Updated: Apr 27
WBG Score: 8/10
Player Count: 2-5 players
Published by: Schmidt Spiele
Designed by: Wolfgang Warsch
I know this won’t be very popular, but I didn’t love Quacks of Quedlinburg. I know! Sorry! But, to cut to the chase, I love this expansion. If you are a fan of the base game you will love it too. And if like me, you didn’t get on with the base game, well then, this could fix all your problems too. Related to this game I mean. It won’t sort your ear worms.
In Quacks, you are looking to create the most wonderful and 'point-worthy' potion. This is a push-your-luck game where you are pulling potion ingredients out of a bag one by one, in unison with the other players. Looking to build on your existing brew and fill your cauldron as best you can. But watch out! In your bag are the nasty Cherry Bomb white chips. Too many of those in your concoction and kaboom! Your potion will explode! At this point, you must either sacrifice the points you had scored, or the money you had earnt. Also, now, you cannot roll the bonus dice. The loss seemed too great to me. The risk too high. I know I am in the minority here, but let me explain.
Pulling the chips out one by one can be excruciating! You have no idea what will come other than guess work. You can develop your bag each round. Adding ingredients you want into it. Thus, reducing the risk, but it is still blind luck what comes out, and in what order. There is no control here and when you draw cherry bomb after cherry bomb, round after round it can be a little annoying from some. Whilst your opposing players are pulling pumpkins, spiders and the like, you are blowing up. It can be frustrating.
Push It Real Good!
Now I know this is the nature of a push-your-luck game. But there are few push-your-luck games where the game lasts this long. Or the effects of pushing-your-luck too far are this great. Or the lack of control has no mitigating options. I usually love this mechanic. I enjoy pushing my luck and the sense of exciting when it pays off is huge! But with Quacks, I was often left frustrated as for me, it has all three of these issues and the pay off wasn't ever enough to make up for the frustration of the loss. A loss you couldn't control with anything other than luck or conservative play.
As such, we have created a few house rules to make it more fun. And let’s be honest, this is not a serious heavy game. Shouldn’t it be more fun? For example, there is a vile you can use to put back any chip you pull out that you don’t want. But you cannot do this if the chip you pulled would have caused you to explode. We changed that. We also amended a few other rules, and I am not saying it was better for it. But it was better suited to my family. But I do prefer to play the proper rules so did dream for an expansion to fix it.
With the first expansion for this game, a few extra bits were brought to the table. But these two issues where not addressed. But with this second expansion, they both are! And I was very excited to try it out. Spoilers! I was not dissapointed.
First let’s look at the luck-based element of the game. Now, this is a major part of the game. You don’t want to completely remove it. It is a huge part of the fun! Drawing things from a bag that will cause success or failure has some genuine tension. You don’t want to remove that. But having zero control makes the game dull for me.
There is minimal strategy. This can be disheartening for players. Especially younger ones, if they keep pulling things you don’t want.
With 'The Alchemists', they have created opportunities to have some of your chips pulled from the bag before the round starts. When it comes to pulling out a new chip, you can either pull as usual, or place one of the chips you have out already instead. Giving you some choice. Some control. Some sense that you can manipulate your destiny. Even if only a little bit.
I like this opportunity to add some control to the game. But it is not given for free. That would not be right. You need to earn this power, and your opportunity to do this increases with time, round by round. This works brilliantly with the game. As your bag fills up, you will be building larger and larger potions. Your opportunity to control this a little more each time grows at the same rate. It is a very clever system.
So, what about the high-risk nature of blowing up and losing too much if you do? Well, this has been addressed in a way I never imagined! Now, on occasions, you may want to blow up! You still lose the same things as before. But now, there are times when you can also gain things from this 'failure'. It makes the events of your potion making so much more enjoyable. Still tense. But not annoying. Now, success or failure. Win or lose. It is a more fun experience.
Let me explain how this all works.