I’ve always been a fan of Gamewright games, and their latest, Baba Yaga, doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great card game where you’re trying to get your hand value down to 4 or less. One you do you can call “Baba Yaga” to end the game and have everyone tally up their hands. The lowest value overall wins. It plays 2-5 players ages 8+ in 15 minutes. I’d say that 8+ is really 6+, as my 6-year-old had no problem learning and playing the game independently.
Baba Yaga consists of 3 draw decks, and two discard piles. The main deck is where players will be drawing from, while the two other decks contain Baba Yaga cards and Owl cards. the main deck contains potion cards valued from 1-7, wild cards, pelican cards, cat cards, garlic cards, and lost wand cards. Baba Yaga cards are all the same, and are worth 0 point. Owl cards can be used to purchase two Baba Yaga cards for a cost of 7. To start the game two cards are flipped from the main deck to form the two discard piles, and each player gets a hand of five cards.
Each turn players can take one of three different actions:
1. Exchange a card.
First discard a card into one of the two discard piles. A card can then be drawn from the main deck or the top of the other discard pile. The only exception is if the top card was a spell played the by the previous player.
2. Cast a spell.
Discard potion cards that equal the cost of the spell you wish to cast, then discard the spell card on top of them and resolve it. Once you’re done, draw back up to 5 cards. Spells are as follows:
Pelicans: Draw a Baba Yaga or Owl card.
Owls: Draw two Baba Yaga Cards.
Cats: Steal a Baba Yaga or Own from another player.
Lost Wands: Each player (except the caster) must discard one Baba Yaga or Owl card.
3. Call “Baba Yaga.”
If the total value of cards in a player’s hand is 4 or less they can call “Baba Yaga” to end the game. All players lay their hands face up and total all cards. The player with the lowest total wins. “Baba Yaga” is an action in its own right. A player cannot call it any time they have a value of 4 or less in their hand, only as their turn action.
A few notes. Wild cards can be played as any number, and are worth 10 points if in a player’s hand at the end of the game. Garlic can be discarded to protect a player from a Cat or Lost Wand. It is also worth 10 points at the end of the game. Players must always draw up to 5 cards after playing cards. This includes when cards are stolen, when discards are forced, and when garlic is played.
There’s not much to Baba Yaga, being a card game. The box is a bit larger than the deck, but not overly so. It fits the cards and the rules perfectly with not much wasted space. The card stock feels durable, shuffles easily, and the artwork on the cards is quirky and kid friendly (if not a little weird).
My kids and I really enjoyed this game. It was very simple to learn, yet provided interesting choices throughout play. Choices of when to take a Baba Yaga card or Owl were numerous. Having multiple Baba Yaga cards is great for lowering your hand value, but gives you less space for potion cards to cast spells. Then there’s the anxiety of having a hand value of 4 or less and hoping it stays that way, or that no one else calls “Baba Yaga,” until it’s your turn again.
At $11.99, Baba Yaga is a great deal. This is a must-have card game for families, and one that I can see taking on trips with us for a while in the foreseeable future.
A copy of Baba Yaga was provided free for review by Gamewright Games
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.