If this tongue twister of a name doesn’t yet grab your attention, I hope the name of the designer will! Wolfgang Warsch has skyrocketed the game designer scene with several successful titles in 2018. High time for me to have a taste of Warsch’s awarded boardgame brew: The Quacks of Quedlinburg!
What is The Quacks of Quedlinburg like?
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg players pose as miracle doctors selling homebrewed medicinal potions at the city’s bazaar. Smelly feet, upset stomach or aching heart? There’s a fix for every infirmity. Players spend their turns concocting cures by means of bagbuilding and push-your-luck. Better potions generate higher income, which in turn can be spent to gain valuable ingredients. But adding one Cherry Bomb too many to the mix will cause a player’s pot to explode!
The Quacks of Quedlinburg consists of 9 rounds. Players start the game with identically composed ingredient bags which they can fill up with more quality ingredients at the end of each round.
The brew pots have a spiraling numbered track on which the ingredients are to be laid out. To prepare their potions, players draws chip after chip from their bags and place them on the appropriate numbered space. The further a player advances along the track the more points and income are up for gains.
The ingredients all exist in varying qualities: chips of values 1, 2, 3 or 4. Each subsequently drawn ingredient is placed ahead of the previous one and the ingredient quality determines how many spaces to skip. Thus higher quality ingredients propel players faster along their potion track. Except for the white Cherry Bombs and the orange Pumpkin Spice the ingredients grant additional actions. Blue, red and yellow ingredients grant actions while brewing. Green, purple and black ingredients grant actions during scoring.
Every player ingredients bag holds from the start seven white Cherry Bomb chips with values varying from 1 to 3. These white chips add a little fizz to a player’s mix, but if the sum of white chips drawn exceeds the value of 7 the player’s pot blows up.
Once everyone has decided to stop drawing chips – or has been forced to stop because of an explosion – players move on to the scoring.
All players look at the spiraling potion track and determine their potion value by looking at the first uncovered space after their last placed ingredient. Who didn’t cause an explosion will gain both points and money depicted on that spot. Players that did explode need to choose to gain one or the other. Earned money can be spent to buy a maximum of 2 ingredients. Unspent money is lost. Some spots on the potion track gift players precious rubies. These are worth points at game’s end or can be traded for potion brewing benefits.
Divinations and Rat-tails
At the start of every round a divination of the fortune teller is read aloud. All cards in this deck trigger unique effects.
Also from round 2 onwards – before the brewing starts – players behind count on the scoreboard how many rat-tails are between them and the leader(s). As a catch-up-mechanic these rat tails are to be added to their brew for the round, to thrust them further along their potion tracks.
In essence The Quacks of Quedlinburg toys with possibilities, probabilities and players’ aspirations. Every draw turn could be a simple consideration of how many good ingredients remain in relation to bad Cherry Bomb chips. The game lures in calculated players with a manifold of ingredients effects and possible combos. However, multiple game elements impede level-headed decisions. One important rule adds a lot of sparkle: players are never allowed to look inside their ingredient bags! So as the game progresses players start to lose track of their acquired chips, while the stakes gradually get higher. I love that some ingredient effects pit players directly against one another in a struggle for the majority. This tricks even the most calculated players into taking risks. The Quacks of Quedlingburg was crowned “Kennerspiel des Jahres” and I do feel Wolfgang Warsch mixed up known game mechanisms into a new and refreshing board game experience. Just be warned this game is fairly arbitrary and for players that can’t stomach bad luck it’ll sometimes turn sour.
- Lots of variability
- Great graphic design and clear iconography
- Cool catch-up mechanic
- Option for simultaneous play resulting in little down-time
- Luck driven
- Draw bags are a bit flimsy, especially in the early rounds with only few ingredients inside
The Quacks of Quedlinburg’s distilled gameplay makes it easy to teach and swift to play. The various and interchangeable sets of ingredients allow tailoring a game to different levels of players.
A neat catch-up mechanic prevents a runaway leader; thus keeping all players on edge the full 9 rounds. Mastering The Quacks of Quedlinburg is to evolve from a grab-happy player to a skilled risk manager. But lady luck will sure come toy with players their strategies.
- Players: 2 – 4
- Playing time: 45 minutes
- Suggested age: 10+