The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Box Feature

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review: Brew!

Play Time: 45 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 8+ / Publisher: North Star Games / Designer: Wolfgang Warsch       

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (7 &11).
Teen rating from our son (14).

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a light-hearted push your luck game with little down time and plenty of replay value. We think it’s a lot of fun. There is a decent dose of luck in this game which may not appeal to some people, but we don’t mind that at all.

4.2

Pros

  • Use of rat tails as a catch-up mechanism works so well
  • Theme is nicely woven into gameplay and artwork
  • Great replay value between double sided player board and four sets of ingredients
  • Simultaneous play means no down time
  • Unique and fun theme
  • Great at all player counts.

Cons

  • There is a fair amount of luck in this game, some may find this a problem
  • The ingredient chips are nice but can get a bit of wear from being rummaged around in bags each game.

Big thanks to BoardGameRentals.co.nz for providing a copy of this game for review. As always, we provide our own unbiased perspectives on games we review.


What You Will Find in Our Quacks of Quedlinburg Review


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The Quacks of Quedlinburg from North Star Games and designer Wolfgang Warsch mixes quack doctors, volatile potions, simultaneous play, and bag building to create a light-hearted push your luck game. It has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres award in 2018. Does it deserve the accolades? We think so.

How to Play The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Welcome to the city of Quedlinburg and our annual 9-day bazaar! Each year we gather the country’s best miracle doctors and quack surgeons to showcase their healing remedies and potions. Although some may call you a charlatan and a fraud, in Quedlinburg you are welcome to put your talents to the test by healing all manner of ailments. The more ambitious your concoctions, the greater the reward. Beware though, some of these ingredients don’t react well together. If you push your luck too far your potion may explode leading to embarrassment and a tarnished reputation.

Objective

In The Quacks of Quedlinburg your aim is to make the thickest brew each round to be rewarded with victory points and coins to purchase even more ingredients. The player who earns the most victory points at the end of 9 rounds will win and be crowned the greatest quack in Quedlinburg!

Set Up 

To set up, place the scoring track in the middle of the table along with each player’s scoring marker and the turn tracker token on round 1. The fortune teller cards are then shuffled and placed next to the scoring track.

Next select the set of ingredient books you would like to use. There are seven ingredient books used each game, four of these come with four different variations. My son loves picking the ingredient books for a game of Quacks. Once picked he examines each carefully to formulate an idea of how he wants to prioritise his purchases for the game. This is a large part of the fun, trying out different combinations of ingredients and seeing them pay off.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Game in Play
The game set up and ready to go. It looks quite cool on the table and really captures the theme well.

Finally, each player will get a player board with a large cauldron to use for mixing their potion, a rat’s tail for use if they ever fall behind, a flask and a water droplet which is placed on the 0 mark in their cauldron. Players then fill their bags with the required starting ingredients which include mainly white cherry bombs, a single green garden spider chip and a single pumpkin chip. You’re all set to play.

Turns

During your turn you will be pulling chips out of your black bag in the hopes of thickening your brew as much as possible and earning the right to roll the bonus die for rewards. The more you pull from your bag the greater the chance your potion will explode. You are allowed a total value of 7 white Cherry Bomb’s in your brew, anymore and your potion explodes causing a penalty.

Turns are broken down into three phases. The first phase involves drawing fortune teller cards which will grant a benefit for the round to all players. This is such a fun part of each round as everyone shares in the benefit and you never know what might come up. We love the card that lets you increase your cherry bomb limit to 9 instead of 7, this is particularly useful early game.

During the potion phase players will all dip into their black ingredient bags and pull out ingredients one at a time. Starting from their droplet token they will gradually advance up the cauldron track with each ingredient. If the ingredient has a 1 on it, they move forward one space, two spaces for a 2 chip and four spaces for a 4 chip.

As you progress up the track the value of cherry bombs (white chips) you pull will increase and the risk of your potion exploding increases. If the total value of your white cherry bomb chips exceeds 7 your brew will explode. The good news is that the penalty here is a disadvantage but not terrible, you must choose to give up either your victory points for the round or coins for the round meaning you won’t be able to purchase new ingredients. Aside from cherry bombs the other ingredients all have their benefits except for the orange pumpkins which are kind of neutral. I’ll get into the different ingredients a little later though.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Scoring Track
The scoring track has useful prompts to remind you about key events each turn and the sequencing of the evaluation phase.

Flasks can come in very handy and once used they let you remove the last chip you placed in your cauldron. Used at the right time they can be a massive help. In one game I was dead last and needed a big round to catch up a bit if only for my own pride. I had thickened my potion nicely and could still afford three cherry bomb points, so I was feeling pretty smug. At last, I could salvage my game and bruised ego, but then disaster struck, and I pulled a 3-point cherry bomb. I almost finished my turn but then remembered I still had my flask. It was the perfect opportunity to use it to remove the unwanted cherry bomb and continue to a better score. It paid off and not only did I win the dice roll for the round but also narrowed my deficit to only a couple of points.

Each player must decide how far to push their luck, if you are too cautious you won’t maximise your rewards, too aggressive and your brew will explode. Once each player has decided to stop pulling ingredients from their bag or exploded this phase ends.

During the evaluation phase you follow each step on the scoring track to finish the round. The player who managed to travel the furthest up their cauldron track and didn’t explode gets to roll the bonus dice to gain a one-off benefit, maybe a free ruby or extra points for example. Then chip actions for any green, black, or purple chips are activated, rubies are gained, victory points are allocated, and coins can be used to purchase more ingredients. Purchasing ingredients is so much fun and the part where we often exchange ideas about what the best buy is for our given number of coins. Finally, players can spend rubies to refill their flasks or move their water drop further up their cauldron.

As the rounds progress certain things unlock. In round two the mandrake (yellow) ingredient becomes available for purchase and rat tails come into play. The rat tails are a fantastic way to allow players to catch up a bit. Lagging players count the number of rats between them and the leader and then thicken their brew by that many spaces. This is a fantastic idea and will prevent games becoming too one sided. This saved the experience for my youngest daughter, in her first game she started behind a fair bit after a few rounds. I pointed out the rat’s tail rule and as we counted how many spaces she would get for free her face lit up and she was eagerly awaiting the next round.

In round three the purple dragon’s breath ingredient is unlocked and finally in round six each player must add a white 1 cherry bomb chip to their bag.

The Ingredients

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Ingredient Books
The ingredient books on offer. The blue, red, yellow, purple and green chips each have four unique ingredient books to choose from. Each book is double sided.

I won’t explain all the ingredients in detail here, but descriptions are available in a handy Almanac of Ingredients which comes with the game. Building your bag of ingredients and figuring out what works well is a big part of the fun in this game. Here is a high level of each ingredient:

  • Cherry Bombs (White) – These are in your bag from the start, they serve no benefit and will cause your potion to explode
  • Pumpkins (Orange) – These chips by themselves don’t do anything really, consider them a filler ingredient to bulk out your potion without any medicinal value
  • African Death’s Head Hawkmoth (Black) – These chips allow you to move your water droplet or even gain a ruby. For a two-player game having the same number of chips as you opponent will allow you to move your water droplet but in a three or four player gain you must have more black chips placed than either your left or right opponent.

The following ingredients have four different variations in separate ingredient books:

  • Crow Skull (Blue) – Depending on the variation they will allow you to preview chips before placing them, gain bonuses if you place a chip on a ruby spot or allow you to avoid penalties if you explode immediately after placing a blue chip
  • Toadstool (Red) – Some examples include one ingredient book that gives your toadstool a boost forward if pumpkins have already been played, another will allow you to place your toadstools to the side and decide when you would like it placed
  • Mandrake (Yellow) – This one is my son’s favourite ingredient. One of the ingredient books allows you to remove a cherry bomb if a mandrake chip is placed immediately after it, amazing. Another ingredient book will allow you to move your next chip double the distance in your pot, this can give you a huge boost if drawn after a 4-value chip
  • Garden Spider (Green) – Depending on the ingredient book these cute little tykes usually grant you bonuses if they are placed last or next to last in your cauldron at the end of the potion phase
  • Ghost’s Breath (Purple) – This is the last ingredient you gain access to and it’s also the most expensive. These chips generally grant you bonuses based on the number of purple chips in your pot. The more the better!

Variants  

Aside from trying different combinations of ingredient books you can also try the reverse side of the player boards. This introduces a second water droplet track with bonuses that increase in value the further up the track your water droplet travels. You still have access to your water droplet in the cauldron too, this just adds another option.

I prefer playing this way and I think both tracks are well balanced. The first two games my son and I tried with this way we both adopted different strategies. My son focused on thickening his brew when he got the chance by moving his water droplet up the cauldron track. I on the other hand focused on the bottom track which yielded a mixture of points and ingredients. Both games had 1 point margin in it, one to me and one to him. They made for tense and exciting games where we traded the lead a few times. My only advice would be to stick to one or the other. The bottom track rewards start out small but improve as you advance making the end of the track far more lucrative than the beginning.

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The Quacks of Quedlinburg Gameplay Experience  

I heard about Quacks of Quedlinburg a fair bit before I tried it. I had been meaning to give it a go but somehow it wasn’t top of my list. I heard it involved pulling random ingredients out of a bag and wondered whether the luck factor might frustrate me or if there was much more to it that would keep me engaged. Now that I have tried it, I wish I had tried it sooner, yes this is a push your luck game so there is a fair amount of luck here, but it’s so much fun.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Fortune Cards
The fortune teller cards offer a one off benefit each turn.

I love the bag building aspect here, for those not sure of what that is, it’s like deck building but with tokens in a bag instead of cards. Picking the ingredients each turn to make your bag your own is a lot of fun and offers interesting choices to tailor your bag for the way you want to attack the game. My son likes to stack mandrakes as part of his strategy, but he will mix and match to try other ingredients to see how they complement. He gets really excited when he’s able to remove a cherry bomb due to a lucky pull of a mandrake, if it happens to be a 3-value cherry bomb he finds it hard not to gloat.  I also like the fact that your two purchases must be of different colours, so it forces you to pair different abilities.

The simultaneous play means there is no down time to speak of, whether you play at 2, 3 or 4 the game scales well. You are largely concerned with your own potion and bag so there isn’t a lot of interaction but it’s so exciting pulling ingredients out of your bag that you stay engaged. I don’t really mind that there isn’t much interaction, it still generates a nice social vibe when you play.

There is a lot of satisfaction watching as your bag develops the way you intend it to, with each round improving how well your brew performs. It offers a nice sense of progression and achievement. Your first few rounds are modest but as you begin to pull more and more chips out of your bags in the mid game and begin to see their effects at work it becomes incredibly satisfying and just so darn fun.

I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do. Plunging your hand into that silky black bag and hoping you pull out just the right chip really engages you, when you do get what you want and trigger the effects you had hoped for it becomes so addictive. But where do you stop? It’s all very easy until you pull a cherry bomb that takes you to 5 cherry bomb points. Do you keep going? What if you pull a 3 cherry bomb and explode? If you do get to six cherry bombs the choice is even more agonising.

But the beauty of all of this is that the consequence of your pot exploding while not desirable isn’t disastrous. You get upset briefly but you still get to choose your penalty. That softens the blow nicely even though you are no longer eligible to roll the winner’s dice. I think this is one of the reasons why this is such a good family game, it doesn’t feel brutal or punishing when you make a mistake, or the luck doesn’t go your way.

The other thing that makes it such a good family game is the catch up mechanism using rat’s tails. The rat’s tails are such a great idea. One of the best catch up mechanisms I have seen in a board game. When you are teaching people or playing with younger kids who can easily get discouraged, it’s the perfect way to keep them engaged. Sure, I may be way behind but the further behind I get, the more advantage I get in future rounds.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Player Board Variant Side
The reverse side of each player board has a variant which includes the water droplet track at the bottom. The rewards on this track increase as you move to the right.

On top of all this goodness you have plenty of options to spice things up and squeeze out more replay value. Once you are confident with the base game you can mix and match ingredient books which change the way the game plays considerably. As we mentioned there is also a variant on the reverse side of the player boards that is my preferred way of playing.

One thing that is worth watching out for is the possibility of some players sneaking a peak in their bags when others are focused on their own bags. Because everyone is pulling chips simultaneously some players may be tempted to do this. I have caught out my kids on occasion when they thought no one was looking, and it may cause some arguments. This is rare though, and the game is intended to be quite light-hearted and not super competitive.

Other than that, the other thing that may not appeal to some players is the luck factor. There is no getting around it, the key aspect of this game is the push your luck factor. This is the aspect that I thought might put me off, but it hasn’t. I can see this being an issue for people who are after a more competitive game or want more control. For us though it isn’t an issue.

Components

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Review - Ingredient Chips
The ingredient chips! They look nice but can take a bit of wear from being rummaged around in the ingredient bag each game.

Overall, I think the components are nicely done in Quacks of Quedlinburg. The artwork fits the theme nicely and it all looks nice on the table. The player boards and recipe books are nice and thick and look like they will last. I found the rules to be well laid out and there are nice prompts on the player boards and scoring track to remind you of things like the starting chips for each player and what to do in the evaluation phase.

The ingredient chips look nice, but they seem to wear a bit especially the cherry bombs. I think this is because they end up getting battered about a bit as they are mixed in peoples ingredient bags.

Theme

I love the theme in Quacks of Quedlinburg, it’s a little different and quirky and I think would appeal to a wide audience, especially kids. The way the gameplay and artwork tie into the theme just draws people in. My daughters loved the act of buying ingredients, thickening their potion by pulling from the bag and pretending to brew some concoction. It just all works so well.

Final Thoughts on The Quacks of Quedlinburg

The Quacks of Quedlinburg deserves every accolade and award it has received so far. Yes, there’s a fair amount of luck but the combination of bag building, simultaneous play and theme create such a fun experience. In our family we all enjoy this game, my son (14), youngest daughter (7) and I just love it and are probably more enthused about it than my wife and oldest daughter (11) but they still enjoy it. Even if you are not a fan of luck in your games, I think it is still worth trying, it surprised me and it just might surprise you too.

Is Quacks of Quedlinburg easy to learn? Overall, I would say yes. My youngest daughter (7) had a little trouble getting her head around the different ingredient abilities in her first game but after her second game had caught on.  

What will Quacks of Quedlinburg teach my kids?  The main thing would be considering probabilities to influence decisions. If you can afford 3 more cherry bomb point before you explode then there is no risk but at 2 left the probability is there that your potion could explode and depends on how many ingredients you have in the bag.  

What age is appropriate for Quacks of Quedlinburg?   We think 8+ is safe. Our 7-year-old struggled a little with her first game but was fine by her second game.

Does Quacks of Quedlinburg have good replay value?  Absolutely, between the two player board options and many ingredient combinations there is plenty here to keep the game fresh for a long time.

We hope you enjoyed our Quacks of Quedlinburg review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. If you enjoy our content and want to support us you can do that through our Ko-fi page by clicking on the button below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best player count for Quacks of Quedlinburg?

We actually think it plays equally well at all player counts, 2,3 and 4. Because of the simultaneous play there is not really any additional play time and there isn’t any down time.

Does your potion explode when you reach 7 cherry bombs or more than?

This is a rule we misinterpreted the first few times we played. You actually can reach the value of 7 cherry bombs without exploding, 8 or more will cause your cauldron to explode.

In a 2-player game if neither player has black chips do they both get to move the water drop?

If there are no black chips in a cauldron then the effect does not trigger. Each effect requires the chips to be present in a cauldron for the effect to trigger.

Are you meant to start the game with a ruby?

The original version of the rules says yes but translated rules are missing this. You can play either way but as I understand it the original rules are correct, and the subsequent translations omitted this rule in error.

Are fortune teller card effects performed simultaneously or in turn order?

All effects are performed simultaneously. There isn’t really any turn order in this game.

Can you count the remaining chips in your bag by feeling the outside of the bag?

This isn’t forbidden in the rules. So, you can feel the outside of your bag at any time to determine the number of remaining chips. You just can’t look inside the bag.

Can you mix ingredient books from different sets together?

The sets of ingredients are designed to work together but there is no rule preventing you mixing books from different sets together for a game.

Does the water droplet reset to 0 each round or does it accumulate?

It does not reset to 0 it accumulates.

Do you have to stop drawing chips when you reach the end of the cauldron track or can you keep drawing chips for their bonuses?

You must stop when you reach the end of the cauldron track.

Can you accumulate left over coins after purchasing chips or do you lose them?

Any unspent coins after purchasing ingredients are lost. You cannot accumulate unspent coins for use in later rounds.

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