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Die QUACKSALBER von QUEDLINBURG
Wolfgang Warsch for Schmidt / North Star Games   Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 Kritikpreis
2-4 Players   aged 10+     Games Take About 45 minutes     Retails around €35.00

This is a fun game of portent potion preparation in the bazaar of Quedlinburg. Each player (Quack) is out to make the best potions that will give them fame, fortune and cash in hand but mostly Victory Points; have the most VPs at the end of the ninth Turn and you are the winner of the game. However in my opinion simply having the game to play makes you a winner.

Every good witch, wizard or quack has their own cauldron for brewing their potions in (as well as cooking their lunch) and each user of the special arts also has a bag in which they keep the herbs, spiders-legs, frogs feet, eyes of newt, gems and other ingredients and resources - a bag which you cannot afford to be without; players of Quacksalber have their own Cauldrons and Sacks. The other most important thing for a user of magic, apart from a magic wand and pointy hat of course, are the magician's Spell Books, in this case they are called Recipe or Ingredient Books.

 
The Ingredient Books come into play at predetermined intervals during play, decided by the Round marker on the Score Track board. The Round Marker being a Flame token that is moved from hanging lantern to hanging lantern at the end of each Round - each lantern shows if and which Ingredient Books will be added. How easy or difficult you want to play is determined by the Ingredient Books you include in the game. The Black and Orange books take part in every game other than these one set of Ingredient Books is used per game, the strength of these being shown by the number of Bookmarks. Each set also contains 5 Ingredients comprising of Green, Blue, Red, Yellow and Purple Tokens.
 
Each player has their own Cauldron (board) which shows the swirling path their Droplet markers (player's markers are shaped like a drop of liquid) will slowly take. All of the movement spaces are numbered, numerically upwards, and most show a VP value and or a VP value and Gemstone (Ruby) - the space directly after the space where the player's last ingredient is placed is the space taken into account - this has to be remembered when planning each move for sometimes it is better to not move quite as far as possible so that the reward is better. Every cauldron has a space (a trivet) where the quack places their mixing flask, their very important and extremely useful mixing flask. Each Round begins with the flipping face up and reading aloud of a Fortune Telling card, it's actions/events affecting all players.

 

The game play is fun, semi random, and includes great mechanics to keep the balance without hindering either the leading player or assisting the lowest scoring player to the point of unfairness. To begin with you are trying to get as many useful ingredients into your bag as possible so that when drawn out they move your droplet further round the swirly track. There is also an element of greed or gambling (or both) as it is possible to push your luck when drawing the ingredient Tokens from your bag and placing them on your track. Every coloured chit has its own effect but white Tokens being the most plentiful and available and also the least required, which is why the game mechanic automatically adds them to every player's bag at the start of certain Rounds - the more white Tokens in your bag the more likely you are to pull one out. Players know what Tokens they have put into their bags but are never allowed to look through them or the bag.

Swirly tracks can only have a white chit value of 7 in total, going over this causes the cauldren to explode in a way that still allows the owning player to perform one useful act. We like this idea a lot as it means there is always a reason to push but similarly there is a reason not to take the chance on drawing a chit once the 7 points of white chit are on display.

 

The space in front of your droplet has several effects, as you might remember, and one of these is the number of points you have to spend on buying ingredients for your bag. You may buy only one or two Tokens (not 2 in value) and not more than one per ingredient, thus you could gain a Red 4 for 16pts and an Orange 1 for 3 points, but any 'money' unspent is lost, you cannot save it for the next Round. The ingredients are 'bought' from the available Ingredient Books, thus as more Ingredient Books come into play so do more ingredients. The ingredients Tokens are available as 1s, 2s and 4s (white Tokens also have a 3 value) and buying in bulk has a couple of advantages and one disadvantage. 

When a chit (any colour) is drawn out it is placed on the space away from the Droplet equal to the number on the chit, thus a 4 value chit drawn first would be placed 4 spaces away from the Droplet, the next chit would be positioned it's value away from the previous chit and so on. As more ingredients are added to the bag the further along the swirly path the players will proceed, most possibly giving them more bonus VPs (if they are lucky also a Ruby) and definitely more points to spend on new ingredients. It is really well worked out how many of the components have multiple uses and values. Other advantages are the effects of the chit placed, though sometimes if luck isn't with you their effect is lost due to previous circumstances.

 

The disadvantages of the ingredient Tokens are for example; when you draw out a '1' you do not gain much headway on your track and thus your points to spend may not be that many, and if you draw out a '4' you gain 4 spaces on your track but as it is still only one chit you have less chance of pulling it out of the bag. This makes for grins and groans throughout play but generally a fun time for all.

Players who are not in the lead may get to place a Rat's Tail (you just cannot have a cauldron without a Rat's Tail) in front of their Droplet, thus starting them a little further along the track and evening up the advantage the lead player has. How far ahead of their Droplet they are placed is determined by the number (if any) of Rat's Tails between the players score markers on the score track.Again, this isn't too much of a disadvantage to the leader but it prevents the other players getting despondant or from being left so far behind they cannot be bothered to play the next Round with enthusiasm. After each Round the ingredients are replaced in their owner's bag. Rounds always begin with an almost clean cauldron, the exception being the Droplet Token.

 

The cauldrons, from top down view, look like a vegan pizza, all green and pale and by adding the ingredients the Tokens add colour, just like building the plate up with peppers and toppings. What you are doing when adding the Tokens to the cauldron is making a Potion. There are no turns or turn order, all players are playing for themselves so build their Potion in their own time. Some Tokens activate when played, others activate at the end of the Round, but it is all down to the luck of the draw which ones come out first. This is why you should think carefully and clearly when purchasing new ingredient Tokens for your bag. White Tokens can be sent back to the bag under certain conditions, such as if a Yellow chit is drawn and placed immediately after one, or by flipping over your flask to empty, which will return the last drawn white chit - this can be done to prevent the white chit score reaching 7 or as it goes over 7. At the beginning of the next Round/End of the current Round you can spend 2 Rubies to refill (flip back over) your Flask (bottle). If the value of White Tokens goes over 7 then the cauldron explodes and the player may not draw another Token from their bag, unless circumstances allow. Players can always decide to stop drawing after placing the tile they just drew - they cannot look at it and then change their mind and put it back.

 

This is a fast, free flowing, fun game. It is interesting to view and clever in its play. It has the Euro-game quality of being playable on a level that occasional-players and families can understand, but also with strategic possibilities that core and regular boardgames players will appreciate. 

There have been a lot of thoroughly enjoyable games available in late 2017 and throughout 2018 and this is without a doubt high up on any list of favourites I might comprise.

The following are my Google translations of all the cards in the Die Quacksalber of Quedlinburg Die Alchemisten expansion. They are as near as I could get them.

On Boardgamegeek.com there is a fan, Golmik, who has translated the expansion's rules into English: 

TheAlchemists_EN_rules

Vampirism (dentes nocturnae)

According to the latest quackery knowledge, this is only a form of partial overbite. A connection with night activity or photophobia has not yet been clearly proven. However, rumors about a tendency to suck blood are fictitious. Patients often suffer from lower lip pain and uncomfortable puns with "bite". 

Vampirism (dentes nocturnae)
End of the essence phase   You can buy an additional chip for the value achieved. 

Forgetfulness
Game start    Preparation phase
You can put any colored chip from your cauldron (except for fool's weed) back into your bag. To do this, reduce your essence by as many fields as the value of the chip. 

Forgetfulness (cogitatio saltans)   
In the early stages, this disease often manifests itself through increased flashes of inspiration. Later, however, the patient's thoughts become so accelerated that it becomes increasingly difficult for them to follow their own thoughts.  At an advanced stage, the affected person's thoughts are often asleep before the body notices (and vice versa). 

Sail Ears  
Affected people are often said to have lost their grip on the ground. In most cases, this is also the case - one way or another. Victims are particularly at risk in windy areas. Often the passage through the narrow streets of Quedlingburg is a problem for the patients. The few who manage to make a virtue out of this need are commonly referred to as air kisses.

Frightfulness  Preparation phase
At the beginning of the preparation phase, pull the indicated number of chips out of your bag and place them next to your cauldron.  Put all white chips back in the bag. In the preparation phase you can put one of these chips in your kettle (instead of pulling it out of the bag). 

Frightfulness
While not life threatening, this disease is often accompanied by financial and social disadvantages. Above all, this includes threats from those who were shocked and the glee of bystanders.  According to the current state of quackery, frightfulness is considered incurable. It is just as well conceivable, however, that the quacks simply do not give out any remedies because they are far too happy to scare the patients themselves. 

Corns
End of the essence phase     They get the bonus shown on your essence. 

Corns
The characteristic physical effects of this disease are actually just side effects of a cognitive disorder. The patient perceives small objects, often as extremely important and worthy of protection.  Amazingly, because of their high level of attention, those affected often find valuables lost by others. 

Sail Ears  
Preparation phase   If you draw a white chip, you can choose:  Reduce your essence by 2 spaces and advance the chip by the value printed on it. 
OR
Reduce your essence by 3 spaces and put the chip back in the bag.  (Neither of the two actions is possible after an explosion.)

Witch hump
Preparation phase. If you place a chip on a ruby ​​field, you can reduce your essence by 2 fields. For this you get the following bonus:

Witch's hump 
Hexenbuckel are usually friendlier than their name suggests. Nevertheless, there is often a strong tendency to be in a bad mood among the patients. One of the reasons for this is that advanced witch humps tend to greet passers-by in a very friendly manner.  Unfortunately, friendly people are often considered stupid, which of course in the long run drains the nerves of the wearer. Choosing suitable clothing is often a challenge for those affected. 

Catchy tune – Ear Worm 
End of the eating phase    Take the number of chips indicated on your essence from your bag and place them in your cauldron (white chips do not cause an explosion)

Catchy tune – Ear Worm  
Although rarely accompanied by physical symptoms, the catchy tune represents a danger to the patient's psyche that should not be underestimated. Depending on the repertoire of the catchy tune, the effects range from fatigue to romantic-melancholy states to aggression.  What they all have in common, however, is that they keep making noises and are therefore extremely exciting in the long run.   

Turnip nose
Game start   Preparation phase  
You can reduce your essence by 2 spaces and place a pumpkin that you just zoned on the next ruby ​​space (instead of the usual move distance). 

Turnip nose
Not only the characteristic shape of the nose, but also the color and - according to unconfirmed rumors - even its taste,  attract hungry rodents in large numbers. Common side effects are insomnia and nosebleeds.

RED and BLUE CARDS

RED CARDS

A STRONG DROP    [Ein starker Tropfen]
You may move your drops back 1 or 2 spaces and take any 2 or 4 chip.

USEFUL RODENT  [Nutzliches Nagetier] 
You may exchange 2/4/6 rat tails and instead take any 1/2/4 chip (not purple). 

NEIGHBOR IN NEED  [Nachbar in Not] 
Choose: 
Your left neighbor may permanently remove a white 1 chip
OR  They may take any chip.

BARTER FRENZY  [Tausch-Rausch]
You can hand in one of your witch pennies and take any chip for it.  

A RAT in HONOR  [Eine Ratte in Ehren]
You can donate up to 3 rubies. For every ruby ​​given in, you will receive 3 additional rat tails. 

WHO HAS the CHOICE  [Wer die Wahl hat..)
Choose:
You get 1 ruby, 1 dice and 3 additional rat tails
OR   A red 2 chip.

RUBY FEVER  [Rubin fieber] 
Each player immediately draws a chip from the bag and takes as many rubies as the value of the chip drawn. Then he puts the chip back in the bag and begins the preparation phase. 

A SMALL DONATION   [Eine kleine Spende]  
If you have 2 or more rat tails in your cauldron at the start of the round, you may roll the dice once. 

RICH GIFTS   [Reiche Gaben] 
Choose:
You get 8 additional rat tails
OR   Move your drop 3 steps.

GIVE and TAKE ONE  [Ein Geben une Nehmen]
You can give in 1/2/4 rubies. Take any 1/2/4 chip (not purple)
OR    Take 2 rubies.

BLUE CARDS

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL  [Ende gut, alles gut] 
Your essence increases by the distance of the last chip in your cauldron. 

THE BLESSING OF THE RATS  [Der Segen der Ratten] 
Your purchasing power will increase by twice the number of rat tails in your cauldron this round. 

SALE   [Abverkauf]   
If you buy 2 chips this round, you will get the cheaper one a second time for free.

GOOD BECOMES BETTER   [Aus gut wird besser] 
After your STOP: You can permanently remove 1 colored 2 or 4 chip from your boiler. To do this, take another 2 or 4 chip from the supply and put it in the same position.   

A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD   [Eine gute Nachbarschaft] 
If your cauldron has not yet exploded, you can put your white 3 chip back into your bag at ANY time. If you do that, your left neighbor receives 2 rubies.  

BLESSING in DISGUISE [Gluck im Ungluck]
If your cauldron explodes this round, your essence increases by 2 additional fields. 

MEETING AGAIN IS JOY  [Wiedersehen macht Freude] 
At the end of the round you get one of your witch pennies back.

THE WHITE BLESSING  [Der weiße Segen]
After your STOP: If your last chip in the boiler is white, you get as many victory points as the value of this chip printed on it.  

WITCHES VISIT  [Hexen besuch]
Immediately draw a random herb witch that is not currently in play. Each player may use these once for free in this round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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