- Designer: Alan Ernstein
- Publisher: Hangman Games
- Players: 2 -4
- Age: 12+
- Time: 45-60 Minutes
- Review copy provided by publisher
Prized Potions is the latest release from Hangman Games. Players are alchemists, racing to collect ingredients and brew bigger and better potions before the other alchemists. However, you can’t just snap you fingers and make a potion – it takes some work. You need a well-organized, well-supplied lab in order to achieve fame and fortune as an alchemist. This is the second game in the Hangman Games DecaDesign Project (the first was Jewels of Puerto Primo), available exclusively from Hangman Games website (www.hangmangames.com).
The game includes many components, including a main board, player boards, various tokens and many cards. The main board goes in the center of the table; there are spots on the board for the various components and the compound and potion cards. Potion and energy tokens are placed beside the board.
Each player gets a lab board, a set of cards in their player color, a storage card and energy token. Initially players get a set of goals, although this can be done via draft if all players prefer.
The game takes place over a varying number of days (rounds). Each day every player is going to perform three experiments. How you carry out your experiments are up to you. As a brilliant alchemist, you have a lot of choices available to you.
You might choose to stock the lab by playing a card from your hand.
- Energy cards will get you energy which, much like real life, you will need to be able to successfully carry out your work.
- Raw material cards cost you energy to play; fill the bowls on that card with one raw material of your choice. You can only choose one type of raw material, and components are limited.
- Compound cards also cost energy; take the corresponding compound; again, components are limited so you can only take what is available. You can use a compound token before or during your action on a future turn by returning a token from one of the bowls to the supply, taking advantage of its special ability. Once you have used all tokens the card comes back into your deck.
- Play a potion, which (no surprise) also costs energy. Fill the potion card with tokens. On a future turn you can quaff one of the potions before or during your action to use its special ability.
If your lab is fully stocked you might instead want to combine some raw materials into a compound; pay the relevant raw materials back into the common supply and place the card into your deck. Since you can only ever have one of each compound card you note that you took it on your handy player aid card.
Alternately; you can pay the raw material cost of a compound card on the board plus 2 energy and you can place one compound token in an empty bowl in your lab.
Remember those compound potion cards you can play? Well, in order to play them you have to earn them first, by creating the compound and designing the correct elixir. Pay the raw material and compound requirements of any available potion card (you can choose from the entire stack, not just the top one) and place it in your deck. You can only make each potion once, so you again mark this on your handy player aid.
You also might want to take a break from your lab bench and kettle and improve your lab. All these materials, compounds and potions take up a lot of space – you start with one storage container, but you’re going to need more storage at some point. Pay the cost of any storage container card on the board and place it on one of the basic storage spaces on your lab mat; it just cannot be connected to another storage container. Now you have more places for your experiments and potions.
Do you just need one raw material to carry out your grand scheme? You can also choose to run to the store and play 1 energy and 1 raw material back to the supply and take one raw material of your choice and place it in your lab.
You’re not just in this for the science – you want all the glory, too. Each player has a set of Prize cards (either dealt to them or drafted, depending on what the group wants to do ). Once you have met the requirements of a particular prize, you may use one of your actions to place the prize on your lab mat.
Once all players have undertaken 3 experiments (actions) your workday is over and it is time to clean up for the day. Any remaining cards in your hand go back to your deck. Rearrange any raw materials, compounds and energy tokens into relevant spaces and then return any now-empty cards to your deck. Select 4 cards from your entire deck for the next day and pass the first player token to the left.
It’s time for more science! The alchemy continues until one player has earned their third Prize; once that happens the game ends immediately.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I have a unique perspective on this game, since I have played it several times in prototype form. To be honest, while I always liked the idea I didn’t love every prototype play, as it often felt fiddly or the flow didn’t make sense. In this final form I think the designer has perfected the game, maximizing the balance and flow of actions.
The theme really works – you are performing alchemical actions to reach your end goal of being a famous alchemist, and the upgrading and combining of materials adheres well to the theme. I am a fan of engine builders, and the synergies that can be found in the compound abilities and potion abilities create an interesting puzzle every time.
It’s also well-balanced; you are never without something you can do that will help you and move you forward, even if it isn’t exactly what you planned to do. For example, if you don’t have a particular compound card you need available to you, you always have the preprinted option on the board. You can also exchange resources for a different resource or energy. Sure, it is better to do this via cards and compound abilities, but sometimes you chose the wrong 4 cards, for this round, so it’s nice to have the option.
Speaking of those 4 cards, it’s another interesting aspect. As you build up your hand you want to choose your new and shiny cards, but you always still need energy, so what do you take? You really have find a way to include the basics, or have a potion that will let you maximize those so you don’t rely on them as heavily. How can you combine your special abilities to be most efficient? How quickly can you ramp up to getting your third prize before anyone else? The puzzle of how to get there is very interesting, and will vary game to game, particularly if you are using the drafting of prizes option.
The game is also sized well to differing numbers of players as well as different player abilities. Number of cards and resources in the game are based on number of players. In addition, for a first game or a less-strategic game, you can deal each player the prize cards in their color, but for future games or to make it more strategic you can follow the drafting instructions.
The art and components are also well-made and of good quality, and are in keeping with the theme of the game. The colors are distinct, and the pieces are all 3-D, and this definitely adds to the experience. It comes in a very nice box.
The rules over all are well-written. It may seem confusing as you are first going through, but once you are through them read and get started you realized it all makes sense. There are some miscellaneous reminders on the back page of the rule book that are helpful, but the iconography is all very well done and clear and it is easy to follow, so everyone can get up to speed very quickly. I can’t recall one time that there was confusion about what a card was or does, or what a particular component/material was.
There is also an equipment listing on the back of the rulebook; I point this out because I did not discover this until after I struggled a little bit with inital setup; the list will make your life much easier.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!:
I like it: Tery N
Not for me. . :