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Potion Explosion Review

Theme and What is it?

I’m not sure there was ever a time in my life when I was excited for final exams. Actually, I am absolutely sure there wasn’t. Final exams bring on the thoughts of anxiety and stress that I could only hope to escape by some stomach churning illness or by sifting through the list of people I knew who lived out of town that I had to visit immediately. My exams never tested my merits as an alchemist in Potion Class at the Horribilorum Sorcery Academy either. With reagents like dragon smoke, ogre mucus, fairy dandruff, and unicorn tears at your disposal for your experiments, I sure wish I could have been a young wizard with a headmaster like Professor Humblescore. Or is it too late?

Cool Mini or Not has made it possible for all of us now to live out our dreams of becoming a young wizard making amazing potions that you can even consume to gain powers. Creating vast explosions to enable us to create even more potions that even a certain boy wizard would be impressed by. Let’s see what Professor Humblescore has in store for us in Potion Explosion.

Gameplay Mechanics

In Potion Explosion players take turns picking marbles that represent ingredients needed to make the potions they need to win the game.

Players start by taking a Desk board and picking 2 potions from one of the 6 potion piles. Then shuffle all the remaining potions together and make 5 stacks within reach of all players. Pour the marbles into your nifty dispenser and set out the pile of Little Help tokens as well as Skill tokens.

There are four things you are able to do on your turn that you may do multiple times. The first is to pick an ingredient from the marble dispenser. If you are able to take a marble from a space that allows 2 marbles of the same color to collide together in its place you have caused an explosion. When you cause an explosion all the marbles of the same color that are connected also explode and you can collect those marbles as well. This could happen over and over again, giving you many ingredients at your disposal. If you have ingredients that match the ingredients needed for your potions you can place them on the corresponding color on the potion. If some ingredients don’t match your potions you can keep up to 3 ingredients in you ingredient pool for later use; the rest will need to be discarded back into the dispenser. The second action you are able to take is to get help from Professor Humblescore himself. By taking one of the Little Help tokens you may take any one ingredient you like from the dispenser. Be aware that this action does not trigger an explosion. You may only take one ingredient. Keep in mind that this will also give you negative 2 points at the end of the game for every Little Help you take. The third action you can take is to simply complete a potion if you have the necessary ingredients to do so. By competing potions you can earn victory points according to the ribbon in the left hand corner of the potion. You don’t choose another potion to replace it until the end of your turn so the most you are able to complete on your turn is 2. If you complete 3 of the same type of potion or 5 different potions at any point you will earn Skill tokens to use as bonus victory points. The fourth action is to drink a completed potion to give you special actions to perform. Drinking potions provide special actions. The Abyssal Draft will allow you to take 1 ingredient of every color from the bottom row of the dispenser. The Potion of Magnetical Attraction  will allow you to take 2 adjacent ingredients of the same color from the same row. There are up to 8 different potions you may complete with a range of different effects.

The Skill tokens earned when completing combinations of potions act like a sort of time tracker as well. When the last Skill token is taken it triggers the end of the game.

Initial Impressions

I didn’t think there was going to be as much strategy as there was. However, I was very happy to be so wrong. It really sucked me in to not only execute an awesome combination of explosions, but to watch my opponents dissect their options and cause very well planned explosions as well. Everyone watches with anticipation to see if the player taking their turn will steal that well planned explosion you have for your turn.

Quality of Components and Insert

Cool Mini or Not is well known for going all out on their production of games featuring miniatures. That reputation has continued through this production with the colorful array of marbles, cardboard potions and tokens, and the wonderfully constructed marble dispenser that you will be gathering ingredients from and chaining explosions together. All of the components are really eye catching through the use of all the colors in the spectrum. The insert is extremely useful, which seems like a rarity in the board gaming world sometimes. After you assemble the marble dispenser for the first time it gets put back into its very own spot in the insert, so you never have to worry about breaking it down after each play. There are slots for the Desk boards to fit into and plenty of room to hold the potions and marbles. The holes cut out on the potions themselves work very well to keep your marbles from rolling around on the table if it is accidently bumped.

Artistic Direction

The art in Potion Explosion is as fun and whimsical as it is beautiful.  All of the potions have their own flavor of art that accompanies the effect that they have. The little toppers on the potion bottles all have really cool art that can help distinguish the different potions when they are stacked on one another. The marble dispenser looks as if it’s an old ingredients case with lots of fun detail.  

Fun Factor

Potion Explosion is simply a blast to play. If you have non-gamer friends this would be a great introductory game for them; especially if they are into phone games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled. That doesn’t mean that even the most experienced gamers won’t find a lot of fun in the replayability of this game. It’s also really fun being able to pick what potions you would like to complete to form a strategy with the effects they can give you.

Difficulty and age range suggestion

The game does a great job at giving you only a few things to do on your turn that you are allowed to do multiple times, while giving you many options to the number of potions and ingredients to choose from. It is a really accessible game for all ages. I taught my 7 year-old this game and he loves to play it. It’s a perfect light weight game to pick up and play anytime. The only down fall I think is that there is no reference cards for players to tell them the effects of each potion. You will be referencing the back of the rule book frequently to see what potion effect does what. It can get a bit annoying to always have to go back and check. 

 
 

Conclusions

I remember when Cool Mini or Not announced they were going to start releasing games outside of the normal big box ones filled with boards and miniatures. There was a question if they would be able to pull off games like this with The Grizzled, Raise Your Goblets and Potion Explosion. I’m here to tell you that they absolutely did. Potion Explosion is such a well-rounded game that flawlessly combines theme and beautiful components with the brain teasing decisions of exploding ingredients and fun potion options to choose. Often after playing just one game people are ready to embark as young wizards yet again to take another exam in Potion Class – an exam anyone will be happy to take over and over.

***Editor's Note

We are not in the habit of notating our fantastic writers reviews of games, as they do such a thorough and compete job, it is not necessary to add much. With that being said, I play this regularly with my just turned 5 year old daughter, and she loves it. She does not yet get into strategy of game, which is quite a bit deeper than the art suggests, she does understanding combinations of marbles though, and it is fantastic to watch her get a long run of “magic explosions.”

This is a great game that, in my opinion, every gaming family should have as an important part of their collection.

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Originally posted 2017-02-23 20:35:32.