblet’s overall contents and determines if you survive. If you drink a goblet that is mostly poison, you die. If you drink a goblet with mostly wine, you live. In the event of a tie, the first card put inside determines the contents. The Sicilian cards add a bit of gameplay variation if the Immunity or Swap cards are drawn, but players aren’t really going to know which cup has more poison or wine.
You’re Just Stalling Now
Unlike the actual encounter in the movie between the hero and villain, A Battle of Wits is more chaotic because it fits from 2 to 10 people in a game. That’s a lot of goblets. A Battle of Wits can easily scale because there aren’t mechanics that will break under the addition of more players. The fun of the game comes from bluffing and watching what other players do without having any information.
All the bids are secret throughout the entire game unless players use the day and night variant where the goblets’ contents are revealed one card at a time starting at the dealer’s second turn, which I felt revealed too much especially in the two player game. We preferred the ‘Odorless and Tasteless’ version where both players choose their final goblet completely blind. This way is more dangerous and feels more evocative of the movie scene.
I feel A Battle of Wits is best with as many players as possible. This game is a battle of luck and in my experience winning luck-based games feels better and the victory tastes sweeter the more people you have to compete against.
If you don’t want to take on 9 opponents, there is also team variants included in the rulebook where it’s good guy team versus bad guy team. Players try to not poison their team members and the team with the most living characters at the end wins.
A Battle of Wits is a fun Russian Roulette style game that relies entirely on luck and, thankfully, lacks the permanent consequences. There can be multiple winners and quite possibly no winners. It is a great party game that focuses on providing lighthearted entertainment instead of a strategic challenge.