The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits Game Review

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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
  • For 2 to 10 players
  • Variable game play length

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Memorization
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Time to see who is right and who is dead

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

In this game, if you’re outsmarted, you’re out. While you might live on to lament and scorn your poor luck, the character you control dies. It’s a battle of wits to the death. Think carefully, as one wrong sip could cost you the game.

The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits, designed by Matthew O’Malley and published by Game Salute, is comprised of 70 Character Wine/Poison cards, 12 Sicilian Wine/Poison cards, 10 Character cards, 10 Goblet cards, and 1 Time card, The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The Character cards have images taken from the movie, with one side showing the character in a lively pose and the other side showing the same character in a state of death or dying. The rest of the cards are colorfully illustrated by the talented Felicia Cano.

A Battle of Wits? To Death? I Accept!

To set up the game, first place 1 Goblet card per player in a row in the middle of the playing area. The Goblet cards have letter values “A” through “J” (making it possible to play the game with up to 10 players). Start with the Goblet card with the letter “A”, and then “B”, and then “C”, and so on. This is important when determining who gets to drink out of what Goblet. Any Goblet cards not used should go back in the game box.

Second, have each player select 1 Character card. This can be done at random or each player can take the Character card they like best. Characters have no impact on the game and are there for thematic reasons and organizational purposes only. Any Character cards not used should go back in the game box.

Third, organize the Character Wine/Poison cards into piles so each player has 7 Character Wine/Poison cards that are associated with their Character card. Each Character card will have a symbol that matches the symbols on the Character Wine/Poison cards. Have each player check their cards and correct any mistakes. If playing with 6 or more players, only play with the Character Wine/Poison cards with the number values “3” to “7”. Place all other Character Wine/Poison cards back in the game box.

Fourth, determine who will be the first Dealer of the game and give them the Time card and the Sicilian Wine/Poison cards. The Dealer now shuffles the Sicilian Wine/Poison cards and deals 1 to each player, face-down. This card is added to the player’s Character Wine/Poison cards.

Fifth, the Dealer places the rest of the Sicilian cards face-down in a deck and flips the Time card so it’s showing the “Day” side face-up.

That’s it for game and round set up. The player to the left of the Dealer goes first.

All Right, Where Is the Poison? The Battle of Wits Has Begun…

The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits is played in turns. Starting with the player on the Dealer’s left and continuing in turn order sequence, each player will place 1 card from their hand. Where the card is played is very important and players should do all they can to remember what cards they played and to what Goblet.

Play One Card to Goblet’s Contents

Any card in the player’s hand can be played above a Goblet card, face-down, to increase the total amount of Poison or Wine contents it contains. The number values next to the card indicate the “strength” of the Poison or Wine and will be used later to determine if the contents of the Goblet will kill a character or not. When placing cards as contents to the Goblet, always add new cards above previous played cards, ensuring the card is not covered up completely. This allows players to easily see how many cards are being added to the Goblet’s contents and by whom.

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Play One Card to Goblet’s Bid

Only Character Wine/Poison cards from the player’s hand can be played below a Goblet, face-down, as a bid to own and drink from the Goblet. Sicilian Wine/Poison cards cannot be used as bids since there is no way to know who owns the card. While it may seem foolish to bid on a Goblet, keep in mind that players will most likely not bid to drink from the Goblet that has the poison. Or maybe they are bluffing. Maybe they are bidding on a Goblet that has a lot of wine or tricking you to grab the Goblet. Part of the fun is finding out. The indicated Poison or Wine value for the card is ignored when used as a bid. Only the card’s number value and Character symbol are taken into account. Similar to adding cards to the Goblet’s contents, add new cards to the Goblet’s bid so all the cards are visible, but as always, face-down.

Never Go in Against a Sicilian When Death is On the Line!

The Sicilian Wine/Poison cards cannot be used as a bid to own and drink from a Goblet, but they can be used to add wine or poison to a Goblet. There are also two Sicilian Wine/Poison cards with special abilities, although players cannot use the card’s ability and add to the contents of a Goblet at the same time.

Immunity

This special Sicilian Wine/Poison card is played face-up next to a Goblet card. Every poison in the Goblet’s contents that belongs to the player has no effect (is not counted as poison or wine). All other poisons from opponents do.

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Switch

This special Sicilian Wine/Poison card is played and then discarded. The player switches all the bids under one Goblet with another, making certain to keep the cards in the bid order in which they were played.

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But It’s So Simple! All I Have to Do Is Divine from What I Know of You…

Every other round, the Dealer will reveal the closest card to each Goblet’s contents that has not yet been revealed. This shows the players if the Goblet has wine or poison, but not how much. The round in which a card is revealed is tracked using the Time card. The Time card starts on the “Day” side” and is flipped to the “Night” side when the Dealer takes their turn. AFTER the Dealer takes their next turn, they flip the Time card back to the “Day” side and reveal another card under each Goblet. This continues, with the Time card flipping back and forth. Depending on the number of players in the game, a maximum of 2 or 3 cards will be revealed, informing the players which Goblets are most likely deadly to drink.

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Let’s Drink; Me from My Glass, and You from Yours…

When all the cards have been played, it’s time to see who is right and who is dead. First, the bids are resolved. Starting with the “A” Goblet card and continuing in alphabetic order, all the cards under the Goblet’s bid are revealed. Whichever Character has the majority of points under the Goblet’s bid owns the Goblet. Ignore the poison and wine symbols, as they have no impact on the Goblet ownership. Points are counted by adding the number values next to each Character symbol. If there is a tie, the Goblet goes to the player whose Character Wine/Poison card is closest to the Goblet card. When the bid is resolved, take all the cards and place them in a stack, putting a Character Wine/Poison card that matches the Character who won it on top.

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This process is then repeated. If a player won more than one Goblet, they must choose one, with the Goblet that was not selected going to the next highest bidder. If two or more players have won two or more Goblets, resolve them by starting with the player who has a conflict with Goblets that are first in the alphabet. Any players who did not win a bid now select a Goblet that does not have an owner, starting with the first player after the Dealer going in turn order sequence.

Every player should now have a Goblet they will drink from. Starting with the “A” Goblet, the contents are revealed. If the sum of poison is higher than the sum of wine, the character drinking from that Goblet is dead and the player has lost the game. If the sum of poison and wine is found to be equal, the card closest to the Goblet determines if the character dies (poison kills the character, wine saves them). When a character dies, the Character card is flipped over to reveal their gruesome fate. If they live (more wine than poison), they remain as they are.

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And to Think, All That Time It Was Your Cup That Was Poisoned…

The game can end here. Any player whose character has died has lost. Any player whose character lived has won. If a single game is unsatisfying or players want to revenge their character’s untimely death, another game can be played by collecting all of the Character Wine/Poison cards, shuffle the Sicilian cards, and going again. Players could have a “Best Two Out of Three” or continue to play until only 1 player is left, excluding the other players whose characters were poisoned.

Game Variants

There are a few different ways to play the game. Each are summarized here.

Goblet Ownership

Instead of placing the Goblet cards in a row, give each player 1 Goblet card to place in front of them. Players still play their cards the same way, except it’s now very obvious whose Goblet is getting attention. Keep in mind that a Goblet in front of a player does not necessarily mean the player’s character will drink from it. Another opponent could win the bid and claim the Goblet for their own.

Cooperative Poisoning

Split the players into equal teams or divide the players by “good guys” and “bad guys” using the Character cards. The goal is the same, but players should do all they can to not poison their fellow teammates. The team that has the last survivor wins.

Never Trust a Sicilian

The Sicilian cards add a bit of luck and randomness to the game. Very small, but it’s there. For those who would rather depend completely on their wits and good card plays, remove the Sicilian cards from the game.

Odorless and Tasteless

Iocaine powder has no taste or smell, meaning it’s impossible to detect. To reenact this, remove the Time card from play and never reveal any cards until the contents of the Goblets are resolved.

To learn more about The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks quickly grasped the game’s concept and the goal, but had difficulty working multiple Goblets at once. As one Child Geek put it, “I don’t know why I would want to put poison in my own glass, so I’ll just put wine.” Which would seem to be a good way to go about not being poisoned, but it was obvious what players were doing. When the Child Geeks played with older players, they lost horribly due to their inability to be sneaky about their card plays. They eventually learned, but the first couple of games were pretty rough. As one Child Geek put it, “It’s not enough to put wine in your own glass, you have to poison others and always have a backup plan.” When the votes were in, the Child Geeks approved the game.

And here we have me laugh

The Child Geeks didn’t have much fun with Parent Geeks who kept telling them where the poison was…

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed it. Time between turns was spent discussing and quoting the movie on which the game is based, to a point where everyone was making plans to watch The Princess Bride “as soon as possible”. In the meantime, they enjoyed attempting to poison each other. According to one Parent Geek, “This is a really easy game to learn, but really hard to win. I feel like you don’t learn enough to make good decisions, so you have to hope for the best and load up your Goblet with enough wine to beat the poison.” But the Parent Geeks also liked how players bid on the Goblets to drink from, making it equally important to not only keep track of where the poison was, but also who owned what Goblet. As one Parent Geek put it, “It’s a neat shell game that keeps spinning in front of you until the very end. I’m always left surprised and delighted when we finally drink the cups.” When all the Goblets were cleaned and put away, the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.

The Gamer Geeks enjoyed the game’s theme and what it was trying to duplicate, but didn’t care much for the game play. According to one Gamer Geek, “I’m not sure there is any need for strategy here. I can put as much poison and wine in any cup I want, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t know who owns what until the end.” Playing a series of games helped this, with the winner being the surviving players, but the Gamer Geeks were still not convinced. As one Gamer Geek put it, “The game is OK, but there is never enough information available to help me make good choices. This means I cannot devise a strategy or use any tactics. It comes down to luck, which makes the game less than engaging.” But there were a number of Gamer Geeks who really enjoyed themselves. According to one of these Gamer Geeks, “I think the game does a great job of capturing the absurd battle of wits from the movie, where the poison is everywhere and each player is attempting to outsmart each other. I think it’s a clever game.” As a Party game, the Gamer Geeks all agreed that The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits was a good choice, but only for casual players. Still, there were enough Gamer Geeks who thought the game was pretty good and felt like the other Gamer Geeks were being too negative, accusing them of also not liking the movie. The final vote resulted in the Gamer Geeks giving the game a mixed approval.

The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits is more fun if you know the movie, but can still be fun for those who have never seen it. It would be incorrect to suggest that the game is themeless, but so little is put into explaining what is going on and why, only an individual familiar with the game’s backstory will feel like they are at a table attempting to outwit others to the death. For everyone else, the game boils down to deduction and bluffing, which is still a lot of fun.

I think the game’s real challenge is attempting to deduce how best to hedge your bets. Goblets are going to get poisoned, it’s guaranteed, and a player’s character must drink out of one of them. But the player has a great deal of control over which Goblet they will drink from and how much wine is in it. You just can’t be obvious about which Goblet you want and you need to spread around your resources to keep opponents from knowing your real goals. That can be tricky when you can’t figure out what other players are doing, especially when playing with 9 other players. Do they want the same Goblet as you? Are they poisoning themselves in hopes that they’ll lose the bid? Lots of serious questions for a very fairly lighthearted game.

I enjoyed The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits, for its game play and the energetic table banter that always accompanied it. It’s not a hard game to learn or to play, but it can be very difficult to win. You won’t know if you are a mastermind or a bumbling oaf until the cards are revealed and the characters start dropping like flies. While you won’t make any enemies playing this game, you will most likely be more cautious of friends and loved ones in the future.

And just because…

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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2 Responses to The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits Game Review

  1. Michael says:

    An excellent review! I had never heard of this game before, but it’s now definitely on my radar. My wife and her sister both absolutely love this movie, so this might just be the first game purchase I make that she doesn’t yell at me about!

    • Cyrus says:

      Thanks for reading the review and leaving a comment, Michael. I have 2 other games based on the movie, The Princess Bride, that I will be reviewing, as well. I would not be surprised if this game is but the first of many purchases your wife will enjoy. Sorry, I cannot do anything about the yelling.

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