Eulen Zauber: A reflection with Jeff Gum

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Verzauberte Eulen was designed by Erich Manz and released by Editoy in 1989, and received a rerelease from HABA in 1991 under the new name Eulen Zauber. So, why are we reviewing a game that’s been out of print for 25 years and was only ever available in Germany? Good question!

I am fucking obsessed with this totally batshit insane game. It defies logic in its obtuse perfection. For starters, let’s talk about the flavor. Eulen Zauber, or Magical Owl, is about a bored wizard who, with nothing better to do with his evening, decides to cast a spell on the forest that makes all the owls switch heads.

You are the owls.

The goal of the game is to reunite your four decapitated owls with their lost heads while navigating the woods, then returning all of your complete owls to the castle to win the game. This is done by rolling 3 dice on your turn: one die is used to move one of your heads, one moves your bodies, and the third moves the BLACK OWL, which we’ll get to later. What this means is that, at any given time, you and one of your opponents are simultaneously in control of your eight total pieces. An owl with a purple head and a yellow body can be moved by the purple player’s head roll, or the yellow player’s body roll. Whenever an owl lands on an already occupied space, those two owls exchange heads. It’s exactly as ridiculous and chaotic as it sounds, and we’re not done. Enter the BLACK OWL. The black owl is a thirteenth neutral piece that is controlled by all four players at once. Other owls can’t move through or land on the space the black owl is chilling at, so through clever maneuvering it can be used as a wall piece. The catch, however, is that the black owl CAN move through, and into, other owls spaces, and therefor trade heads with them. Imagine a scenario where Player 1 moves the black owl onto one of Player 2’s owls, switches heads, and then on Player 2’s turn he takes the black owl’s head and runs with it, using it to block Player 3’s path, while Player 3, who’s head was on Player 2’s body at the start of Player 1’s turn, now can use the black owl’s body to block Player 4. This is a pretty typical round of play.

I can’t recommend this game highly enough, if you can find it. It’s totally insane in all the right ways. Alliances are made, broken, and punished at light speed. You have the bare minimum level of control without things feeling frustrating. You’re simply strapped in for a wild, ridiculous ride. I have no idea how this mechanic of head swapping came about, how the best flavor justification was “oh they’re magical owls”, or basically how this game exists at all, but I love it. I absolutely love it.

 

Jeff

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