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Spell Smashers Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Christopher Chung
Artist: Csaba Bernáth and Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-5
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 45-60 min.

From the publisher:

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!

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

I received a copy of this game for the purposes of my review, but all the opinions here are mine, and not paid for by the publisher.

Review: Spell Smashers

Overview and Theme:
Take a word game and plunge it into the fantasy world of ogres and golems.. and you've got Spell Smashers! Use letter cards to build words to vanquish monsters, collect money to buy armor and gear, complete quests, and emerge victorious at the end of seven rounds of word-based battle.

This fantasy-word game mash up is a delight from start to finish, and I'm excited to share it with you today.

Components and Setup:
Spell Smashers is a great game for families, kids, and gameschoolers, but it has more bits and setup required than many of the games that I've reviewed here or that I play with my gameschooling friends.

Setup starts with a board in the middle of the table, representing a medieval fantasy town with locations like the Guild, Armory, Alchemist, Tavern, and Shaman. You'll add gear and quest cards to the board, as well as the ale and potion tokens, the money, and a round marker along the round track at the top. At the end of each round of play, your character will be able to visit one of these locations to gain a particular kind of advantage.

The illustrations are great and really helped us get into character!

Next, you get to setup the starting monsters! Pulling from the alphabetical deck of thick, sturdy monster tiles is always a joy. Each tile goes on top of a modifier card giving every game a different mix of creatures to fight. Will you take on the Nasty Pixie or the Awful Ogre? Each monster is worth a different number of coins (the total showing on the monster card and its modifier card).

Each player will also need a player board and a starting hand of cards - three vowels and four consonants. You'll be using these letter cards to build words, and the points on the letters indicate their strength. Will your first word be strong enough to defeat a monster, or just wound it?

The last bit of setup is just to make sure that all your other decks of cards (consonants, vowels, wounds, monsters, and modifiers) are shuffled and ready to go. You made it this far! Ready to set off on your word-filled journey?

Game Play and Mechanics:
Spell Smashers will play out over the course of seven rounds.. each one starts out with players trying to build the best (longest and/or strongest) word they can. The longest word will give the player the initiative to go first, giving you first pick among the monsters to defeat. Monsters with more remaining coins will earn more for you but monsters with more useful letters might help you more in later rounds, because you'll be able to use and reuse the letters on the monsters you have vanquished.

Each player, in initiative order, gets to fight a monster. You'll take coins away for each hit of damage you do (each letter in your word), but you will also have to take one or more wound cards. These cards stay in your hand and will take away a victory point for each wound you still have at the end of the game.

If you fully defeat a monster, you get to claim that tile as a trophy! Once all players have engaged in battle for this round, it's time to visit the town. The various locations on the main board can help you buy gear (Armory), take on a new job (Guild), stock up on potions (Alchemist), heal your wounds (Shaman), or boast about your wounds (Tavern).

Each of these locations will help you in a different way, but you can only visit one location each round. It's a tough decision between adding better gear or healing your wounds, and this is where a lot of the strategy gaming comes into the mix.

Picking up new guild cards will give you new ways to earn extra victory points--if you can do the specific task on a card (Form a word in which all letters are unique), then you can reveal the guild card and earn those points for the end of the game.

Don't forget to stock up on ale and potions as well as gathering coins... each ale token you have is worth a victory point at the end of the game, and the potions can allow you a little flexibility during battle (changing letters or letter types or discarding wounds).

One round is those three parts: spell the best or longest word you can and reveal your words to determine initiative, use your word to attack a monster, and visit a location in the town to set yourself up in a better position for the next round. Seven rounds, and the game will be over!

You'll also want to read about the three attack types (fire, earth, and water), which can change the amount of damage you do if a monster is weak or resistant to a specific type. They also can interact with a few of the different weapons and armor pieces, so it's good to keep an eye on that.

There seems like a lot to do with Spell Smashers - there's more setup and a whole world of characters and monsters you can immerse yourself in, but once you get going, it's really only seven words that you'll spell, one per round!

You're doing a little bit of engine building here as you gather letters that will help you spell longer and better words each round, as well as adding to your character's strength with gear and potions. We definitely found ourselves invested in the theme and the story of the game, which is always a delightful experience. There's even a solo mode, if you can't find other spellers to battle alongside you!

The Good:
Spell Smashers is an amazing mash up of character, plot, and story from the fantasy realm mixed with the logic and vocabulary of a word game, and a bit of engine building strategy to boot.

The components are amazing, with great illustrations on the unique monster cards, plus a well-laid out rulebook that includes plenty of examples to show how the game works. Spell Smashers is complex enough that it's more game than many of my young gameschooling friends had encountered before, so it's a step up in complexity for them without being overwhelming or overly long.

As a gameschooling mom, I am a huge fan of what Spell Smashers is and does. The kids I've played with have started thinking about words in a different way--thinking about things like letter frequency and letter combinations (on those difficult-to-shake wound cards). Being able to shuffle the letter cards around lets kids search for longer and stronger words and helps improve their working vocabulary. But don't mention any of that to them--the theme here is instantly engaging, and kids are much more vested in fighting the monsters than in noticing that they're doing a lot of great academic skill work along the way.

(Don't let my gameschooling gushing turn you off, though--this game was greatly enjoyed by many adult fantasy and/or word game fans! There is plenty here for you to sink your teeth, or fangs, into!)

The Bad:
Looking at Spell Smashers through the lens of an adult gamer, there's not much I didn't like. It's just a tiny bit fiddly in needing to put out the coins and take them off as you do damage (somehow, we wound up making change all the time), and there's quite a bit to set up, but many adult gamers will take that in stride.

Looking at Spell Smashers as a family game for kids, tweens, and teens working to improve their vocabulary and word-logic skills through entertainment, I might like to see official rules for a shorter or longer game, or more flexibility in balancing things between family members who might not all be on the same level, but that's certainly something that we can add house-rules for as we play, too.

Players Who Like:
Players who are fans of the fantasy, dungeon crawl and monster battle theme from Dungeon Roll to Colossal Arena to Cavern Tavern will enjoy the monsters and character-building here; fans of word games from Paperback to Wibbell ++ to Bananagrams will be able to strut their stuff in Spell Smashers, too.

Final Thoughts:
It's probably clear by now--I'm enthralled with this new take on word- and world-building. The mash-up in Spell Smashers between word games and monster fighting will bring worlds together at the game table. The production value is terrific and the game is just plain fun. Who doesn't want to take on a Quarrelsome Kraken with the power of words? I'm glad to add Spell Smashers to our rotation both with adult gamer friends and with my younger gameschooling groups as well.

Check out Spell Smashers on:


Alexa Chaplin- Reviewer

My name is Alexa: I'm a life-long game player and homeschooling mom to two awesome kids. I've loved board games since my early days playing Scrabble and Gin Rummy with my grandmother, and life only got more interesting when I married a Battletech enthusiast and fellow game lover. We've played games with our kids since they were small, and I helped start a thriving homeschool co-op where we have weekly sessions of board games with kids.  In a family with kids raised on Catan and Pandemic, life is sure to be fun! You may run into me on Twitter, BoardGameGeek, and other social media as MamaGames. Be sure to say hi!

See Alexa's reviews HERE.
Spell Smashers Review Spell Smashers Review Reviewed by MamaGames - Alexa C. on May 15, 2019 Rating: 5

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