Potion Explosion review
Score : 7
Simple but fun concept
Can be enjoyed by kids and new gamers
Quite luck dependant
Fairly simple strategy
I needed unicorn tears to complete my potion. However, glancing across at my fellow student I could see that they were eyeing the four dragon smokes that were readily available. This would let them complete their fifth different potion, gaining them bonus marks from the professor. I decided that stopping them was more important so I grabbed the middle dragon smoke. The rest of them fell down the ramp, clashing together and exploding, giving me the additional smokes. Now, if only I could complete my other wildcard potion, I could use those dragon smokes in place of unicorn tears...
In potion explosion, you play apprentice wizards, trying to earn the student of the year award by making the most, and most valuable potions. At the start of the game, six of the eight types of potion are used (for variety) and each player picks two starter potions from the six types. These potions will have round holes in them of various colours, denoting which of the ingredients (coloured marbles) need to be placed on them to complete the potion. Some potions are tougher to complete than others, but will award more victory points for doing so. Starter potions are at the easier end of the scale, to get the game moving quickly.
Each type of potion can be drunk after they have been completed, giving a one-use power, including taking adjacent ingredients, stealing others spare ingredients or re-using an old potion.
The highlight of this game is undoubtedly the cardboard ingredient dispenser. This is assembled in a reasonably straightforward five minute process (or ten minutes if you have to build it twice due to lifting it with all the marbles on, as we did!). You then pour the ingredients (marbles) into the top section, where they fall down individual ramps, creating five lines of ingredients.
On your turn, you then choose an ingredient to take. As the others roll down the ramp to fill that gap, should any two (or more) of the same colour collide, you get to take those as well. These explosions can be chained if you are lucky enough. The ingredients are then placed on your two potions, with up to three spares being placed on your player board for use in the next round. Aside from drinking potions, the other action you can take is to ask the professor for help. This allows you to take one additional ingredient (before or after your main turn), although you don't benefit from any explosions in this case. You will also lose two points for requesting his help. The final act of your turn is to replace any completed potions with empty ones from the available piles.
Complete five potions of different types, or three potions of the same type to get a skill token, worth victory points at the end of the game. Once these have all been claimed then the game ends at the end of the round and players tally up their victory points.
Potion explosion is a fun game that anyone can understand and enjoy, and it's certainly one of the most visual games around and bound to attract attention when played in public. However, that simplicity may not appeal to many. There is not a huge amount of strategy in the game, especially at a higher player count, as the ingredient dispenser will have totally changed by your next turn, so it is difficult to plan ahead. The best move to fill your potions is usually fairly obvious as well, and the only real choices are whether to pick a potion that is worth fewer points, but will be quicker to complete so you can use its power, or a more complex potion worth more points. There is also a large amount of luck, and depending on what the previous player does, or where the ingredients land in the dispenser, you may have an excellent or frustrating turn as a result.
Overall though, it's a fun game that is really tactile and looks great, and is perfect for starting or ending the evening or introducing to your non gamer friends or children.
Publisher: Horrible Games / CMON
Designer: Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, Lorenso Silva
Number of players: 2-4
Play Time: 30 - 45 mins