The Quacks of Quedlinburg! Or Quacks for short, is a wonderful game by Wolfgang Warsch from 2018.
45 minutes (though more likely 60-90 minutes)
A review by Philip Underwood
Players take on the roles of charlatan witchdoctors at the annual potion making fayre. Each round players will try to make the best potion to earn the most points and money. To do this they will be adding ingredients to their potion pots one at a time but they must be careful not to add too many of the wrong ingredients or their potion might explode!
At the start of the game all players start with the same ingredients in their personal ingredient bag. They also have a player board that represents the pot, a flask of neutralising agent, a teardrop marker denoting the start space in their pot and a rat tail marker which provides a round-by-round catchup mechanic. Ingredient apothecary books are placed in the centre of the table which explain the special rules for each different ingredient.
Players will then blind-draw ingredients from their bags one at a time and place them in their pots starting from the space immediately after their teardrop marker. The value on the ingredients indicates how many spaces a player advances around the pot. A 1 value token goes on the next available space whereas a 2 value token will skip 1 space. So this all sounds lovely and simple and cute. NO! And I will tell you why not. If you ever have more than a total value of 7 white “Cherry Bomb” ingredients in your pot, you go bust, your potion explodes, you bring shame on your family, you must walk the streets with a creepy nun shouting SHAME at you and ringing a bell. So this elevates the game to an agonising push-your-luck, risk-and-reward, do-or-die game of how brave do you feel? Just imagine sitting there with a total value of 5 Cherry Bombs and a bag with 7 or 8 ingredients left in it, but one of those ingredients is the 3 Cherry Bomb which will make you go bust. Do you play it safe, take the lower amount of victory points and money, or do you smear woad on your face, channel your inner Braveheart and dig for another ingredient? Do not forget that flask of neutralising agent, you can use that to return a newly placed Cherry Bomb back in the bag, if it didn’t make your potion explode.
At the point you decide to stop the next available space becomes your scoring space. The player who finished furthest round the track gets to roll the bonus dice, then players will score any end of round ingredient bonuses and score victory points. The scoring space also displays if the player gains a ruby and the amount of money that player has to spend that round on up to 2 new ingredients. This is where the different strategies come together. Maybe you will try and get bonus victory points or move your teardrop further round the pot from drawing ingredients. Maybe you will try and boost your ingredients round the pot with ingredient combos. All ingredients are placed back in the bag with the new ingredients ready for the next round. Pairs of rubies can then be spent to move the teardrop marker 1 space or un-flip the neutralising flask.
This game is an absolute joy to play. Watching your friends and family agonise over pulling tokens from a bag, when to stop, when to go for broke never gets dull. Pulling that token that takes you into the lead on a scoring space that gives you a Ruby is exhilarating. I would happily recommend this game for casual gamers and avid gamers alike. There is a reason it won the Kennerspiel 2018 among others. The base game is quick to learn, easy to teach, fun immediately and contains several alternative ingredient books. This means that you can change the effects of ingredients without changing the ingredients themselves. Super smart design in my opinion. This allows players to try out different strategies over the course of several plays, always having fresh, new and agonising decisions to make.
+ The component quality is good and nicely tactile.
+ The printing is clean, and the iconography is clear.
+ Easy to learn and teach.
– Luck based which will put some players off.
– You do not own it yet. Go and buy it.