When I heard Baba Yaga, my immediate reaction was, “Isn’t that that old witch lady?,” so clearly I’m worldly and well-versed in folklore. For those of you not as “in the know,” Baba Yaga is a supernatural lady from Slavic folklore that who is “ferocious looking” (according to my Google search) and, apparently, not super fun to be around.
However, Gamewright challenges players to be brave and try to capture the legendary sorceress, in their enchanted card game, Baba Yaga. Plays can use spells, potions, and a bit of luck to capture Baba Yaga so the rest of us don’t have to deal with her bad vibes. No one likes a Debbie Downer.
Set up is super simple. Players separate the Baby Yaga cards and the Owl spell cards from each other and the main deck, then set them up in a vertical line with the plain deck in the center. Then each player gets five of the main deck cards that they keep in their hands so the other players cannot see.
The goal is to be the player with the least amount of points in your hand, so you want to collect those Baba Yagas. Whoever saw the last black cat goes first (#verysuperstitious) and can either exchange a card, cast a spell, or declare “Baba Yaga!,” making sure to end each turn with five cards. Let’s break it down:
Exchange a card: Discard one of your cards onto one of the two discard piles and take either the top card on the other discard pile, or a brand-new card from the facedown main deck.
Cast a spell: Here’s where it gets real. If You have a spell card, you can activate it easily by discarding a number of your potion cards whose total adds up to the number on the spell card. The spell cards include the Pelican, which can turn into a Baba Yaga or an Owl; the Owl, which can turn into two Baba Yagas; Baba Yaga’s Cats, which allow you to take a Baba Taga or Owl card from another player; and the Lost Wand, which lets you dispel Baba Yagas and Owls.
Declare Baba Yaga: If the total value of your hand is four or less, you can declare “Baba Yaga!” and end the game. #Bai, everyone else. After you declare it, players add up the values of all their cards and whoever has the lowest score, wins.
Sure, that sounds like a lot, but I promise once you play through you get super used to the rules and how they work, and then it becomes much easier to remember. This game requires strategy to succeed and a bit of math, so although it’s designed for kids ages 8 and up, younger kids may have a bit of trouble getting the hang of it right away.
The illustrations on the cards are bright and colorful, making it a bit less terrifying that you’re hunting this scary-looking witch lady. The game also requires players’ full attention, and challenges them to be ready to make their best move on every turn, since the game could end at any moment.
While kids will be learning strategic thinking and addition, they’ll hardly ever realize it, since the gameplay is wrapped up in this folk story. So, if you’re feeling brave, deal out those cards and start concocting potions. The Baba Yaga isn’t going to be easy to capture.