Review — Spell Smashers (Renegade Game Studios)
Spell Smashers is the new “monster-battling, loot-collecting word game” by Renegade Game Studios. Play as adventurers setting off on your quest to rid the world of all evil (and become rich and famous in the process). With your vocabulary as your greatest weapon, combine your letter cards to spell words and smash fearsome monsters.
Spell Smashers is designed by Christopher Chung, with artwork by Mihajlo Dimitrievski. It is a 45-60 minute adventure for 1-5 players (yes, there is a solo mode!), ages 12 and up.
Harness the power of your vocabulary in this exciting, monster-battling, loot-collecting word game. In Spell Smashers, you combine your letter cards to spell words, smashing fearsome monsters and their even more fearsome adjectives!
When you deal damage to a monster, you gain precious coins. When you defeat a monster, you collect that monster as a trophy…and gain a new letter to use later on! But beware — as you battle these dangerous creatures, you receive wounds, which are difficult letter combinations that could ruin your day.
Between battles, visit the local town and spend your hard-earned loot to outfit yourself with powerful gear, take on new quests, buy devious potions, or grab an ale at the tavern as you boast about your battle scars. Set your sights on fame and glory as you smash monsters with your spelling skills and rid the world of evil!
A game of Spell Smashers consists of 7 rounds, with 3 phases each round. First, players prepare their words for battle. Second, each player battles the monsters in initiative order. Third, players collect new quests and visit a building in the town to help prepare them for battles in future rounds.
In Phase 1, players prepare words. They choose their active gear for the round (no more than 1 weapon, 1 armor per player). After forming a word from the cards in their hand, they flip the ready token. Players reveal simultaneously and determine initiative (the longest word using letters, not cards). If there is a tie for initiative, the player with the tiebreaker token goes first. If neither of the tied players has the tiebreaker token, first play goes to the player clockwise from the player holding the tiebreaker marker.
In phase 2, players battle monsters in initiative order. The player with the highest initiative goes first.
That player chooses a monster and reveals their cards to deal damage. Each letter card, wound card, and monster trophy composing the word has a listed damage value. Some also have a damage value (fire, earth, or water). Add together the values from all of the cards and trophies to determine the total damage to deal to the monster. But also pay attention to the monster’s modifier and the player’s active gear; the damage dealt may increase or decrease based on certain damage types.
Players gain rewards in the form of coins equal to the amount of damage dealt, removing the coins from the monster crest. If the monster is killed, the player also collects the monster tile as a trophy, in addition to any coins and ale tokens. While attacking monsters, players may also suffer wounds by drawing wound cards equal to the monster’s attack strength.
If any quests are completed during battle, players reveal them to opponents and tuck them under the player board.
Finally, discard all letter cards used to form words this round. Pass the tiebreaker marker to the player with the least amount of initiative this round.
In phase 3, players visit the town (this phase is omitted in the final round). First, players draw two new quest cards and keep one (Hand limit for quest cards is two). Then they choose to visit a building in the town to conduct an action:
- Shaman – Players can heal all of the wounds in their hand. But the cost is to discard a monster tile as payment. If they don’t have a monster tile, they may still use this space without penalty.
- Tavern – Pay $3 to gain 1 ale token per wound in hand.
- Guild – Draw 2 quest cards and keep 1. If they are over the hand limit of 2, they must discard down to 2 quests.
- Armory – Pay $5 to draw 2 gear cards, keep 1
- Alchemists – Purchase 1 potion:
- Elixir ($2) changes a damage type of any 1 card or monster trophy.
- Antidote ($3) discards 1 letter card or wound card to draw a new letter card.
- Tonic ($5) changes 1 individual letter to another letter; the damage value and type don’t change.
At the end of the round, players refill their hands, drawing back up to 7 cards. If a player has over 7 cards, they don’t draw or discard any cards. Add ale tokens to any surviving monsters in the play area. Replace any defeated monsters with a new monster and modifier cards, and add coins to the monster crest. Finally, advance the round marker.
End of game
At the end of the 7th round, skip the town visit phase. Players tally their VPs as follows:
- Monster trophies = 3 VP
- Gear cards = 1 VP per 2 cards
- Completed quests = listed VP
- Ale tokens = 1 VP
- Leftover coins = 1 VP per $5
- Wounds = -1 VP each
The player with the most VPs wins!
The theming is carried out well throughout the game, especially with the whimsical artwork. Each Monster Tile, one for each letter of the alphabet, has a different monster that corresponds with that letter. A is for Alicorn. B is for Bugbear. H is for Hippogriff. S is for Shapeshifter. This is also a great lesson in mythical creatures. I encourage anyone that plays this game to really look at the artwork throughout the whole game and its parts.
The components are very well made. The monster crests, monster tiles, and ready tokens are all on thick cardboard that will last through many plays. The cards, which are of average cardstock, have different colored backs for each type (consonants, vowels, wounds, etc.). This makes them easy to separate and differentiate during play. That tiebreaker token is pretty awesome too!
The hardest part I have with Spell Smashers is actually getting it to the table. When I mention it as a word game where you spell words to fight monsters, I don’t always get a positive reception. I can see how this game wouldn’t really appeal to people that are not fans of word games or may have a language-based learning disability.
To me, the game is too short. The word building portion of the game is my favorite part. But in reality, you are only building 7 words throughout the entire game. I would prefer if you continued to fight all of the monsters to the death each round (this would eliminate the ale tokens, but no big deal). Or, maybe set a certain number of monsters to beat in the game. Or set a score to reach to declare victory, ignoring the number of rounds.
I really enjoyed this game. The gameplay and mechanics are entertaining and often challenging. The complexity of the game can increase when accumulating the wound cards. Many of those have less than desirable letter combinations, making it tricky to form a good word. These wounds might end up working against you, making it next to impossible to make a word of a decent length or damage. Good thing we can visit the Shaman to heal those wounds!
The theming is carried out well throughout the game. The artwork is super fun, and the components are very well made. The rulebook is well composed. It is easy to read and understand the gameplay. I also love the fonts used in the rulebook and on the cards.
The game scales well, from 1-5 players. It may take a little longer as players examine their cards each round to try to find the best word to play, but as soon as everyone gets into the groove of fighting the monsters and visiting the town, those phases can go quick. Thankfully there is a solo mode that I can play when I just can’t find other players that are interested. And in the solo mode, you can tailor the difficulty to match your experience and desired level of challenge.
With 84 Letter Cards (57 Consonants, 27 Vowels), and 24 Wound Cards, there are plenty of letter combinations to form words with. Plus, as you fight the 26 monsters (one for each letter of the alphabet), the Monster Tiles also add an additional 26 letters to combo with. This gives a reasonable replayability value to the game.
There is plenty of positive player interaction throughout the whole game. There isn’t much downtime, except if you have a player that takes a long time to think about the word they are forming. The fun factor is pretty high in my book.
- Release Date: October 24, 2018
- MSRP: $45.00
- Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
- Age Range: 12+
- Player Count: 1-5
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