Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday 21 April 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Alchemists

Game: The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Alchemists

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch

Year: 2021

The Quacks of Quedlinberg
is a game that I absolutely love. We play it so much that the Geekbits felt like a great investment in spite of their high price tag. It's a game that I will always recommend since it's fantastic for both gamers and non-gamers, so I can recommend it to anyone. The Herb Witches expansion was easy to fit into the base game and we play with it every time we play because it doesn't add too much that is new and different. The Alchemists is the second expansion and it definitely adds something brand new, and I'll need to remove the base game insert to fit it into the box! 
The Alchemists introduces a reason for you to be brewing your medicines and that is to cure the ailments of the patient you select to treat each game. Strangely the patients aren't after anything specific - your brand of science is more about throwing everything in there and crossing your fingers, but somehow that works!
So the titular 'quacks' are finally going to do some doctoring, but exactly how do a bunch of "chuck it in and see how it works" potion brewers going to go about treating specific ailments? At the start of the game three  unfortunate souls will turn up with different ailments to be cured, each player will choose one of these ailments to try and cure over the course of the game and in return be given a unique progress board for that disease to be placed on the new essence board. Every round at the end of the normal potion brewing phase players will assess how they did on curing their disease.

Now let's be clear, these quacks have no idea what they are doing, instead success is created through variety. The more different ingredients went into the potion, the more likely one of them will do something beneficial, right? Players will move their essence marker up their essence track one space for every different colour of ingredient in their potion, and then a further one space if their white tokens summed up to exactly seven. Then players will get benefits depending on the disease they selected. These vary wildly, with some providing instant bonuses to points, free ingredients added to your bag or even the ability to manipulate your bag draws in the next round.

In addition to the new diseases to be cured, the expansion also includes a new ingredient type, locoweed (the same one seen in Herb Witches), and twenty new fortune teller cards to play with.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
Quacks of Quendlinburg is a fantastic game, with a wonderful selection of different rules for each ingredient, resulting in an almost endless supply of potential combinations for how to build your bag in the best possible way. However that's not to say that all ingredients are created equally. Some ingredient books are noticeably better than others, or certainly become so when put in combination with a second ingredient with a complimentary rule, this can often result in bags becoming mono-coloured, with a single strategy dominating the game. Apparently someone thought that this was a real problem, because The Alchemists has a main mechanic that's diametrically opposed to making mono-chromatic bags. Sure you can still do it, but expect your essence pool to be limited at three or four, leaving all those juicy bonuses to those players who decided to embrace diversity. It makes total sense really, if you've worked out which ingredient actually has a beneficial effect then you aren't a quack anymore!

However with the new variable of diseases youhave another differentiating factor in te mix. While all of the ailments have particularly juicy bonuses, some do seem to be rather more powerful at letting you win the game. This is particularly true when you are playing without The Herb Witches, as the nature of The Alchemists means you are more likely than ever to fill up your cauldron in the last round or two, so without the overflow board from the first expansion you might find yourself missing out on points if your disease doesn't help you get them in some way.

It's hard to say if The Alchemists has been successful in its goal. While it does prevent players from going down a mono-chromatic route, it instead heavily rewards a multi-coloured playstyle. What this does result in is more chaotic turns, with a bit of everything in your bag sometimes you'll be drawing killer combinations, while other times the beautiful rainbow of potential will wash together into a brown murk if disappointment. If you already have The Herb Witches then The Alchemists will give you even more reason to play Quacks of Quedlinberg, but if you only have the base game I'd probably push you towards getting Herb Witches first. Then, if you're playing the game a whole bunch, get The Alchemists, because it's a great expansion that builds on the one before it.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
We love 'big money' expansions - expansions that let you do more, have bigger turns get more points, more money or generally feel more powerful. The Herb Witches already did this for The Quacks of Quedlinberg, but The Alchemists does it once again! With this expansion, at least one of us always points out just how full our bag of ingredients is towards the end of the game. If you tend to fall into a routine of filling your bag with a certain ingredient type, then this expansion will your strategy on its head because of how it encourages you to build a bag with a variety of colours, rather than focusing. That is unless you happen upon a particularly magical combination where the specific power of your patient gels really well with the power of one of the ingredients in your line-up. Fortunately, even having one of these combos doesn't seem to make you super powerful compared to other players, it just adds and extra satisfying element to your game.

The rulebook for The Alchemists suggests that you play with only the base game and your new expansion for your first couple of games and I think that was a real mis-step. The Alchemists causes you to have a bigger game, typically adding more ingredients to your bag or boosting your water droplet so that you tend to advance further than normal around your pot. By the last two or three rounds you really want the overflow pot from The Herb Witches expansion to make the most of the fact you've become more powerful than in a standard game.

An all-in game of The Quacks of Quedlinberg is a table hog and it takes an hour for us with two players, rather than 30-40 minutes with just the base game, but it's a real treat! I can't wait to play more and find out if I can identify combos between certain patients and certain ingredients - there are so many combinations that I really hope there are more gems to find. We won't bring The Alchemists expansion out with new players but we'll certainly play with it a bunch when it's just the two of us.

You Might Like...
  • Having patients to treat really adds a thematic touch to the game.
  • The expansion encourages you to play whole new strategies, even with the same ingredient tokens.
  • It's certainly fun to have the huge bagful of tokens that you can get during the later rounds when playing with The Alchemists.
You Might Not Like...
  • It feels like playing with the Herb Witches is a must, which adds complexity and means you need more content.
  • Although the patients seem well balanced, some seem to offer a much more fun experience with different combos available.
The Verdict
8/10 Not every player is going to need this expansion. It lengthens the game, adds some complexity and the whole thing becomes quite the table hog. However, if you play the game a whole bunch and are an avid gamer, The Alchemists creates a game with lots of new twists. We have a base game that we play will all sorts of family and friends and a fully expanded game that the two of us will primarily play alone and that's a great amount of options from just one box on the shelf. 

The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Alchemists was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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