Players: 2 - 6
Game type: Cooperative
Time to set up: 2 minutes
Time to play: 30 minutes
Average price: $20 / £25
Much like the movie's Sanderson sisters, this Hocus Pocus board game may feel a little out of place. The film came out back in 1993, after all. However, that hasn't dulled its charm. This is a fun cooperative experience with more than enough challenge to keep you entertained, and it will most definitely put a spell on anyone wanting a fast but engaging experience.
Toil and trouble
Based on the classic movie (now available on Disney Plus, incidentally), the Hocus Pocus board game challenges you to banish all three Sanderson sisters by dawn. How? By brewing up a potion, naturally. You'll concoct your special brew on a game board shaped like a cauldron, and you'll need to fill all five slots with ingredients of the same color or type to progress. Do so to stun one of the three witches and move your victory marker closer to sunrise. Stun a witch three times and you win - dawn arrives and they're defeated.
As is only right, this recipe will call for some suitably disgusting ingredients; we're talking everything from dead man's toe to 'oil of boil' (gross). However, the art-style isn't as nasty. It's cartoon-like and characterful without being overly sweet. In other words, the Hocus Pocus board game is perfect if your vibe is 'spooky yet cute'.
Don't think it's exclusively a board game for kids, though. This thing is hard. Much harder than it seems, anyway. We played it a few times in a row in the runup to Halloween and lost most of those matches.
That's because you can't communicate with your teammates about which ingredient you're going to put down. For the most part, you can't even show them what ingredient cards you have in your hand. Instead, you're allowed to pose one simple question at the start of your turn - you can ask if someone has a specific color or type of ingredient.
To make things trickier, this question can only be answered with a simple yes or no. That makes forming a game plan about which cards to prioritise tough, especially when your allies might accidentally undo your hard work building a set of ingredients by covering your cards with their own.
The result is an experience that deserves to be on everyone's list of the best cooperative board games; it forces you to approach things differently and is much more engaging as a consequence.
Put a spell on you
You'll also need to be flexible and pivot fast if things go wrong. You see, you'll lose the Hocus Pocus board game if you use up all the ingredients from the deck. Basically, you can't afford to make many mistakes - that will waste your stock of ingredient cards, and it's game over if they run out entirely.
As I discovered, losing is all too easy. This is due to the fact that certain ingredients cast a spell when played. Some of these curses remove ingredients from the board, while others discard cards from the ingredient deck itself. In other words, they're brutal.
The only reprieve is stunning a witch and stopping them from casting their magic in the first place. Certain sisters have more powerful spells, so taking out specific ones becomes a priority. You've just got to hope the other players cotton on to which sister you're targeting.
The Hocus Pocus board game never feels unfair, though. Rather than blaming the mechanics, our losses could always be chalked up to our own mistakes or plain bad luck.
Plus, you do have some tricks of your own. Namely, you have single-use tokens inspired by events from the film (like the 'burning rain of death') that give you a much-needed advantage. Equally, certain ingredients activate Binx the cat - secretly a boy from 1693 cursed to wander Salem as a talking moggy - when used. This allows you to play with your hand of ingredient cards face up, or let another player do so. It's not much, but it'll give you the edge you need.
That's what kept us coming back to the Hocus Pocus board game; it's a difficult but fun challenge to overcome, and the perfect companion to the movie itself.