The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a push-your-luck, bag-building game developed by Wolfgang Warsch. Players take on the roles of quack doctors, mixing various ingredients in order to create the greatest potions. The Kennerspiel des Jahres winner for 2017, it has received acclaim for its unique combination of its genres. This how to play guide will explain how to set up and play the game with 2-4 players.
Place the scoreboard in the middle of the table, with the yellow droplet token on the one spot on the round tracker. Leave nearby the bonus die and a number of white one-value ingredients equal to the number of players. Empty the rubies into a bowl beside the scoreboard, or simply leave them nearby in a resealable bag.
Each player chooses a colour and receives a player board featuring that colour. Ensure that the face-up side of the board features the reference guide on the bottom. Each player also receive a flask and two tokens in their chosen colour, each featuring a droplet and rat symbol.
Place the droplet token on the zero spot in the middle of the pot and the rat token in the wooden bowl on the bottom-right. The flask resides filled-side-up on the plate to the right the rat token. A third token with no symbol is placed on one of the four spots beside the 50 spot on the score tracker. Underneath these tokens, place the cardboard score tokens with the zero-side face-up. There will be a fourth token with another droplet symbol; return this to the box, as it is used in another variant of The Quacks of Quedlinburg.
Afterwards, choose the set of ingredient books to be used for the game. For your first game of The Quacks of Quedlinburg, choosing Set One is ideal. The number of bookmarks that appear on the bottom of an ingredient book shows which set it belongs to. The orange ingredient book will always be the same regardless of the set chosen. Black ingredients, despite only having one book, will vary depending on the number of players. Choose the side that references ‘the other player’ for two-player games, and the other side for three and four-player games.
Next, place the ingredient books matching the chosen set near the scoreboard. Leave the purple and yellow ingredient books aside for now; these will be placed later. Beside each book, empty the ingredients of that colour into separate bowls for easy access. If none are available, leaving them in their resealable bags will suffice.
Finally, give each player a drawstring bag and their starting ingredients. The starting ingredients are as follows:
- Four white one-value ingredients.
- Two white two-value ingredients.
- One white three-value ingredient.
- One orange one-value ingredient.
- One green one-value ingredient.
These are listed in the bottom-left of each player’s board for reference. Have each player place these ingredients into their bag, and you’re ready to begin! The last person to cook something is deemed the starting player. Once this has been decided, leave the fortune teller deck near their player board. The set-up for The Quacks of Quedlinburg is complete!
Playing The Quacks of Quedlinburg
The primary objective of The Quacks of Quedlinburg is to have the most victory points (VP) after nine rounds. VP symbols appear in the form of numbers inside beige boxes. The number inside the box represents the amount of VP in that scenario. The most common way of earning VP is by filling your pot with ingredients from your bag. Coloured ingredients often provide benefits, either immediately after being drawn or at the end of the round. White ingredients, known as ‘cherry bombs’, can force your pot to explode if too many are drawn. If this happens, it will result in the loss of either VP or the coins needed to buy new ingredients. Players aim to create the most valuable potion without an explosion occurring.
There are two main phases in each round; the preparation phase and the evaluation phase. The first step in a round is to draw a fortune teller card. The current player draws the top card of the fortune teller deck, reads it aloud and sets it aside. Fortune teller cards generally offer bonuses to all players (not just the player who reads the card). There are two types of cards: immediate effect cards (purple), and round-long effect cards (light blue). Purple cards resolve immediately, while the effects of blue cards remain until the end of the round.
If a card says to move your droplet, move the droplet token in your pot forward that many spaces. If a card mentions yellow or purple ingredients despite them not being available, ignore that section of the card. Some cards refer to ‘rat tails’; these do nothing in the first round of the game. Once the card has been resolved, the preparation phase begins.
The Preparation Phase
The main gameplay of The Quacks of Quedlinburg happens during the preparation phase. In the preparation phase, players will, in their own time, draw ingredients one-by-one from their bag. Each drawn chip is placed a number of spaces away from the previously placed chip equal to its value. After a chip is drawn, the player can choose to continue drawing or stop and wait for the evaluation phase.
If a player draws a red, blue or yellow chip, their effect happens immediately. Refer to the ingredient’s booklet to determine what the ingredient does. For example, drawing a blue two-value chip in Set One lets you draw two chips and optionally place one into your pot, placing the rest back in your bag.
Players also must keep track of the accumulated value of white ingredients they’ve placed so far. If the total value of white ingredients ever exceeds seven, they must immediately stop. Their pot has exploded, which will affect the evaluation phase later.
The flask can be used to place a drawn white ingredient back into the bag. To do so, flip the flask to the empty side immediately after drawing the ingredient. This cannot be done if the drawn ingredient would cause an explosion.
The Evaluation Phase
Once each player has stopped, the evaluation phase begins. Underneath the round tracker is a sequence of steps that occur during the phase.
The first step of the evaluation phase is the bonus die roll. Only players whose pot didn’t explode are eligible for this step. Each player checks the large number in the spot directly after their last placed ingredient. The player with the largest number gets to roll the bonus die. In the case of a tie, the player who started the round closest to the center of the pot rolls the die. If there’s still a tie, both players get to roll the die.
The bonus die offers the following bonuses: One VP, Two VP, a ruby, an orange ingredient, or moving your droplet forward. When moving your droplet forward, if there is an ingredient in the way, set the ingredient aside.
Afterwards, the effects of green, black and purple chips activate in each player’s pot. Check the effect of each of these ingredients, then inspect your pot to see if you’re eligible. For example, in Set One, green ingredients activate if they’re the last or second-to-last ingredient in your pot.
In the next step, each player checks the space directly after their last-placed ingredient. This space is considered the player’s scoring field for the round. If that space displays a ruby symbol, they collect a ruby from the common supply. Rubies reside in the sack on the bottom-left of the player board.
The following two steps involve earning VP and buying ingredients. Players whose pot didn’t explode are eligible for both of these steps. If a player had theirs explode, they must choose to participate in either the VP or the buying step, but not both.
During the VP step, each eligible player will earn the amount of VP shown in the scoring field’s beige box. In the buying phase, each eligible player can buy up to two ingredients from the supply. The large green number is the amount that player can spend to buy ingredients this turn.
If two ingredients are purchased, they cannot be the same colour. The cost of each ingredient is listed in their respective books. Purchased ingredients go into the player’s bag immediately.
The final step of the evaluation phase is the ruby exchange. Each player may trade in two rubies to either move their droplet forward one space or refill their flask. This can be done multiple times, as long as a player has enough rubies.
Once the round is over, check the round tracker to see if any events occur next round. In Round Two and Three, the yellow and purple ingredient books are placed respectively. In Round Six, each player receive a white one-value ingredient.
Once done, discard the current fortune teller card and move the yellow drop to the current round. Ensure that each player has placed all their ingredients back into their bag. The previous current player passes the fortune teller deck clockwise to the next player.
Rat Tails & The Final Round
The mechanic of rat tails comes into play from Round Two onward. After the fortune teller card is read aloud and resolved, examine the score tracker. Each player counts the number of rat tails between their marker and the marker of the first position player.
If at least one rat tail is present, they place their rat token that many spaces ahead of their droplet. This gives these players a head start, as they’ll now place ingredients starting from the rat token.
The ninth and final round of The Quacks of Quedlinburg involves each player revealing their ingredients simultaneously in the preparation phase. Each player pulls an ingredient from their bag and puts their fist in the middle of the table. All players then open their hand to reveal the ingredients within. Players then place their ingredient and resolve any effects if necessary. This continues until all players have stopped drawing. If a player wishes to stop drawing, they reveal an empty hand with no ingredient.
Players can no longer purchase ingredients in the buying phase of the final round. Instead, eligible players divide the scoring field’s value by five and earn that much VP, rounded down. Pairs of rubies may also be traded in for One VP in the ruby exchange step. Once the evaluation phase is finished, your first game of The Quacks of Quedlinburg is completed. The player with the most VP is the winner!
Once you're familiar with the basics of The Quacks of Quedlinburg, you may choose to play with the opposite side of the player board. If so, place the second droplet token on the first space of the test-tube row. Each time you have the option of moving your droplet forward, you can choose which droplet token to move. Moving the test-tube droplet token immediately earns the bonus shown on the space it moves onto.
Tips and Tricks
- Sometimes it’s not a downside for your pot to explode in the first couple rounds. It’s often worth taking the risk if it will help you purchase a strong ingredient for future rounds. For example, buying a black ingredient in the first round is a strong play, as it helps consistently move your droplet forward.
- Purple ingredients can only be purchased from the third round onward, but they often have powerful effects. It’s best to invest in them early as possible to make the most of their abilities.
- Many fortune teller cards offer bonuses which are better at different stages of the game. Effects that move your droplet forward are generally more powerful in the early game.
- The included almanac explains in detail what each ingredient effect does. Refer to it if any player has questions regarding how an ingredient’s effect works.
- You don’t have to trade in rubies immediately if you don’t want to. You can keep them for a future round so you can refill your flask after you use it.
- If your pot explodes, you generally want to skip the VP step and choose to buy ingredients instead. The rat tail mechanic will help you catch up, and the new ingredients will also be of use. In the last couple rounds, however, it’s often worth considering taking the VP instead.
- Once you’ve tried all four sets, you can mix-and-match ingredient books from different sets. This will create more varied games where you can find new combos.
- To expand The Quacks of Quedlinburg to five players, look into The Herb Witches Expansion. This also includes a new ingredient type along with new ingredient effects.