Game: Quacks of Quedlinburg
Publisher: North Star Games
Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Players: 2-4 Players
Playtime: 30-45 Minutes
Play Type: Press Your Luck
You are a quack doctor, trying to create a convincing brew to enchant your customers with. Whether you are trying to create a love potion, cure bad breath or simply cure a stomach-ache you must demonstrate caution. Too much of the wrong ingredients will sour your whole brew. Competition is fierce, and you only have nine days to sell.
Quacks of Quedlinburg is a push your luck game that is played over a series of nine rounds. Before beginning the game, players must first select the ingredient books they intend to use. The black and orange books are consistent throughout each game, with the black book having two different sides for different player counts. The other five ingredients are divided into sets based on the number of bookmarks at the bottom of the book. It is suggested for your first game that players play with the set marked with one bookmark, but after that game players can try the other three sets or even mix the sets together. These books will define what special ability each ingredient receives for that game. The game starts with the black, orange, green, red and blue books available. Yellow and purple should be put to the side until they are unlocked.
Players will also need to set up their player board and scoring board. Once everything has been arranged, players will begin the first round. There are nine total rounds, each round will be made up of the following actions:
- Fortune Teller Cards: This card is read by the first player and has an effect on the game play during that round. These cards often provide a catch up mechanic or a benefit to all players. The Fortune Teller Deck rotates clockwise at the end of the round.
- Rat Tails: This is a catch up mechanic in the game. It allows all players to place their rat token on the board with the exception of the player with the leading score. Players will count the number of rat tails between them and the leader on the scoreboard and move their rat that number of spaces away from their droplet. Players will start adding their ingredients from the rat rather than the droplet that round.
- Preparing Potions: This action is done simultaneously, with all players acting at the same time. Players will draw potion ingredients from their bag and place them in their pot. Ingredients can have a value of 1,2,3, or 4. When placing the ingredients in the pot, the number value on the ingredient is the number of spaces away from the droplet (or last ingredient). For instance, an ingredient with a value of one is placed directly next to the droplet.
After placing an ingredient, a player must decide whether to continue or stop. If a player stops, they should place the bag in front of them on the table. If they choose to continue they will repeat the steps above. They may continue this way until they decide to stop or they are forced to stop.
A player may be forced to stop if they run out of ingredients in their bag, or if their potion explodes. Potions explode if a player draws enough white chips so that the sum of those chips exceeds seven. That player must stop after their potion explodes. Players begin the game with four value one white chips, two value two white chips, and one value three white chip.
Players should also complete any special abilities that the chips grant them during the Preparing Potions phase. Blue, red and yellow chips give players an immediate benefit that is completed when that chip is drawn. Each game these abilities are different based on the books decided during set up.
Players also have access to their flask during this phase. It will allow players to return the last chip they drew back into the bag. This cannot be used however if the chip drawn causes that player to explode. Once used, players must flip their flask, it will not be able to be used again until it is refilled.
- Evaluation Phase: This phase comes after everyone has passed or exploded. It has a series of stages that must be completed.
- Bonus Die: Whomever has the highest scoring field in the game, who did not explode, may roll the bonus die and gain it’s benefit.
- Chip Actions: Complete the black, green and purple chip actions according to their books and gain any corresponding bonuses.
- Rubies: Any player with a ruby showing on their scoring field may gain a ruby.
PLAYERS WHO EXPLODED DURING THIS ROUND MAY ONLY DO OPTION 4 OR 5. NOT BOTH. All other players may complete both actions.
- Victory Points: Players gain victory points based on the number in their scoring field. Players who reach the last spot available gain 15 victory points and get to roll the bonus die.
- Purchase Chips: Players may buy 1 or 2 chips in different colors each round. Each chip has an associated cost that can be found in their ingredient book. This process begins with the player who has the Fortune Teller deck. Once all players have purchased chips, the newly purchased chips and all chips in the pot are returned to their bag.
- End of the Round- Players may spend two rubies to move their droplet one space forward or to refill their flask. Once these actions are complete, players remove their rats from their pot. The Fortune Teller deck will rotate clockwise as well.
After completing a round, move the round indicator up. Sometimes the round indicator will have players complete a special action before beginning the next round. Some examples of this are unlocking the yellow and purple ingredients, or adding a white chip to their bag. During the last round of gameplay, the Preparing Potions phase is done in a more structured fashion, having the Fortune Teller directing people when to remove tokens from their bag, this helps to remove the temptation for players to hesitate on removing chips from their bag. Finally, at the end of the last round, players have the option to turn rubies in for points or spend their coins on purchasing points (instead of chips).
The player with the highest score at the end of the ninth round wins.
There is a lot to love about the Quacks of Quedlinburg components. The pieces themselves are vibrant, and thematic. The production quality of the player boards, flasks, rubies and wooden die is great. All of which feel like they would hold up against the test of time. This is especially important if you intend to play with children. Additionally, I love that they decided to not only have the ingredients as a specific color, but they also have a symbol associated with them. This helps make the game more color blind friendly. The symbols seen throughout are also clear and concise, meaning I rarely had to reference the rulebook when trying to figure out what something meant.
While the overall quality of the game is great, I would like to upgrade the chips themselves. The thin cardboard that the chips are made of has a tendency to stick together. This can make pulling a single chip difficult. It can also be difficult for those with carpal tunnel or arthritis in their hands. Boardgamegeek will be releasing an upgrade pack for the chips, and there are some options available on Etsy as well for those who are interested.
- Quick to Play
- Easy to Teach
- Family Friendly
- Plenty of Replayability
- Catch Up Mechanisms
- Mechanisms to Balance Luck
- Time Between Turns is Short
- Players Still Participate if they Bust
- Luck Based
- Low Player Count
- Light Gameplay
Quacks of Quedlinburg has introduced a fairly uncommon mechanic into the limelight. The bag building mechanic feels very unique to Quacks of Quedlinburg and gives the game an engine building feel that adds to the push your luck element. Players can selectively build their engine to help increase their odds, and it gives the game depth that other luck based games lack.
Despite that depth, Quacks of Quedlinburg is going to appeal to players who are seeking a light to medium game that can be easily taught. While there is some strategy to the game, players who are looking for a highly strategic experience may be left disappointed. That being said, this game does a great job of providing mechanics that allow players to balance the luck based aspects. The game provides multiple catch up mechanics in the game, including the rat tails and the Fortune Teller cards. It also gives players the opportunity to use their flask if they are planning ahead. This may help players who are hesitant to play because of the heavy luck based aspects.
Quacks of Quedlinburg is an excellent option for families with older children, especially if played with the variant where all players draw and place their chips on command. This allows parents to assist their children with any potion abilities or confusion. The built in catch up mechanics will help children keep from becoming too frustrated. Additionally, I love that players still have the opportunity to participate in some of the evaluation phase, even if they bust. Unlike many push your luck games, players will still be able to move their game forward even after they explode. This helps ease the frustration on children as well.
This is a game I brought into my classroom last year and my students absolutely adored it. The ease of teaching the game, combined with the relatively short game play and the limited time between turns kept their engagement throughout. I would suggest it for teachers looking to bring games into the classroom to use as free time.
While the game in not in immediate need of an expansion due to the replayability that is already present due to the Fortune Teller cards and various ingredient books, there is an expansion that will be hopefully available soon. This will help the game in another way though, as it does add an additional player. For larger game groups, Quacks of Quedlinburg can be difficult to get to the table as it does only allows up to four players to participate. The expansion will add a fifth player.
I would suggest Quacks of Quedlinburg to those who enjoy light-medium games with combined aspects of luck and strategy. If you enjoy games like Potion Explosion, Port Royal, Dead Man’s Draw or Deep Sea Adventure, I would suggest taking a closer look at Quacks of Quedlinburg. It has a very similar feel and theme to Potion Explosion, especially due to the tactile nature of game play, but introduces more luck into the game. The push your luck element feels very similar to Port Royal, Dead Man’s Draw or Deep Sea Adventure but Quacks of Quedlinburg adds more depth and length to gameplay than other traditional push your luck games.