We concocted questionable potions to sell to the masses in The Quacks of Quedlinburg, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Time: 45 Minutes
Designers: Wolfgang Warsch
Artists: Dennis Lohausen, Wolfgang Warsch
The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a push-your-luck bag building game where players are trying to make the best potions to sell to the people of Quedlinburg during a nine day festival. Players will do this by pulling ingredients out of their bags and adding them to their cauldrons, hoping not to cause an explosion. Whoever can dupe … er … satisfy the people of Quedlinburg the most will win.
The game is set up with the round and score tracker board in the center of the table, a set of ingredient books chosen and laid out, and the ingredient chips nearby. Each player takes a cauldron board, flask, markers for their points, droplet and rat stones, a bag, and starting ingredients. The fortune deck is shuffled, and play is ready to begin.
The game is played over nine rounds. Each round starts with a fortune card which may be an immediate effect, like getting an ingredient or trading in rubies for something, or it may happen at a specific time during the round. Then players count their “rat tails” — the number of rat tails that appear on the score track between them and the lead player. They place their rat stone in their cauldron that many spaces in front of their droplet; this defines where they start their potion.
Then players simultaneously build out their potions by pulling ingredients one by one from their bag and placing the chip in their pot. The chips are places starting from the lowest numbers in their pot, just past their droplet (and rat stone, if they have one) and move outwards. The chip is placed a number of spaces away form the previous ingredient equal to the number on the chip. So a 1-chip is played adjacent to the previously-played chip, but a 2-chip is placed with one space between them. In addition, some chips have special powers, that are activated when they place the chip in the pot. The trick is that players can’t have the sum of the white chips in their pot be more than seven. If that happens, the pot explodes, and they have to stop immediately. Otherwise, players can pull ingredients as long as they’d like.
Once all players have passed or exploded, players go through a set of steps, which is laid out at the bottom of the score track. First they check to see who made it furthest in their pot, that player (or players if tied) roll the die and take the reward shown on it. If their pot exploded, they are not eligible to roll the die. Then players evaluate special chips — the effect will change depending on which ingredient books were chosen.
Next, players do several things based on the next open bubble in their pot. If it has a ruby, they take a ruby into their supply. They take the indicated number of points (shown in a tan square). And finally they purchase new ingredients with purchasing power equal to the number on that next bubble. Players will have some purchasing power to buy up to two new ingredients for their bag. If the player exploded, they only get points OR buy new ingredients, not both.
Then, players can spend pairs of rubies to either flip their flask to the active side or move their droplet. The flask allows players to toss a white chip back into their bag after they pull it out, as long as the ingredient wouldn’t cause them to explode. The droplet allows the player to permanently start their pot on higher numbers.
Finally, players clear out their pots, placing ingredients back into their bags, and move to the next round. New ingredients become available in rounds two and three, and all players get another white chip for their bags at the beginning of round six. At the end of round nine, whoever has the most points wins.
We picked up The Quacks of Quedlinburg at Pax Unplugged in 2018, shortly after it had won the Spiel des Jahres and was becoming widely available. We had seen some press and play throughs, and it looked like a game we would enjoy — we like deck- and bag-building and push-your-luck games, so this seemed a natural for us.
This has become one of my top ten most-played games, which says how much we enjoy it. We’ve even upgraded the chips to the GeekUp Bits, which makes the game even more fun to play. The mix-and-match ingredient books gives so much replayability just in the base box. I love the thrill of deciding to pull “just one more” ingredient from the bag, and that moment of waiting to see whether it worked out for me or caused my pot to explode.
We’ve also added the two expansions to our game — The Herb Witches and The Alchemists. I especially like what the Herb Witches adds to the game. It has an extra ingredient, a few more ingredient books, and special powers that all players can use once during the game.
One complaint we’ve had about the game is that there can be a runaway leader. There is a catch-up mechanism, with the rat stones, where players who are not in the lead get to start their potions further head in their cauldron. However, that’s often not enough to bring the other players up. But, this doesn’t bother us too much, because we just have fun with the game.
How is it as a 2-player game? The Quacks of Quedlinburg works well as a 2-player game. There are a few ingredients that depend on what your neighbors have in their cauldrons, but they scale these for 2-players. Otherwise there’s little else that changes in the game.
How about the art and component quality? The art is great — I love the different illustrations for the ingredients. The cardboard ingredient chips were fine, but they did start getting grimy after several plays; especially the white chips. In fact, I thought I could start feeling the difference between the white chips in my bag just because they felt a little less smooth; but I’m not 100% sure that’s true. The upgraded bits are worth it if you play this game a lot.
Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. This is currently one of my most-played games, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of what the expansions bring.