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The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Alchemists Expansion

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The Alchemists is the second major expansion for Wolfgang Warsch’s The Quacks of Quedlinburg. The 2018 smash hit from Schmidt Spiele is a mainstay within the modern board gaming world. Quacks of Quedlinburg blends the mechanisms of bag-building and pushing your luck. And the results are every bit as wacky as the potions you create! In this expansion, the game introduces a new exte…
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Category Tags , SKU TCS-QUACK_ALCHEMIST Availability 3+ in stock
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  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Having more control in your destiny
  • A big variety of game changes
  • It all fits is so seamlessly to the base game

Might Not Like

  • Wanting to blow up can seem odd to people!
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The Alchemists is the second major expansion for Wolfgang Warsch’s The Quacks of Quedlinburg. The 2018 smash hit from Schmidt Spiele is a mainstay within the modern board gaming world. Quacks of Quedlinburg blends the mechanisms of bag-building and pushing your luck. And the results are every bit as wacky as the potions you create!

In this expansion, the game introduces a new extension to your cauldron, in the form of a laboratory. During set-up, you reveal three random illnesses or afflictions that have struck down the citizens of Quedlinburg. You decide at the start of the game which illness you want to try and cure. This could be vampirism, or the more-bizarre case of carrot-nose! (That’s right, the citizens have grown carrots for noses…)

Depending on your chosen disease, you place the associated card on your lab board. The game plays the same, with you drawing ingredient chits out of your bag. You add them to your cauldron as per usual. Only this time, a new phase gets added. After everyone’s stopped drawing or blown up, check your cauldron’s ingredient types. You get one lab point per unique ingredient drawn. You also get one lab point if you drew exactly a sum of seven unwanted white ingredients. You also get points for each of your neighbours whose concoction exploded.

The lab points you get determines an extra reward, depending on the disease type you’re aiming to cure. This could be the chance to earn more money to buy an extra chit. It could be extra rat tails, or straight-up extra points. These tantalising benefits further heighten players to push their luck to the limit!

Please note that The Alchemists is an expansion; you’ll need a base copy of The Quacks of Quedlinburg to play. You can also combine The Alchemists with the first Quack’s expansion, The Herb Witches.

Player Count: 2-5 Players
Time: 45 minutes
Age: 10+

I know this won’t be very popular, but I didn’t love Quacks of Quedlinburg. I know! Sorry! But, to cut to the chase, I love The Alchemists Expansion. If you are a fan of the base game you will love it too. And if like me, you didn’t get on with the base game, well then, this could fix all your problems. Related to this game I mean It won’t sort your tax bill.

In Quacks, you are looking to create the most wonderful and point-worthy potion. In a push-your-luck game, you are pulling potion ingredients out of a bag one by one, in unison with the other players. Looking to build on your existing potion and fill your cauldron as best you can. But watch out! In your bag is the Cherry bomb white chips. Too many of those in your brew and kaboom! Your potion will explode! At this point, you either must sacrifice the points you had scored or the money you had earned. And you also cannot roll the bonus dice now. The loss seemed too great to me. The risk too high.

It’s Like Pulling Teeth! But the Teeth are Spiders. Ok, it’s like Pulling Spiders.

Pulling the chips out one by one can be excruciating! You have no idea what will come other than guesswork. You can build your bad each round. Adding ingredients you want into it. Thus, reducing the risk, but it is still blind luck. There is no control here and when you draw cherry bomb after cherry bomb, round after round. Whilst you opposing players are pulling pumpkins, spiders and the like. It can be frustrating.

Now I know this is the nature of a push-your-luck. But there are few push-your-luck games where the game lasts this long. Or the effects or pushing-your-luck too far are this great. Or the lack of control, if you do push too far, is so luck-based. I usually love this mechanic but with Quacks, I was often left frustrated.

We created a few house rules to make it more fun. And let’s be honest, this is not a serious heavy game Shouldn’t it be more fun? For example, there is a vile you can use to put back any chip you pull that you don’t want. But you cannot do this if the chip you pulled would have caused you to explode. We changed that. We also amended a few other rules, and I am not saying it was better for it. But it was better suited to my family. But I do prefer to play the proper rules so did dream of an expansion to fix it.

Expand Your Mind. Expand Your Life.

With the first expansion for this game, a few extra bits were brought to the table. But these two issues were not addressed. But with this second expansion, they both are!

First, let’s look at the luck-based element of the game. Now, this is a major part of the game. You don’t want to completely remove it. It is a huge part of the fun! Drawing things from a bag that will cause success or failure has some genuine tension. You don’t want to remove that. But having zero control makes the game dull for me. There is minimal strategy. This can be disheartening for players. Especially younger ones, if they keep pulling things you don’t want.

Manipulate Your Destiny!

With The Alchemist, they have created opportunities to have some of your chips pulled from the bag before the round starts. When it comes to pulling out a new chip, you can either pull as usual or place one of the chips you have out already. Giving you some choice. Some control. Some sense that you can manipulate your destiny. Even if only a little bit.

I like this opportunity to add some control to the game. It is not given for free. You need to earn this power, and your opportunity to do this increases with time, round by round. This works brilliantly with the game. As your bag fills up, you will be building larger and larger potions. Your opportunity to control this a little more each time grows at the same rate. It is a very clever system.

And what about the high-risk nature of blowing up and losing too much of you do? Well, this has been addressed in a way I never imagined! Now, on occasions, you may want to blow up! You still lose the same things when you do as before. But now, there are times when you can also gain things from this as well It makes the events of your potion making so much more enjoyable. Success or failure. Win or lose. It is more fun.

The Quacks Of Quedlinburg: The Alchemists Expansion - How Does This All Work?

In The Alchemist, you are presented with an extra choice at the beginning of the game. Three from eight patients are chosen at random at the start of the game. And then each player needs to choose with a patient they will try and cure. This is done by placing the relevant essence card into their flask. Each aliment will bring the player a different potential extra power if they can cook the right potion.

In the first round, nothing changes. But then each round, and growing each time, you should be able to control your destiny a little more. At the end of the preparation phase, you will move your essence marker along a certain number of spaces. One space for each different colour chip you pulled that round. Another space if your neighbour’s cauldron exploded. And another space if the white chips in your cauldron totals exactly seven! The amount needed to explode. So, now you get a benefit from exploding but only if you explode perfectly!

This is a clever rule. If you got this bonus on the essence track simply from exploding, players would not care if they exploded as much, if at all. But to say you gain the benefit from a total of seven white chips only is clever. It makes pulling extra chips when on four chips white or more so much more exciting. And less stressful.

With Great Power, Comes Great Point Scoring!

The powers available in The Alchemists Expansion on the essence cards are varied and fun. You can add more rats tails into your cauldron, extra points, dice rolls, chips, ruby’s and even refill your flask. But most enticingly, the chance to pull chips out of the bag before the next preparation phase starts. If you score high enough on the essence tracks, in a later round you can have up to 10 chips pre-pulled. You can put any firecrackers you pull out back into the bag but lay the rest out in front of you. During the next preparation phase, you can then decide to either pull from the bag as usual or one from here.

Each patient brings different powers and opportunities. If the above does not sound appealing, don’t choose it. There are eight different patients as I said. You will only ever have three in each game, but each player only ever tries to help one patient. So, it is up to each player what they want to add to their game. It is a clever way to bring these new powers into the game. I can imagine a few of you who have read the above have thought it fixes an issue that did not exist. I know many love the base game like it. I understand that and so too do the designers of this expansion. You pick the powers you want.

But for me, it made a game I so wanted to love, but found large issues with, so much better. It turns this from an unpayable six into a joyous eight. That is a large jump for me. I am less than enthusiastic about some expansions. But here, with The Alchemists, something wonderful has been conjured up.

Quacks of Quedlinburg Alchemist Expansion

Welcome back to Quedlinburg, a fine town where the potions are sold freely and definitely work. There are no quacks here, only Alchemists, who can absolutely turn lead into gold (and not Lord Percy Percy's "green." Shout out to the Blackadder fans who like that reference.) Yes, having had the Herb Witches come along to shake things up, the Alchemists expansion adds even more to the Quacks universe. We've already reviewed it here at Zatu but for those of you getting it to the table for the first time, I'm going to help you learn how to play.

A quick aside, my copy of the Quedlinburg Alchemist expansion comes as part of the Mega Box. This makes zero difference to the components and gameplay but I figured it was worth mentioning! I've also assumed that you, dear reader, already know let's get to it.

Set Up

Set up for the usual base game of Quacks of Quedlinburg with the following changes:

  1. Shuffle in the new fortune teller cards in with the ones from the base game. Some of these cards have a symbol on them, indicating which expansion they belong to, either a witches hat if it belongs to the Herb Witches expansion or a flask if it's for the Alchemists. For the cards that have no symbol, they can be used in the base game without any issue.
  2. Give each player the alchemist flask board extension, essence marker and essence cards of their colour.
  3. Randomly choose three patient markers from a bag and place their matching charts, picture side up, for all players to see. Return the other charts and all eight markers to the box.
  4. Each player then must choose which of the three patients they want to treat and place that essence card on their alchemist's flask board. Multiple players can select the same patient. After each player has chosen, return all other essence cards to the box.

Quacks of Quedlinburg


The gameplay follows the usual Quacks game but with one new phase: The Essence Phase. This occurs after everyone has finished the Preparation Phase but before we score. Thematically, we are distilling extra essences from the potion, salvaging the bubbling mass and gasses to make another concoctions.

As the start of the Essence Phase, the essence marker is placed on the 0 spot. Nothing is kept from a previous round, so just like in the Prepare phase, you'll start from the beginning every turn. Next, you look at the following three steps:

  • Count the number of different colour chips in your cauldron, ignoring white chips. Move the essence marker to that number.
  • Total up your white chips in the cauldron. If it is exactly 7, the marker can move forward one space.
  • If the player to your left or right has exploded this round, move your marker forward another space for each.

Once you have moved your marker, follow the glass tube below to the bonus on your essence card. This could be a rat stone, victory points or a special action which you can take during the next Preparation Phase. You may choose to take a benefit from a lower spot on your track, in which case, you may move the marker back to the spot you wish to take. You can only go backwards though, never forwards in this way. If the tube ends in an oval glass on the essence card, the patient chart will tell you when your bonus will be received.

In the ninth round, there is a final Essence Phase. In this phase, you do not gain the benefit on your essence card but instead gain a number of points equal to how far the marker moved along the track.

The rulebook of Quedlinburg has a glossary of the different essences and the bonuses you will receive when you reach certain thresholds.

Zatu Score


  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Having more control in your destiny
  • A big variety of game changes
  • It all fits is so seamlessly to the base game

Might not like

  • Wanting to blow up can seem odd to people!