Wolfgang Warsch is having a great couple of years with his new releases being eagerly anticipated. From the almost not a game The Mind, to does what it says on the box roll and write Ganz Schon Clever, he spanned the genres but never seemed to lose the game's approachability.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg was another success. It was just as simple to play but had a bit more going on. It won people over with its cool theme and push your luck gameplay. The game sets you up as enterprising potion makers who are looking to sell their latest concoctions to the crowds. Of course, if they should contain some rat tails to to top up the liquid, then that's fair game.
In a round you draw ingredients from your bad to make your potion. You'd then sell that potion to buy new ingredients. You need more ingredients because your starting ones aren't going to get you the big bucks.
The Herb Witches Expansion not only adds a new ingredient, but also new ingredient books. Books give your ingredients different powers so the game has tons of variety as you could mix the powers up to your suiting.
The titular Herb Witches also provide powerful one-use actions for each of the players. But should you decide not to use them you will be rewarded with end game points.
During the game your ingredients went on to your player board cauldron. You could by the end of the game actually fill your cauldron but now with the expansion you actually get rewarded for being efficient with your ingredients. It’s a smart and confident expansion that adds enough new stuff without drowning you in new mechanics. If you enjoy the game already you should definitely pick it up!
Player Count: 2-5
Time: 45 Minutes
The Quacks of Quedlinburg is great. There is no two ways about it. It has drama, humour, a fun push-your-luck dynamic, balance, plenty of replay value (with two ways to play in the box and plenty of variety in the ingredients), little black bags, a passing respect for the laws of probability, opportunity to combo the heck out of the mixing phase and a very clear end to the game. I guess the question is: What do you add the game that has everything? Another player, of course!
A Quacks Recap
There is a bit more to The Herb Witches Expansion than that, but for all those who haven’t played Quacks of Quedlinburg yet, here’s a quick/quack run down of what it’s all about.
Quacks is a game for two to four players. Each player takes on the role of potion pushers in the town of Quedlinburg. The winner is the person who has the most points at the end of nine rounds.
Each round consists of a mixing phase and a scoring/buying phase. In the mixing phase, players draw potions from their bag to place into their cauldron – each ingredient pushes you along a spiral tracker that gives you score and spendies. The further you travel, the more you get. But, players beware! Too many ‘cherry bombs’ and your potion will explode, and you will have to choose between points and prizes.
Players can also choose to stop before this eventuality, which takes them to the scoring/buying round, where players will score points (naturally) and buy new ingredients for their pot - these will have different effects on their progress and/or their start point and score.
Different rounds will introduce new ingredients, and player’s apothecaries develop from sorry states to cornucopias that Sir Isaac Newton would have been proud of (he was also an alchemist, don’t you know). As well as mixing, buying and scoring, if a player is lagging behind they can get a head start by adding rats tails to their potions – the number of tails between themselves and the lead player denotes how many spaces they can start ahead – and every round is also blessed by a fortune teller card, which can add special bonuses to that round like upping the explosion limit or allowing players to upgrade ingredients.
This all makes for a game that will usually always be a close-run thing, regardless of how many times a player blows up his cauldron (I blow up my cauldron a lot).
The Herb Witches
Everyone I have played this game with loves it, despite or because of their performance, so what could an expansion add to sweeten an already sweet deal? First off, you do get an extra cauldron (like I said) and all the extra tokens and things required to play it, but there are also some nice little additions that, although they don’t completely rethink the game, do give players a chance to really max out on those points and combos.
To start with, you get an overflow for your cauldron. Though I have only seen one person get to the end of the cauldron track, certain new ingredients do make this more attainable, so the new addition is a little side pot to keep putting ingredients in – cherry bombs still blow it up and ingredient effects no longer count, but you can score half the combined total of the pot at the end of the round. How to get there? Well, remember (if you’ve played it) how pumpkins are a bit lame (but useful)? How would you like a pumpkin that moves you on SIX spaces? They cost, of course, but this kind of big score counter makes ‘one more draw’ all the more tempting and utter failure all the more bitter. Perfect.
The other new ingredient is Loco Weed and I’m not too sure of it – it’s moves depend on previously laid ingredients, which is actually pretty good, but as it’s a new ingredient, it’s playing catch up with all the myriad variations of the other ingredients – and there are already six different ways of playing the ingredients, to which The Herb Witches adds another two (including a new way of playing black moths). Loco Weed only has two variations, so I guess it feels a little bit lightweight compared. Time will tell.
Finally, we have the titular Herb Witches themselves, and these are fun – not essential, but fun. There are three coins corresponding to three witches who can provide bonuses to drawing, scoring and spending. Each witch has four flavours, chosen at random, and coins can be spent at any time – for instance, one witch might be able to prevent your cauldron from exploding – pay your coin and take your chance, but once the coin is gone, it’s gone.
In essence, they act like your own personal fortune teller card (and I am a bit disappointed that none are added in this expansion) and could potentially swing things in your favour just at the last moment. It would be nice to see an ingredient allow you the chance to win back a coin (garden spider, I’m looking at you) but this is only a first expansion. Will there be another expansion? The fortune teller has no answer to that.
Final Thoughts on The Herb Witches Expansion
The bottom line is this; is The Herb Witches expansion worth parting with your cash for? Look, if you’ve got this far, you’re probably looking for justification to press that button rather than reasoned argument so… go ahead; the extra player and SUPER-PUMPKINS make it worth that alone.
The other additions are nice little flourishes and definitely have potential, especially the Loco Weed, and, though I did have a problem punching this out than with the base game, it still looks really nice.
Maybe it could do with a few more fortune telling cards or even a plot (like Roll Player has just got or Shards of Infinity is about to get) but – eh, I regret nothing. Neither will you. Off you go; press the button.