Quacks of Quedlinburg Review

spices

Hey folks, back again with another game. This time, we’re reaching into our bag of ingredients and trying to make the best cure all brew. We’re trying to make better brews than our competitors. Why? Well, once a year the village of Quedlinburg holds a bazaar that lasts for 9 days. Miracle doctors and quack surgeons all come and try to sell the cure for what ails you. When making your potion, be careful, if you get too many cherry bomb ingredients in your brew, then it explodes. So, make a brew, buy more ingredients, and make more brews the next day. We’re looking at Quacks of Quedlinburg. This is a game by Wolfgang Warsh. A fairly new name to board games, but one that is certainly making a name for himself. In 2018, three of his games were nominated for categories in Spiel des Jahres. The Mind, for Spiel des Jahres. Then Quacks of Quedlinburg and Ganz schon clever were nominated for Kinnerspiel des Jahres. Quacks ended up winning the Kinnserspiel des Jahres. Quacks of Quedlingberg is a bag building game for 2-4 players and plays in about 45 minutes. It’s a press your luck bag building game.

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The game comes with 218 ingredient chips, 24 fortune teller cards, 20 rubies, 12 ingredient books, 1 score track board, 1 flame turn marker, 1 die, the rules, and an almanac of ingredients. This is all what is shared in the game. In addition to that, there are 4 player sets that players use in the game. Each player set comes with a pot (Player board), 1 flask, 1 bag, 2 droplet markers, 1 rat stone, 1 score marker, and a 0/50 seal. Each player set is a different color.

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The game is played over 9 rounds. The player with the highest score wins. Let’s look at how we set up the game.

Set the score tracker board in the center of the table. Shuffle the fortune teller cards and form a deck. Give it to the person to last cook something. They are the starting player. Place the die near the score board. Set this face down next to the score tracker. Set the flame turn marker on the candle numbered 1. Place all the seal markers on the board, 0 side showing. Place the rubies next to the board. Now, set out the ingredient books. There will be 7 books total. Pumpkin, Moth, Crow Skull, mushroom, mandrake, spider, and ectoplasma. The rules suggest the books with bookmark on the left side to start with. Place all the chips near the board and easy for players to reach. Next, each player picks a color and takes that player set. Place your score marker on seal of your color.

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Each player sets up their starting board the same way. Your matching flask will be placed on the right side of the board. Make sure it’s the full side. Place one of your droplet markers on the 0 spot in the center of your pot. Place your rat stone in the bowl next to your flask. Take a bag and add the following chips to the bag. One 3 white chip, two 2 white chips, four 1 white chips, one 1 orange chip, one 1 green chip. These are your starting ingredients you draw from your bag. And that’s set up.

So, how do we play the game? Well, there are four phases. The beginning of the turn phase, the potion phase, the evaluation phase, and then the end of the turn phase.

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The beginning of the turn phase, the starting player draws a fortune teller card and places it face up next to the score track. If it’s purple, it takes place before the potion phase. If it’s blue, then it applies during the potion phase or evaluation phase. Fortune teller cards add actions to the game play. Some vary from wither removing a 1 cherry bomb (white) ingredient from your bag, ignoring your first cherry bomb, or even gaining extra rubies at the evaluation phase if you meet the criteria. Next, if you’re not in first place, count the number of rat tails between you and first player. You move your rat stone a number of spaces after your starting droplet equal to the number of rat tails. This is a bit of a catch-up mechanism.

The potion phase is played simultaneously. Each player will draw a chip blindly from their bag and place it in their pot. Draw a chip, look at the number on that ingredient, and place it after you last ingredient a distance away equal to the number on the ingredient. So a 1 chip will be placed right next to the last ingredient. A 2 chip will leave an empty space in your pot. You do this until you decide to stop or your potion explodes. How does it explode? If you ever have white chips, Cherry Bombs, which sum total is over 7.

Here’s an example of what drawing ingredients from the bag might look like.

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Now, each ingredient will do something different depending on the ingredient books you set up the game with. When you place an ingredient, you immediately take that chips action. I’ll go over the ones the book suggests you start with.

Pumpkin – No bonus action.

Spider – If you end the potion phase with a spider chip either last or next to last you gain a ruby for each one in the evaluation phase.

Crow Skull – Draw chips from your bag equal to the number. You MAY play that chip and do it’s action. Any unplaced chips go back in the bag.

Mushroom – If you have 1 or 2 pumpkins in your pot already, move this chip one extra space. If you have 3 or more pumpkins, move this chip two extra spaces.

Mandrake – If this chip is placed after a white chip, you may put that white chip back in your bag after placing the mandrake chip.

Ectoplasma – In the evaluation phase, if you have one ectoplasma chip on your board, you gain 1 victory point. If you have 2 ectoplasma chips, you gain 1 victory point and 1 ruby. If you have 3 ectoplasma chips, you gain 2 victory points and move your droplet up a space on your player board.

Moth – In the evaluation phase, if you have more moth chips in your pot than the player to your left or right, move your droplet forward one space. If you have more moth chips in your pot than both players, move your droplet forward one space and gain a ruby.

Getting nervous about exploding during the potion phase? Worry not you artificer of potable potions. Just use your flask before the potions explodes to return the last placed white chip to the bag. You can’t do this if you draw and that chip causes you to explode though.

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Once everyone has either exploded or decided to stop, then we move onto the evaluation phase. This is the part where the player that made the best concoction gets to act first. First, look how far you go in your pot with ingredients. Look at the space after the ingredient chip. This is your score for the round, the money you can spend, and ruby you gain.

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Here, the player finished. They didn’t explode, so they get 1 victory point, 1 ruby, and 9 to spend at the market.

The player who advanced the furthest with their ingredients gets to roll the bonus die! I was going to list bonus die as one of the components, but it sounded like it was an extra die. If there is a tie, then both players get to roll the die. The die will either add victory points, give you a ruby, give you a pumpkin chip, or move your droplet ahead on your board.

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Now, starting with the starting player for the round (fortune teller deck), you do any chip actions. So the spider, moth, or ectoplasma chips. This goes around until everyone completes the chip actions.

Next, players gain rubies for the spaces they ended with on their player board.

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Now is where it gets interesting. If your potion exploded, you pick either victory point or buying chips. You look at the spot after you ended. You gain victory points equal to the smaller number in the rectangle. Move your score marker that many spaces.

Next, buying chips. Starting with the start player for the round (fortune teller deck), you may buy 1 or 2 chips. If you buy 2 chips, they can’t be the same. The larger number on the spot after your last ingredient is your budget for the day. Don’t try and save money, this is only good for the day. Anything left over at the end of the phase is done. I assume you use what’s left to replenish what ingredients you used. When you purchase chips, the prices are in the ingredient books underneath the chips. The lower the chip value, the cheaper the chip. Now, the mandrake ingredient isn’t available until the second day. The ectoplasma isn’t available until the third day. Place purchased chips directly into your bag.

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Pumpkins cost 3, Crow Skulls cost 5, 10, or 19.

Now it’s the end of the turn phase. A player may turn in two rubies to either fill their flask back up or advanced their droplet one space forward. You can spend as many rubies as you want. After rubies are spent, all ingredients in your pot go back into your back. Your rat stone moves back to you small trivet. The fortune teller deck goes to the next player, and the turn marker advances a day. This goes on until the end of the 9th day.

At the end of the 9th day evaluation phase, you can spend your money to gain victory points. Every 5 you could spend on a chip, instead you gain one victory point. Then, every two rubies you have, you can turn in for one victory point. The player with the highest score is the biggest quack! There you have it, a press your luck bag building game.

So, what did I think of this game? It was the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres for 2018. This is the connoisseur game of the year. It’s a bit more advanced than the family game of the year. I was a bit surprised. For being a more advanced game, this one is easy to play and easy to teach. Yeah, there are a lot of rules to read through, but this wasn’t anything that was super complicated. The components are nice and chunky. The player boards and ingredient books are nice. I really like the art that is on the boards and books. The rubies are a bit on the smaller side. The chips are nice sized, but with them being made of cardboard I can see them peeling easily. Board Game Geek’s store is going to be getting some replacement ingredients soon. These look like a nice upgrade, as it’s a hard plastic piece with the imiage applied in a heat transfer. This means that it won’t scratch or fade easily. The bags each player gets was a little underwhelming. It’s a silky bag, where the chips tend to get stuck in the corners of the bags and the fabric catches any hangnail on your hand you didn’t previously know you had. Besides the moth and pumpkin, each ingredient has 4 different actions it can be. This lets you change the game play very easily. With 24 fortune telling cards, it also changes the game play each game. I like that variability with the game. It doesn’t feel like the same game every time you’re playing. Game play itself is a press your luck, but it’s all about probability. The more chips you have in your bag, the less of a chance to draw a cherry bomb. I liked the almost engine building you get with the bag building. For the first game play, I liked getting pumpkins and mushrooms. I really liked how if you exploded, you weren’t out for the evaluation phase. That you got to choose victory points or chips. Most the time, I would go chips, but if you were behind in points I you would want to catch up with points. Speaking of being behind in points, the rat tail catch up mechanism is brilliant! It helps with if you have a bad couple of rounds. I really enjoy this game. You get a good rush when you’re at 6 for the total of your cherry bombs, and know you have two 1 chips and one 2 chip cherry bombs left. But you keep pressing on! I highly recommend this game to anyone that enjoys bag (deck) building and press your luck games. It’s easy to play and due to the potion phase being simultaneously, it’s a fast game too. There’s an expansion that came out, but it hasn’t reached United States yet. I look forward to seeing what that does to this game. Quacks of Quedlingburg is staying in my collection.

BONUS!

I mentioned Board Game Geek earlier. On the site, if you look for Quacks of Quedlinburg, there is a user that made a Solo Variant of the game. Now, I do like playing with other players more, but this is a well done solo deck. There are 3 difficulties and it uses another player board, their droplet marker, rat’s tail, and the score track marker. The cards even match the art of the game. Basically, during the potion phase, you draw the top card of the deck, and place it next to the deck. This makes a nice visual of an opened book. The first row is the difficulty you’re playing on. The next column is how far the “dummy” player got during the potion phase. Move the rat token over the number of spaces that is listed. This is the “dummy” players finishing spot. They gain points and rubies where they land. The next column is how many moth tokens they got for the day. The last column is how many spaces you move their droplet at the end phase. This represents them getting more ingredients for their bag. So you’re trying to beat the “dummy” player and still follow all the rules of the game. If you have Quacks, and enjoy the game so much that you want a solo variant to play and test different ingredient combinations, I highly recommend printing these out.

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