Brewing potions and going to the market to track down the best ingredients will get you far, but you still need to know how to stir the pot just right to get the best potion otherwise you might make the potion taste horrible (and explode), if you’re not careful.
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg every player starts the first round with a bag full of mostly bad, white cherry bombs but also a pumpkin and a spider – doesn’t sound like much, but it will help you get started and getting the hang of brewing your first potion – practice makes perfect some say. In the German rules you start with a ruby, and this is the way I have mostly been playing.
Simultaneously players draws one ingredient tokens at a time out of their bag, puts it in their pot according to how great the ingredient is (the number value on the token); which determines how far in the spiral you get. We actually just play in turns; cheering each other and pushing them to draw just that extra token.
Since this is a “push-your-luck” game it’s all about how many tokens you dare draw, if the values of the white, cherry bomb tokens equals 8 or higher, the pot explodes.
After players decide to stop or explode, the round ends (9 rounds are played in total), special effects from tokens are evaluated, points and money are gained based on the position after the last token. If your pot exploded, you have to choose between getting points or money. The person or persons having the best potion (getting the furthest along their spiral) will also get to roll the bonus die, giving them just a little extra goodies.
Now it’s time to spend your hard earned money to buy ingredients. You can buy up to 2 ingredients, but they have to be different types/colors. This is where the strategy comes into play; you might need to decide what you want to focus on (a few types of ingredients), so you can get an even bigger bonus when drawing these. Having a little bit of everything doesn’t seem like the best way to go.
Before the round is completely over, all players, who have at least 2 rubies can exchange them to either move their droplet further (decides where you will start placing your drawn tokens) and/or flip your flask. Yes you have a special flask, which makes it possible to do a mulligan (putting the last white cherry bomb token back into the bag) – but you have to do this BEFORE you explode. You can exchange as many times as you have rubies and are not limited to just 1 exchange.
Every round starts with a special event card (plus the round marker mid way adds another cherry bomb to your bag) which affects all players – this is a great way of making every round different. A good catch up mechanism is the use of rat tails in your pot – makes you start further along the spiral – there more there are between you and the person in the lead the further you get to put your rat token and start placing tokens, you draw.
The last round is a bit special, and although we weren’t paying attention that it should be like this, every player draw one token and reveals it simultaneous – if you want to stop, your hand should be empty. We have never played like this, so I’m not sure how different it makes the game. No money is earned at the end of the final round, but converted into points; this is also your chance to exchange rubies for points.
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How is it?(5 / 5)
The Quacks of Quedlingburg is a great “push-your-luck” game; it’s easy to teach the basic mechanism of the game to even non-gamers. The aspects of how the different ingredients work might take some getting used to, if you are not used to this kind of game. I feel that people catch on really well once we play a round or two. I really like the tension “I’m at 6 value of cherry bombs, can I pull another good token?”, and everyone screaming “of course, nothing can go wrong, do it” – and then you pull a bad cherry bomb token, which makes your pot explode. We actually prefer to draw turn based and not simultaneous as we feel more involved with each other and it doesn’t just feel like 4 individuals playing on your own; this of course makes the game a little longer. Sure there are a few ingredients that could activate based on what others drew and you shouldn’t look how far the other players are – but we don’t, we just play for fun.
It’s really nice to look at and with so much variety; I still haven’t tried all the different combinations of ingredients or the other side of the board, and with the expansion there is so much more to explore.
And drawing just that perfect token is the best feeling; then you can handle your pot exploding next round.
Strategy & complexity(3.5 / 5)
The strategy part comes to light only in 2 ways. The first is a minor one, stopping on a stop with a ruby in front of you to have some extra flexibility with spending these to move your droplet or refill your flask (or in the end score points for them), but mostly the drawing of tiles are very random – it is a “push-your-luck” game after all.
The biggest strategy part is deciding which ingredient tokens to buy in the market. Both remembering what you have bought previously but also what others have bought. For instance the black ingredient is dependent in some cases on that you have drawn more than your neighbours.
It makes sense to focus on a few of the different ingredients; focusing on all seems to be hard to fully take advantage of all their special effects; exception is mainly the blue ingredients in the basic setup, they always work and always good to have (we feel it’s a bit overpowered).
Replayability(5 / 5)
The game comes with quite a few different options for the special ability on the ingredients, which can potentially make the game different every time. We tested a few of the different once, but as of now I prefer most of the basic ingredients ability; but some works better with more players than 2, so will have to try it again. We felt that the basic blue action of viewing 1-4 next tokens and deciding if you want to place it, is a bit too powerful, it’s always playable and not like some others that only work based on specific conditions – don’t get me wrong I love it, and of course it’s equal for everyone, if they want to buy it, but it can be hard to dare take another path.
The game has a double sided board and I have actually only tried the basic side, so there is still more to explore. I don’t play the game often enough, so I’m not completely tired of the base game yet.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches
The first expansion which includes components to now play 5 players; still not tried this yet, but I expect it to play roughly the same, just extending the playing time when buying and checking special effects for the ingredient tokens.
The expansion also includes new recipes for the ingredients changing the game quite a bit AND a new ingredient type.
As an extra twist the Herb witches adds special abilities you can activate once per person for each of the 3 abilities in play.
I have only watched this being played and not tried it myself yet, but it intrigues me.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg: Wolfgang’s Exchange Office
A little promo which adds new ways to move your droplet and possible scoring points in a different way. Unfortunately not tried this little promo yet.
Scalability(5 / 5)
The game scales really well, but I do prefer it with 3 or more players mostly because of seeing more people explode or push their luck. Don’t get me wrong the game is fun with just 2 players but for me it’s more crucial to not play simultaneous with 2 players as you might just sit there silent drawing your tokens. Of course this is also dependant on who you play with, I have only played it with my boyfriend, who claims to hate board games, but he still liked it and can be talked into playing it once in a while. And of course playing remotely I had to play turn-based.
I have still to try a 5 player game, but I’m sure I will love it as well.
Rules & accessibility(4 / 5)
The rules are fairly clear but not as good to use for look up. We made one mistake of playing our own hard mode; as we thought that when you explode you wouldn’t be able to do anything. It’s not that harsh, you “just” choose between points or money to buy new ingredients and in the beginning you will need to get the money to get a better mix of ingredients in your bag – increase your chances of drawing the good tokens.
The English rules doesn’t tell you to start with 1 ruby as the German (original) rules does; therefore the first game we played without. I have since then played with the starting ruby and you can quicker collect enough rubies to use the abilities; so I play like that going forward.
Solo variant(1 / 5)
There is no official solo variant. In order to just learn the game you could play two-handed, but it wouldn’t give much tension. I found an unofficial variant online. And it works quite well, I would need to try it a few more times, and on a more difficult level, but you have an Automa using cards for their turn, and you need to have gone further in your pot every turn in order to “stay in the game”.
Remote playability(4 / 5)
I have played this game remotely with 2 other players and a few 2 player games. There are no hidden information so the game works great for this. The game takes up a lot of table space, both the player boards and all the recipes and ingredients. I made it work with displaying the recipes in card holders with the appropriate ingredients in bowls underneath or behind it.
The difficult part is keeping track of the individual bags with ingredients; I wish they were different colors, but I guess you could easily get some colored bags.
Usually when we play the game we do one player at a time and not simultaneous so this worked for remote play.
I enjoyed it very much and all considered, I would host this game again.
Portability(3 / 5)
I wouldn’t say it has good portability, as you need the large boards (pots) and there are quite a few tokens and bits to take with you; mostly the boards is what makes it take up some space. If you are not limited to a small bag (or going by air plane) it takes up less space skipping the box, and not worse than many other games.
Appearance & component quality(5 / 5)
The components are great, from the small wooden tokens to the thick cardboard chips and the event cards. The only nitpicks are that since you are drawing and handling the chips so much, they could easily get worn on the edges when playing intensively – some have started to look a bit discolored. I have considered upgrading to the BGG chips, but the price keeps me a bit from doing it (DO I play it enough to qualify this?). The last thing are the bags. They are very thin and slippery and chips tend to hide in the corners, so you have use much care mixing the chips (I heard the German version has more of a cotton feel to the bags, which should be better). I imagine it being easier with the upgraded chips, but they are not part of this game.
Nice standard sized box, but a little on the thin side, so I know I wouldn’t be able to really stretch or play with my toys in this one, as my owner would quickly tell me to then get out. There are a lot of tokens, it’s so nice, BUT my owner has found a newfound love for putting tokens in matching bowls, which is more cat friendly or should I say cat annoying. Of course I could just stick my paw in there to fish out one, but oh the effort to empty and scatter this.
Let’s just talk about my favorite part about this, where my human still hasn’t found a way to hide it from me. Bags with STRINGS! Oh this is the best, pulling and gnawing on those small strings. If something just happens to fall out or the bag falls down on the floor, it’s an extra bonus.
|(3.5 / 5)
|(2.0 / 5)
|Component Count & Diversity:
|(3.0 / 5)
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|Human Annoyance Level (HAL):
|(4.0 / 5)
|(3.3 / 5)