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The first thing of note with this expansion is that it introduces the components required to bring a fifth player to the table. This is the first and most important aspect of the HERB WITCHES.
This expansion can be found online or in game stores for anything between £15.00 and £24.00 so shop around carefully before purchasing it to add to your base game.

The second best thing about it is that all of the new components fit comfortably into the base game box without removing the inner cardboard fittings. Speaking of those components, they are durable, hard card, colourful and the deck of cards shuffles and deals very nicely. If you don't have the English version there are very good translations available on Boardgamegeek and it only takes a short time during play to remember what each book or Witch does - mostly because there are pictograms and only a small amount of text in each case.

There is no 'Double Double, Toil or Trouble' with these Witches, nor are there any Black Cats or Eyes of Newts (shame) but there are some useful spells and abilities to help stir the player's pots (in this case 'the cauldrons').

 

There are a few new components to bolster up the 5th player pieces and these include ingredient sets #5 and #6 as well as new books to replace those existing already. Coins are also introduced, Copper, Silver and Gold, which give additional Bonus VPs at the end of the game if not spent on asking the aid of the Witches that have been randomly determined for each game. To be able to use the power of the Witches you need to pay for it; One Witch asks for Copper, another for Silver and the third for Gold but you can spend your coins (or not) in any order.

There are also additional overflow bowls (with spoons) that attach by curved shape to one side of the cauldrons. These take all scores above 33 and give a 50% bonus of the total value of the chips in the bowl. With three of us playing and using the expansion pieces two of us (not the same two) reached 33+ most games whereas in a regular three player game using the base set we found it a lot more difficult to reach the 33 space.

 

Pumpkins (Orange book), which were only of value #1 are now also of value #6, but with the Black Moth books are still required for every game, it is up to you whether you use the base or the Witches Orange & Black books; the diversity in those which you use are not game changing but they do make enough of a difference so as to be a worthwhile game variant.

Of course the question everyone asks about an expansion is whether it is of value to the game and is it worth spending out almost the same cost for fewer pieces as you originally did for the game itself. As a member of regular gaming groups of different numbers, ages and favourite game types and styles, my answer to this is a mixture of my players thoughts. The first of these being that if you only have a four player group and you are happy playing the QUACKS of QUEDLINGBURG as it is then the addition of the fifth player pieces and all that comes probably does not change the game enough for you.

If you like the QUACKS of QUEDLINGBURG as it is but often wish that sometimes everything wasn't the same, chips didn't always cost the same, then the expansion with its Witches and an additional one of each book plus its new 'Fool's Herb' ingredient book will serve you well.

A couple of players felt that there wasn't enough in the expansion to alter the game to any degree of satisfaction, I thought there was, as did the majority, besides once you have conglomerated all the pieces within one box it is just as easy to play with random drawings and use the expansion rules and pieces where/when necessary.

 

With five players you need more Rubies and thus the expansion adds these to the game, in fact it doubles the number of Rubies from 20 to 40. It seems funny that 20 Rubies are enough for 4 players but you need 40 Rubies with the addition of just one extra player. If you are playing with less than 5 players then you should remember to halve the number of Rubies for your game.

As mentioned there are coins included now and are required if you are using the Witches in your game. There are twelve Witches, four in each coin value, and each gives a different option to the players. Each set of four is shuffled separately face down and one drawn randomly from each - they all offer useful abilities as well as their special spells/skills - but they can only be used once per game by each player, which is why all players are dealt one of each coin at the start of the game - they play their coins on the Witches and there they remain until the game end.

 

The basic rules remain the same. Each player builds up an assortment of coloured chips which they place in their cloth sack ready to draw out simultaneously at the beginning of each Round. Therefore there is still am amount of luck in the game but you can create your own luck to a point by the chips that you purchase. Although I have played QUACKS of QUEDLINGBURG with and without the expansion several times I have not yet found the winning formula of Chips to have in your sack. I have tried buying only the larger value chips and I have tried creating a bag full of low value chips (like I used to when playing Magic the Gathering and having a Red deck of Goblins) but it still comes down to the luck of the draw. All players have White chips in their bags, the same number and value as each other, a 3, 2 x 2 and 3 x 1 and when youpull these chips from your bag you are trying to keep their total value below 7 as going over 7 explodes your cauldron and halves your options. It is possible to gain additional White chips during play, they are usually the cost of gaining something of value to you.

It is not only possible but almost a certainty that one or more players will still be playing after another player has ended their turn. There are ways of losing a White chip from your sack (only temprary) and if you are lucky to remove the '3' from your sack then the other White chips can only add up to 7 (2 x 2 = 4 and 3 x 1 = 3, 4 + 3 = 7) which means you have free reign to remove all the other chips from your sack, one at a time, and place them on your board in accordance to the rules - this can turn out to be very advantageous or very disappointing, it all depends how the chips come out. The correct Silver Witch in play can let you remove two drawn White chips back to the sack.

I would say that even if you only play 5 player games on rare occasion it is a good idea to purchase the expansion so that QUACKS of QUEDLINGBURG is one of the 5-player games you can bring to the table. If you do, as I have, and put all the pieces in one box then it is a good idea, unless you have a good memory, to mark the box to remind you in the future that this is now a 5 player game - perhaps a small piece of 'magic' tape with a permanently marked '5' on it.

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015