FTW Staff Picks - Herbalism

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new. 


Genre: Deduction

Designer: Liu Xiao, Eros Lin

Player Size: 3 to 4 Players

Game Length: 20 minutes

For fans of: CLUE, Love Letter, Alchemists

EmperorS4 have continued their output of bringing games designed in Asia to North American audiences. Similar to Oink Games, they are focusing on smaller, quick games that can appeal to a wide range of players. Their most recent output includes 3 titles from their latest Kickstarter campaign. Herbalism is a very fast deduction card game that plays quite similar to Love Letter. Multiple rounds of play are there to help assist with any unfair advantages in the deduction elements of the game. 


In Herbalism, players take on the role of novice pharmacists attempting to find the cure by exchanging pieces of information with one another. Before Ingredient cards are dealt to players, two cards are kept hidden beneath the Curing action card. The rest of the cards are distributed evenly into each player's hands. Each turn the current player will move their Pharmacist token to a Medicine card, and then select an Action to perform. All actions require the current player to select one other player and exchange or be given cards of a particular colour. At the end of their turn they may attempt to make a prediction on one of the colours they believe may be part of the cure. Each prediction token awards 1 point if correct, but deducts a point if incorrect. Whenever the current player attempts to find the cure they will place their marker on the card with the colours of their prediction. Each player will then have the opportunity to follow the same prediction or select another solution. Guessing the cure correctly awards 3 points, followers gain 1 point if correct but lose 1 point if incorrect. Once a cure is discovered, a new round begins. As soon as a player has accumulated at least 7 points the game is over. The player who has the most points is declared the winner of the game.

Herbalism reminds me a lot of CLUE Suspect, which is the card game version of CLUE. Players make guesses, cards are revealed to players in secret, and then the race is on to find the solution. In Herbalism, there's guesswork not only being done on actions that involve you, but also in every other action that occurs. You have to infer certain things in order to reach the solution the fastest. The follow option gives players a chance to score points even if they were at a turn disadvantage. And playing multiple rounds will reduce the luck factor of each game. Overall, it's like they took Love Letter and CLUE Suspect and made a very polished offspring of the two. 


Not all deduction games need to be shouting matches like Werewolf or Avalon. There's a reason people enjoy CLUE to this day. It has that basic element of mystery and investigative work. While it shows its age in its original design, the basic formula is still a great foundation to all of these modern deduction games. Love Letter's success has proven there is a market for this type of simple, fast card game and anyone who enjoys it should definitely play a game of Herbalism