I imagine someone, somewhere, has made a Venn diagram showing the number of people who love potions, and those who love explosions. Right in the centre of that diagram would be those who love both, and for that group of fine folk we have Potion Explosion, a game where you’ll be causing ingredients to explode in order to complete various potions.
Ok, so you don’t need to have an affection for either of those two things to enjoy Potion Explosion. This is a really cool game where a little forward planning, quick thinking and too much time spent on Candy Crush is enough to give you a solid fighting chance of winning. The idea is to have two potions on the go at any one time that you’re trying to complete by taking the ingredients from the rack (which you need to put together yourself and even stores complete in the box, neat), designated by a sizeable number of coloured marbles that roll themselves down the various tracks. If, by taking a single marble, further marbles of a matching colour hit each other they “explode”, allowing you to take those as well. This might then lead to further collisions and so on. That’s pretty much the only similarity to mobile games that work on a similar matching system but my wife (who’s a little obsessed by those kinds of games) certainly found it easier to spot those potential chain reactions.
Your main objective is to get the right combination of colours to fill up your potions, at which point they go to one side and replaced by another. When you’ve completed them they become actions that you can use once, allowing you to carry out things such as letting you take certain colours from the rack, stealing ingredients from other players or filing your potions using any colour you want. Only having a single use of these means that finding the right time to use them is key; I had games where I used them far too early, and others when I left them too late to the point that they weren’t overly useful. I did enjoy saving up three or four potions to use all at once, but as you’ve only got two potions to fill at any one time once you’ve filled them with ingredients and your pool is full (a separate area where you can save up to three ingredients for future use) there’s not much benefit to grabbing any more marbles from the rack, other than to disrupt another player’s progress.
It would be easy to see the marble rack as a gimmick hiding a sub-par game, but Potion Explosion is genuinely really good fun. The random nature of how the marbles fall into place is really cool, needing much more thought than you might think when it comes to trying to build up a bit of a chain reaction, and you’ll need to think about the actual colours you need too – there’s no point picking out 9 marbles that have no relation at all to anything that you need in front of you. There’s even the optional rule tweak that only allows each player 30 seconds to take their turn, knocking any over-analysing on the head pretty swiftly.
And then, just as you get to grips with things, the Fifth Ingredient gets added to the mix.
Expansion: The Fifth Ingredient
So. A new ingredient. I assumed that, on seeing a box which clearly shows white marbles, I’d get some new ingredients to add to the rack somehow and a few new potions to put them in. And, I guess, I did get that, but there’s far more to it than you’d first expect. There are new professors who change the rules, a cauldron where the white ingredient starts (ectoplasm, if you’re wondering) and the fact that the new ingredient isn’t a specific ingredient as such – it acts as a wildcard (wildmarble?) allowing you to treat it as if it were any colour you chose. Nice.
Getting these new ingredients isn’t overly straight forward though. They don’t start off on the rack, and as such it can be quite a while before the explosions are affected by them. Depending on which professor you have in the game will depend on how they show up, but generally you’ll have the option at times to swap one of your own ingredients for a white one, which will invariably end up being dropped back into the rack at some point and eventually getting mixed up with the other colours. The additional strategy involved when these marbles turn up is surprisingly deep, meaning you can plan out more epic chain reactions and have more control over which ingredients clatter into each other and, as such, fill out the potions you’ve got sat in front of you.
The potions, incidentally, will now include some of the new ones bundled in the box, whereby you can decide whether to include them or not, or if to just swap out a couple of old for new. It’s nice to have more potions, more variety and more effects on hand, and equally nice that with the new ingredient not being a “white” ingredient as such the potions don’t lean towards the new colour at all, meaning they slot really nicely into the main game.
By itself Potion Explosion is a genuinely great game with some nice novel mechanics and easy-to-learn rules, but add the Fifth Ingredient and it adds a whole new level. The expansion possibly takes it out of the reach of younger players a little more, but for something with a more physical presence on your table this could be a very useful addition to your collection. Most definitely worth a look.
Potion Explosion & The Fifth Ingredient
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