Antidote by Bellwether Games Review

Theme and What is it?

A deadly toxin is running through your veins, time is almost up! If you don’t find the antidote soon, the toxin will spread to the point of no return. To make matters worse, you are not the only one seeking the antidote. Others have been administered the toxin, and they are on the same quest as you. Your life hangs in the balance, and the next few minutes will determine if you live or die.

Antidote by Bellwether Games is a game of deduction, deception and mortality. Players move cards through their hands and then must make deductions as to which antidote is correct. The player who makes the correct guess lives and receives victory points.  Be careful. If you are wrong, you die! Even worse, you lose victory points!

Gameplay Mechanics

Antidote is a deduction-based card game. There are two types of cards: Formula cards, which either have a number or an X on them, and syringe cards. Of the eight X formula cards, one is randomly selected facedown (without looking at it) and placed back in the box. This X formula is the antidote. No one knows what is on that card. Each player must discover that for themselves. Now all of the formula cards, including the remaining X cards and syringe cards, are all shuffled together and dealt to players. Any X formula cards in the player’s hands, tells the player that that formula is not the antidote. The game progresses and through careful deductions, the final card in each player’s hand is their guess as to which antidote is in the box. If they are correct, they score points equal to the number on the card. If they are wrong, they lose points.

Antidote also comes with two mini expansions that add variety and even more intrigue to the game. The Placebo Effect allows players to play a placebo cards as a false antidote card face down in their workstation. Clinical Trial is a card that lets each player pick a card from another player’s workstation and place it in their hand. The player who discarded the Clinical Trial determines if you take from your left, right, or across from you. If using the Placebo Effect expansion, each player will receive an ID Badge. There is an ID Badge for each antidote. Depending on if your ID Badge is the antidote or not, you will lose points during the scoring phase contingent on what other players guessed for the antidote. This can be a bit confusing, so make sure to look at the rulebook while scoring.

The other expansion is the Lab Romance. Players can choose to draw a Lab Romance card during their turn instead of taking a normal action. This card is not revealed to the group. This card gives the player a new objective for the game. Objectives range from saving the players next to you all the way to trying to make sure as many other players die as possible. It is a fun way to change the game drastically leaving other players in the dark about your intentions.

Initial Impressions

Here is a fun story about Antidote. We went out to dinner at a restaurant, and after we had ordered, we noticed a group of people at a corner table playing a card game. Of course, we had to find out what they were playing, so I hopped up and walked over to ask them. They told us they were playing a game called Antidote.  They had room to add a couple of people if we wanted to join them.  We promptly let the server know we were moving tables. We played a few games of Antidote over dinner that evening. We made new friends and discovered a new game.  

I am not sure if it was the atmosphere, the thrill of making new friends, or if Antidote is just that good, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself that evening. I will always remember those games of Antidote. All players are engaged. Every player participates in whatever action that turn’s player calls out. That keeps everyone involved at a very high level. Cards are always moving around, and you have to pay attention to what is passing through your hand as well as to what other players are putting in their discard piles. You can’t take a mental break in Antidote, or you will end up dead and lose points.

Game Build Quality

The cards are very nice and can withstand numerous games. If you are super OCD about your cards, like I can be sometimes, I would suggest sleeving them. If for no other reason than to sleep at night. The box holds everything like it should, and it is small enough to be a perfect game to pack with you on outings. 

Artistic Direction

I think it is safe to say that Antidote’s art director took a minimalist approach to the visuals on this game and it works. I really enjoy the minimalism and I feel that it enhances the game play. Players are able to focus on colors, which are the distinguishing feature on the cards. Yes, each color has its own symbol, but you can get lost quickly if you pay attention to those. Because there is nothing flashy in front of you, it requires a ton of concentration to remember what you’ve seen. Don’t even think about sneaking peeks at your cell phone while playing Antidote. It won’t end well.

Fun Factor

I think I have gushed enough about Antidote. Well…I guess you talked me into it. I will keep going. Would I recommend Antidote to my gaming friends? Yes. How about my none gaming friends? Yes, it is a great gateway game.

Age Range & Weight

Antidote is listed as 13+. I think that if a player can memorize and make educated guesses based on limited facts then Antidote would be a fun game for them. Maybe that is 13+. Maybe it can be a few years younger. I have only played the game with adults. I did play Antidote with my parents and they downloaded a companion app to help keep track of the antidotes that they saw during the game. They both said they were too old to remember all of that!

Conclusions

I have a great connection with Antidote. It is a very player friendly game that lets everyone be involved all the time. Players can also have lots of fun with deception and mind tricks in this game. Because the game has a lighter feel to it, none of the deception is taken personal, as can happen in some games. The rounds go fast and you have to be on your toes so you don’t miss anything. Antidote is on my go to list of games I take to game nights for all of these reasons, and because it can play up to seven players.

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