Game: Potion Explosion
Publisher: Horrible Games and CMON Limited
Designer: Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, Lorenzo Silva
We first played Potion Explosion at Draughts board game cafe in London and it was a perfectly enjoyable game. When we went back recently, Amy said that she really wanted to play it again and so we made sure that happened during our 4 hour gaming slot. It became apparent that I was going to have to buy this one! Potion Explosion doesn’t seem to be appearing on the second hand market (probably a good sign that it is well liked) so I did what any self respecting board game addict would do and started at £100+ game order including Potion Explosion...
Potion Explosion is most often compared to the mobile phone app Candy Crush. It shares some of the mechanisms with this very popular app. The main game component is a three-dimensional dispenser for a bunch of marbles in 4 colours. On your turn you remove a marble from a column in the dispenser and when any 2 matching marble colours hit each other as a result you add the colliding marbles to your pool too.
In your player area you each have two potions with a varying number of different coloured marble slots. You place any marbles in your pool into the appropriate slots on your potions, trying to complete them both because they’re worth victory points and also because they offer you one-time special abilities. You can hold back three marbles for future turns, which is often a factor in which potion you choose to complete next when you pick from the central pile.
|Game setup for two players. Twp types of potion are taken out of the pool at random for each game and there are two slightly more complex potions which are recommended to remove in your first few games, helping with new players.|
Potions come in different varieties and each variety has its own special ability. In addition, the different varieties form a small element of set collection. For every set of three of the same or five different potions you complete, you receive a skill token worth 4 points. When the small pool of skill tokens runs out, the end of the game is triggered.
|Back of the manual with all of the different potions and their special abilities. A slight complaint is that you do have to look at this crib sheet pretty often whilst you're playing.|
The special abilities on the potion are what really sets the game apart and makes it more than a real life emulation of Candy Crush. Once you’ve completed a potion you can activate a special ability at any point on your turn – one time only for each potion. The abilities sometimes allow you to take bonus marbles, which you can often do tactically to give yourself a better real turn and sometimes cause elements of player interaction, allowing you to steal marbles from opponents. The timing and skill with which you play these abilities can be key to winning the game.
|My desk in progress after the first turn.|
Potion Explosion is definitely a light game, and only lasts 20-30 minutes with two players, but there’s no denying its fun factor and table appeal. Once you’ve set it up once, which takes some building and a lot of punching out little circles from the potion tiles, it’s quick to set up and play. It’s definitely the sort of game that will bring new players into gaming – I’ll be trying it with my work board game group for sure – it’s got appeal as a game in itself, but also with its link to a super popular app. I suppose my only criticism is that for a filler length game, this is a very large box. It’s not going to be the focus of a gaming evening, but it will definitely take up more than its fair share of the space in my bag.
Potion Explosion isn’t massively strategic and has only a few light tactical decisions, but it has the right ratio of depth, time to play and fun factor to keep it in the collection and introduce to lots of our gaming and non-gaming friends over the coming months. From the Yellow Meeple, Potion Explosion gets a 7/10.