The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a great game, no two ways about it. It has drama, humour, a fun push-your-luck dynamic, balance, replay value (with two ways to play in the box and plenty of variety in the ingredients), a passing respect for the laws of probability, the 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 to the game that has everything? Another player, of course!
A Quacks Recap
There is a bit more to The Herb Witches Expansion than just an extra player, but for all those who haven’t played Quacks of Quedlinburg yet - here’s a quick (quack) rundown 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 bags to place into their cauldron. Each ingredient pushes you along a spiral tracker that gives you scores 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 players’ apothecaries develop from sorry states to cornucopias that Sir Isaac Newton himself 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. 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 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. Its 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 even more. 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.
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 more of a problem punching this out than with the base game, it still looks really nice.
If you love Quacks of Quedlinburg and The Herb Witches expansion, you can also get your hands on The Alchemists expansion. The Alchemists adds the laboratory and challenges you to cure strange diseases for wonderful extra rewards.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on September 12th, 2019. Updated on February 15th, 2022 to improve the information available.