The tactical board game Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg was recently named Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018. The topic appeals to many types of players: as is so often the case with board games, it is about alchemy. Mixing ingredients colorfully in order to brew more or less tasty potions from them is a real classic that game designer Wolfgang Warsch used in his fourth game this year. Maybe because the topic works well, maybe also because his professional roots as a molecular biologist have so closely in common with the active ingredients of mandrake roots, toadstools or crow's beaks. The Quacksalber von Quedlinburg seems trivial at first glance. You have to have played the board game to appreciate the enormous entertainment value. Then, however, the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 regularly finds its way onto the home gaming table. The jury of critics of the Spiel des Jahres eV was sure of the quality of the game.

Wolfgang Warsch's title apparently has more to offer than its obvious push-to-luck mechanism. What exactly do you find out in our following review of The Quacksalber von Quedlinburg from Schmidt Spiele.


The quacks from Quedlinburg put to the test

The Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 already requires a little preparation. The quacks of Quedlinburg is not an escalating material battle, but an alchemical cooking area should be well sorted so that the kettle does not blow up when the first ingredient is added. In addition to numerous ingredient tiles in different colors, four kettles, wooden tokens, a scoring board, recipe books, bags and a dice, the tactical board game by Wolfgang Warsch comes with a recipe manual and the mandatory instructions. The latter is well structured and nicely illustrated, but the editorial work is not optimal. Inexperienced players will have to read some passages several times in order to understand the course of the game. At the point where the color assignment of the seal tokens to the player tokens is concerned, confusion initially arises. As nicely as the game material is worked out, the color matching with regard to this detail is just as inappropriate. The award as Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 should come in handy for the publisher, after all, the faux pas can easily be remedied in this way in the reprint. The small mistake is not critical to the game, however, because tokens and tokens at least roughly match and the seal tokens are only needed for the ultimate finale anyway. Therefore, the following applies: the error should be noted, but is insignificant.

What successful alchemists need is their own cauldron as well as a garden spider, a pumpkin and seven snap peas as starting ingredients. The latter give the brew the right whistle - and the game the necessary basic tension. The stalactite is then placed in the middle of the cauldron (the field with the 1), but moves in a spiral to the higher scoring fields depending on the course of the game. Quickly throw the rat into the wooden bowl and put the filled drink in the bowl, and you're good to go!

So that the game rounds differ in detail, reading a fortune telling card provides various special effects that occur immediately or remain active for the duration of the entire round. The events have a noticeable effect on individual game situations, but are generally incorporated rather discreetly into the action so that no critical moments arise. 

Then the players pull ingredient tiles from their bag until they stop by themselves or the value of all the crackling peas is greater than 7. Then the kettle explodes and the soup flies into the ears of particularly risk-takers. The ingredient tiles are moved forward according to their numerical value, starting with the stalactite (or the rat) on the boiler board. The further players get in the cauldron spiral, the higher the number of victory points and the budget available for purchases in the ingredients shop. Finding the right mix of frugality and willingness to take risks is the key to success at Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg.

The drawing and placing of tiles ends when all players have passed or their cauldrons have exploded. The players with the highest ratings can then challenge their luck with the dice and in this way reap some bonuses. According to the rules, rubies are distributed, bonuses for the different colored ingredient tiles are determined and the player tokens are moved on the scoring board according to the number of victory points gained.

With the scoring points earned, alchemists go on a shopping spree and choose the ingredients they need for their next rounds from the display. This tactical trick of bag building is a nice addition to the ever-present push-your-luck mechanism. 

The last actions of the players concern the creation of a better starting position by pushing the stalactite for two rubies at a time or filling up any anti-cracked pea potions for the same amount. With the potion, players can put a crackling pea back in their bag; but only before the brew blew up. 

After the rat tail inspection, the next round begins. A total of nine rounds are played per game, then the fun ends and the winners are determined.

Long-term motivation through sets and a variant

Whoever has the basic version of The quacks of Quedlinburg If you get tired, you can fall back on a total of four different sets as well as a game variant to set new stimuli. The four different sets of recipe books ensure surprising complexity and variety. who The quacks of Quedlinburg plays the first time, will be completely satisfied with the basic version. If routine creeps in after a few games, the second set provides new impulses. Each basic ingredient has slightly modified effects that do not completely change the board game, but have a noticeable effect on the details. If you have played enough with set 2, you choose the third set of recipes and then set 4. 

Even players who have played extensively on all of the given recipe books will still find incentives to try The quacks of Quedlinburg to get it off the shelf again. For experts, the board game only really starts then, because each ingredient can be mixed with any other ingredient. This invites you to experiment and is a great idea for all those who want to create a gaming experience for themselves. 

Review of Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg, Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018
Early phase in the board game Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg. A look into the sack reveals the high probability of drawing a white tile. Of course, you are not allowed to look: you pull blindly, which makes the push-to-luck mechanism noticeable.

The board game comes with a handy almanac that explains each recipe. An additional highlight is the back of the boiler board, which is the variant when used. In this case, everyone receives a second stalactite that unlocks additional bonuses in the form of rubies, points or ingredients in the row of test tubes on the player board.

The jury of the Spiel des Jahres eV certified that the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2018 had an enormous replay value. And actually is The quacks of Quedlinburg a title that can always set new attractions - even after the fiftieth game. You seldom get much more board games for your money in stores at the moment. Wolfgang Warsch's tactical game is worth every penny.

The quacks of Quedlinburg as an expert game?

The award as connoisseur game of the year gives board games an often ambiguous touch as an expert game. The quacks of Quedlinburg is neither particularly difficult nor extremely demanding. Basically, one could describe the tactical board game by Wolfgang Warsch as a family game with a raised level. Numerous emotional moments predominate: joy, glee and anger (mostly about one's own greed) alternate in quick succession and turn a board game into an emotional rollercoaster ride. Instead of complicated rules, it is rather the sometimes frustrating situations that especially inexperienced players weigh on their spirits. If all luck is a long way off and you as a player often have to throw crackling peas into the cauldron, the motivation to continue playing can dwindle. You shouldn't give up, however, because whenever you have to decide between victory points and shopping after an explosion, many ingredient tokens with low values ​​can dilute the contents of the bag so that the next round is a little more successful.

Is tactically demanding The quacks of Quedlinburg not. It's about making smart decisions at the right moments in order to optimize the contents of the bag. The main thing that matters is the luck of the players when they pull their hand out of the bag. It feels like there is always an excess of cracked peas in the black sacks, so that “annoying moments” occur in almost every batch. That's good because, in the end, it's funny too.

Whether the board game The quacks of Quedlinburg in the category Kennerspiel des Jahres is really right, everyone has to judge for themselves.  

Images of The Quacksalber of Quedlinburg

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 35 to 60 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Author: Wolfgang Warsch
Graphics: Dennis Lohausen
Year of publication: 2018
Language: German
Cost: 35 Euro

Summary

The tactical board game The quacks of Quedlinburg is fun and is definitely a worthy award winner, albeit with a controversial category selection. Wolfgang Warsch has managed to design a game system in which luck plays a major role, but tactical decisions can still have an impact on the game. Clever tacticians and experts will probably find the push-your-luck mechanism as sour as it would after enjoying a cross-spider cocktail. No matter how cleverly you put the contents of the bag together - if you lose your luck, the number of cracked peas in the bag is sometimes frustratingly high. In the end it is about statistical probabilities that can be influenced - however, good round results are not guaranteed due to the necessary luck when drawing the “planned” tiles. It is justifiable to call The Quacksalber von Quedlinburg a tactical board game, even if not every conceived strategy can be transferred to the gaming table. In any case, Wolfgang Warsch's idea is entertaining. Very much - and that's what counts in a game in the first place.

The bagbuilding system on which the board game is based works flawlessly, and success depends not least on the players' willingness to take risks. If the scores in the opening rounds are too low, new players should not be tempted to be careless. If you cause cauldron explosions too often and then decide several times against the victory points (and thus for shopping), you will quickly lose touch with the leading player. The rat compensates for the lead somewhat, but overall it is rather difficult to catch up with a player who plays on safety knowing his leadership. This is a small drawback, but it can be reduced by various game variants. Here, too, presents itself The quacks of Quedlinburg amazingly multifaceted. The four sets and one variant that make the basic game a lot better ensure that there are always new motivational boosts - and thus a good portion of long-term fun.

The visual presentation with the great illustrations by Dennis Lohausen contribute a large part to the successful gaming experience. The quacks of Quedlinburg plays in the middle of the Harz Mountains. Quedlinburg itself is an enormously historical location and, due to the high density of sights, one of the largest area monuments in the Federal Republic of Germany. In any case, the Harz is known for its gruesome witch's tales. It's no surprise that spider legs, mandrake roots and all kinds of animals want to be processed into tasty drinks there. The quacks of Quedlinburg uses his medieval garb to charmingly kidnap players into a rustic setting. The excellent quality of the board game can also be seen in its material. Everything is colorful, personable and inviting. Only the idiosyncratic choice of color sometimes makes players lose track of things.

The quacks of Quedlinburg offers numerous emotional moments and a smooth, unexcited course of the game, which is loosened up again and again by smaller events. The game babbles in a fun way, mostly without triggering wow effects. In a special way, however, that is precisely the greatest strength of the tactical game of chance by Wolfgang Warsch: The Quacks from Quedlinburg work without getting lost in tactical subtleties. 

The entertaining board game from Schmidt Spiele is a worthy connoisseur game of 2018 and certainly one of the highlights of the current year of games.

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