Designed by Stefano Castelli, Adrea Crespi & Lorenzo Silva
Art by Giulia Ghigini
Published in North America by Cool Mini or Not
So let’s get started, by skipping to the end, if all of my finals were like this in high school, I would have absolutely loved taking tests.
In Potion Explosion, you are witches and wizards about to take your final Potions exam, the rules of the exam are fairly simple, use the available ingredients, Unicorn Tears, Dragon Smoke, Ogre Mucus and Fairy Dandruff, to make the best spells and score as high as you can on your final. You are racing to get skill tokens as when those skill tokens run out, the exam is over and only the finest students will be awarded a passing grade, otherwise known as, the win.
The ingredients that you will be using will be in an ingredient dispenser and you’ll only see a certain amount of them, you have 5 rows of ingredients with 8 available ingredients in each row. For game purposes those ingredients are differently colored marbles that will be in the dispenser.
So on your turn during the exam, there is one thing that MUST do and several others that can be done or may be done. First and foremost you MUST take an ingredient from the dispenser. In doing so, this may trigger explosions of ingredients. If in the process of removing an ingredient, two ingredients of the same color collide, that causes the explosion and you as the active student/player get to also take all of those like ingredients of that color when they explode into your ingredient collection. If in the process of taking those ingredients out, more explosions happen, you keep taking the ingredients until no explosions happen.
Now that you have the ingredients, what are you going to do with them? Well, in front of you, you have two flasks that have on them the ingredients needed to complete the potions you have chosen to concoct, you match them up by placing the ingredients in their proper spot in their flask. If in doing so, you complete a potion by filling in all the needed ingredients, remove all ingredients and put them back into the dispenser as randomly as possible and flip your flask over and put it to the side. If you need a bit of help gathering ingredients you can always ask the professor for a bit of help, but this comes at a -2 pt penalty on your final at the end of the exam and he allows you to take an ingredient from the dispenser, but no explosions are triggered.
When you have completed potions, you can then use them in future turns to have specific benefits in helping you through the exam, but choose wisely when you use them, as they are one time use only, unless you complete some Sands of Time potions as well. In all in an exam you will have six different potions available to you to create, each of them with different abilities, for example the aforementioned Sands of Time potion allows you to activate again the effect of one potion that you have already used, it’s quite a helpful potion, as are all of them.
Also, while finishing potions, if at any time you have completed three of a kind or a set of five different, pick up one of those skill tokens and add 4 points to your final for a bit of an extra credit score. When the last Skill Token is picked up, you finish the round and then you add up your points for completed potions(each potion has a point value to it) add in any Skill Token points and then subtract any points lost from asking the professor for help and the student with the highest total wins!
The toy factor in Potion Explosion is through the roof, with the cardboard dispenser that Gabby and I had a lot of fun punching out and assembling, the marbles that go in the dispenser that really give you a great tactile experience while playing the game, it’s all really well done and makes the game stand out. The art on the potion flasks is bright and vivid to match the rest of the game, and when you flip the flask over after completing it you see a really nice potion, just waiting to be drank. So production wise and art wise, Cool Mini or Not have knocked it out of the park here and that’s kind of important as this is a game that is targeted to the family gamers I think. Anyone can enjoy it, but this is a light weight set collection game with toy appeal, families if they find this are going to eat it up, even at that $50 price tag.
Gameplay itself is light and fun, your turns are pretty easily spelled out for you, and you know what you can and cannot do. The trick of the game comes from being able to read the ingredient dispenser and utilizing your potions to their maximum effect, you gotta know when they are going to help you, you don’t just take ingredients just because you can as you can only store 3 extra ingredients on your board that are not in potions, so space is limited. Also, storing ingredients can be a bit risky as there are people out there that create potions that allow them to steal your unused ingredients, so be careful.
Among all the positives that I’ve found with Potion Explosion in our plays so far, the only negative I can hit on is as the player count increases, meaning when you play with 4 players, the state of the ingredient dispenser will change an awful lot I between your turns, and this can lead to a bit of AP in players, I kind of liken it to the Five Tribes AP, but with fewer options on the board, just more options of special things you can do with your potions. It doesn’t bother me in the least at home, but there may be some folks who you won’t want to play this with, folks who have to maximize each and every action they take may cause a little bit of a headache. But that nitpick is small and if you are playing with 2 or 3 players, I don’t think it will matter all that much. Or if you aren’t playing with vindictive 6 year olds, sheesh, AnnaBeth is so mean to me in this game, she just takes everything she can from me.
Potion Explosion was one of the big hits at Gen Con this year, I’m not sure how many copies they sold, but I saw it in an awful lot of folks’ bags and being carried around. By the time I got to the booth on Sunday and had made my mind up to purchase it, the supply had dwindled down to about 30-40 left in the stack, now who knows, they may have had more coming as we were always seeing CMON shirts carrying boxes, but it’s safe to say this one sold pretty well, and rightfully so.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I like this direction that Cool Mini or Not is taking, separating their brands a bit, they’ll still do the big bombastic Kickstarter mini games, but they are also going to putting out more titles like this and even the other CMON game I picked up at Gen Con, Ta-Da!, which is lighter yet and just as fun, but more on that one in the weeks to com.
If you are looking for a fantastic set collection game with some really nice table appeal, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one, we’ve all enjoyed it, from my youngest daughter at 6, all the way up to me at 43. This one gets the WDYPTW(Kempf Family) Flask of Approval.