Quacks of Quedlinburg is a game that has nothing to do with ducks, as the name might make you think! Rather you take on the role of a doctor who throws potions of random things together and sells them for money. The better a quack you are, the greater chance you can make a great potion that scores you not only points, but plenty of cash to buy even better ingredients! Just be careful, or your pot will explode and then you have to make due with whatever goo was left in the pot.
This game plays out over the course of 9 turns and supports a pretty standard 2-4 players. Each round is broken up over a series of phases which are pretty standard in games. To win the game, you need to be the player with the most points at the end of the game.
The rounds start with a Fortunteller card that basically either provides an immediate one off effect or provides an effect that goes through the round. There are quite a few of these cards, well more then the 9 rounds which means you will see quite a bit of variety during replays of this game. After the first round, the game has a bit of a catch up mechanic for those running behind on points. The score board has little rats all over it and for players behind the current leader, you count up how many rat tails there are between the leader and your score marker and place that marker on your pot. We’ll talk more about the pot in just a moment.
Next, the game moves into preparing the potions where players draw ingredient tokens one at a time from their back and place them on the pot. There is a flame token that indicates where you start your pot at each round. It starts the game at the 0 spot which is in the center of the big spiral pot on your player board, but as the game progresses there will be ways to move that token forward so that in future rounds you start with a little bit of an advantage. This is where the rats come in. If you are behind, you snag those rats and throw them in the pot thus placing your rat marker on the pot a number of spaces ahead of where your flame token rests. Now when you draw your ingredient tokens from your draw bag, they will place a number of spaces equal to the number value on the token that is furthest from the start of your pot on the board, whether that is the flame, rat or even another ingredient token! You can then draw another token and another and keep adding them to your pot. Beware though, because if you draw and place a sum of over 7 of the white ingredient tokens on your pot you explode which will have consequences later in the round.
When you place the ingredient tokens they have different effects. Some are end of the round, some are immediate. In the core box each token other than the orange pumpkin token has 4 different possible effects as well! This gives the game a huge amount of variability for replays which I think is part of the success of this game.
Moving on to the next portion of the round, the player who was able to make the best potion that round, ala the one that advanced furthest from the center start point, gets to roll a die to gain magical prizes. Sometimes these are points, sometimes a token, or sometimes other things. Then you resolve the effects of any end of the round tokens. Next, you will collect a ruby if possible. Finally, if you didn’t explode you get to score points and purchase up to two new ingredient tokens (not from the same ingredient pile). If you did explode, this is where you have to make a hard choice. Do you want to score points or do you want to buy tokens? You don’t get to do both. In the early rounds, it’s not to harsh to buy more tokens as you would only score a point or two. Scores so far for us have been in or around 45-70 points so a point or two won’t make or break the game for someone. Later rounds, this can be absolutely devastating to not score those points so be careful to not explode.
Finally to wrap up the round you can spend those rubies you have been collecting to either advance your flame token forward one space on your pot track or you can flip your vial token back over to the ready side. That vial token is super useful because while you are drawing tokens you can use it as a one time redraw during the round. Note that you can’t use it to redraw if the token you pulled made you explode!
Quacks of Quedlinburg is a game about risk. Both taking risks and mitigating them. There’s not a lot of ability in the core game to remove tokens from your bag, so you are constantly working and worrying as you draw that next token if it’s going to be the token you need or does it push you over the edge. In my plays so far, all at two players, I have played completely different token strategies than my opponent and still been competitive. There’s still a lot of random in this game, with the token drawing mechanic. That said, I find the game surprisingly satisfying, very easy to pick up and learn, and a fast play. I am really glad I picked it up. There’s some hype about this game. It’s good, but don’t expect a hard core meaty game. It’s a little random, it’s a lot of fun, and you have all sorts of chances to do make interesting decisions while not being muddled in rules. If this sounds like fun, give it a try.