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Alex Greenberg | Studio Director, Founder

Jan 19, 2024


Happy New Year everyone! Seeing as we are mid-way through January, I assume you are dutifully maintaining your new year resolutions, right? You’re not? Well don’t fret! I have a remedy for that. If you travel to the city of Quedlinburg – perhaps you’re already familiar – you will find them holding their annual bazaar. Once there, locate the most trustworthy-looking potion vendor (admittedly, these are quite rare in Quedlinburg, so it might take some searching). In preparation for the bazaar, these “miracle doctors”, as they so generously refer to themselves, have been cooking up the most potent concoctions they can afford and are eager to provide the potion you need to get your resolution back on track. Be weary, however. These zealous and often over-confident merchants work tirelessly each night, brewing with abandon until their charred cauldrons explode, overburdened by collections of volatile ingredients that have no business occupying the same pot. Though these explosions do damage to little more than the ears of the sleepy Quedlinburg denizens, they are the telltale sign of a quack! Despite their disasters, be assured these noisy fools will still appear at the following day’s market, their enthusiasm for their “wonder potions” unaffected. So, my friend, seek Quedlinburg’s illustrious bazaar, but remain vigilant and always be on the lookout for the notorious Quacks of Quedlinburg!

With that in mind, it is high time we discuss Quacks of Quedlinburg, the potion-brewing, push-your-luck game where you and your compatriots are the quacks in question. Over the course of nine rounds, players brew the most potent potions they can, gaining more points with each brew as they buy new ingredients to haphazardly toss into their pots. Quacks exists in a narrow middle ground between approachable and complex that is difficult for many games to achieve. Therein lies a major appeal of the game. For players not accustomed to complicated games that offer a lot of depth, Quacks offers an experience that remains engaging without demanding laborious critical thinking. On the other hand, players set on optimizing their gameplay are rewarded for thoughtful tactics. The crux of this dichotomy is the push-your-luck aspect of the game. As players brew their potions, they must draw ingredient chips from their bags without looking, each draw potentially getting them closer to their pot exploding (thus receiving less points for the round). The inherent unpredictability of this mechanic levels the odds between strategic, experienced players and new players. Opposing this unpredictability is the players’ ability to choose new ingredients in between rounds. Different ingredients grant bonuses and special effects with some working in unison to enhance their benefits. This is where the majority of Quacks’ strategy lies. A savvy player can salvage a bad set of ingredient draws by offsetting their collection of chips with new ingredients that offer a different path toward victory.

A particularly enjoyable element of Quacks that can appeal to all players is the alternation between brewing and purchasing ingredients. Each phase grants a respite from the former, allowing players to become engrossed in their ingredient selections then shift to the less analytical, reactionary brewing phase, where players can mostly turn off their brains and just enjoy the ride. The game also includes enough comeback mechanics and “try again” options to keep it forgiving. Even after a set of poor draws and fruitless ingredient choices, players can capitalize on tools which maintain their shot at first place. Quacks also does a good job of embedding these tools in a way that feels intrinsic and natural, keeping leading players from feeling like they were robbed of a win.

Adding to the overall appeal of Quacks of Quedlinburg is its art. Seldom do I encounter a game with such a liberal approach to detail and expressiveness. Every aspect of the game is loaded with details and visual oddities which immerse you in the theme and provide enough eye candy to keep you engaged even when waiting for other players to finish their turns. Ingredient books, for example, contain not just a depiction of the ingredient itself but also the scrawled drawings and notes of the potion maker. While not necessary to the gameplay, these scribblings provide depth to the ingredients and their canonical purposes. Though ambiguous, the sketch of a ghast (one of the ingredients) leaving the mouth of an emaciated, bed-ridden individual adds a sinister tone to its use in your potion. Aiding the visual appeal is Quacks’ unique theme. Each component faithfully maintains the eclectic feel of eccentric potion brewers. Even the rats depicted throughout the scoreboard support the dense but endearing art style.

Quacks of Quedlinburg is yet another game that influenced ULTRAMASSIVE’s design. Initially, when posed with the challenge of making functional and understandable player boards in the shape of a spiral, we turned to Quacks, which includes beautifully illustrated spiral boards.

Ultimately, Quacks is difficult to write off for any fan of board games. It maintains a simplistic, straightforward gameplay loop that is easy to follow, yet dynamic in nature. For players looking to (literally) experiment without much care for optimization, Quacks delivers a low stakes, consistent experience. In the same game, players seeking strategic perfection and number crunching will find their needs met. Play Quacks of Quedlinburg as a warmup to the night’s centerpiece game, or make it the central focus and immerse yourself in its whimsy. Either way, you can’t go wrong at Quedlinburg’s yearly bazaar.

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