Mushrooms are red+, green+, blue+
Thats what my experiment tells me!
Medieval alchemist artisans brewing with modern 21st century technology – as alchemists players vie for groundbreaking findings and as many victory points as possible. The most victory points can be won by publishing theories, and, even better, with correct theories.
The knowledge necessary for publication is won by mixing ingredients for potions and checking the result with a scanner app and then making deductions on brewing potions. Those potions you can then sell to adventurers and use the money to buy powerful but expensive artifacts.
Players decide id the want to play with the App or without, and accordingly, you download the free App to a Smartphone or Tablet – one device is sufficient for all – or determine a game master, who cannot play and must operate the game master triangle which he hides in the box lid. He also does all other App jobs.
The next decision players takes concerns the level of difficulty; you can play as apprentices or masters with the respective set-up for the game including the correct side of the game board as regards to number of players.
As is only to be expected from such a highly scientific game, we now need some basic information to be able to play. Each ingredient –represented by cards – contains one element – called Alchemical -, which is always made up from three aspects, which can be big or small, green, red or blue and carry a positive or negative charge.
When two ingredients are combined – by scanning the two cards – a certain kind of potion results, always by connecting an identical small and big particle; small and big red-plus gives a Healing Potion, red-minus a Poison Potion, green-plus a Speed Potion, green-minus a Paralysis Potion, blue-plus a Wisdom Potion and blue-minus an Insanity Potion.
If, for instance, you did scan Mushroom and Toad and the result was a Healing Potion, then you can place a marker for red-plus at the intersection of Mushroom and Toad into your notebook in your laboratory screen. The App randomly assigns an Alchemical to each ingredient at the start of the game.
When you have mastered all prerequisites, you play six rounds.
At the start of the round the order of play is determined; if you play earlier you have advantages for the actions, if you play later you draw more cards, and for the starting position of the round you pay one gold. Then each player draws the number of ingredient cards and Favor cards as stated at your chosen position.
Then you determine in reverse order of play, which actions you want to do, you choose all of them by placing action cubes on the action cases of your selected actions, where each player has his own row of cases. Then the action cases are resolved in clock-wise direction around the board. In Round One these are Action Options for Foraging for Ingredient, Transmuting Ingredient, Buying Artifact and Experiments in two ways, Test on Students and Drink Potion. From Round Two on you also have the options of Sell Potion, Publish Theory and Debunk Theory.
A quick glance at the action options:
Forage for Ingredients – you take an ingredient card from the open display or draw a card from the stack, during a round the display is not replenished.
Transmute Ingredient – you discard one ingredient and take one gold from the bank.
Buy Artifact – You pay with gold for an artifact card from the display and set it down openly; effects are once-only or permanent, most artifacts also give you victory points at the end of the game.
Experiments - Test on Student: You select two ingredients and mix the potion, players only see the potion, not the ingredients, and you place result markers on the results triangle and also on the results area on your board. If you test students, the first test of each round is free of charge; if it was negative, each subsequent test costs one gold. If you drink a potion yourself, only negative potions have consequences: An Insanity Potion loses you one Reputation point, The Paralysis Potions forces you to choose last place in player order and for the Poison Potion you lose an action cube to the hospital. Drinking a neutral or positive potion yourself has no consequences.
Sell Potion – in each round an adventurer comes into town and you can sell him a potion that he is interested in; you have to spend four action cubes for this and the action can only be chosen once per round. You choose a potion and offer a level of quality; if you then brew a worse potion you receive no payment for it. The App only name the level of quality for this option and you place corresponding markers, receive payment for the quality level and lose a Reputation point if you brewed a neutral or wrong potion.
Publish Theory: If you believe that you have figured the Alchemical of an ingredient you can publish your theory; you mark a book on the Theory board with an Alchemical marker, add your face-down seal, pay one gold and score one Reputation point. You can publish for ingredients for which there currently is no theory. You can also endorse a theory and add your seal to another player’s seal in a book and can also publish as regards to so-called Grants which are special tiles on the Theory board, you must research their ingredients and publish about them.
Debunking a theory – this is done differently at the Apprentice and Master level of the game and much more complicated in the Master level.
At the end of the round you score a reputation point for best alchemist and get Favor cards for unused cubes; cubes in Hospital go then to the area for unused cubes for the next round; a new adventurer appears and in the Alchemists‘ Conference you receive Reputation points for sufficient amounts of publications and Endorsements and lose Reputation points otherwise. Finally, new artifacts are displayed for the next round.
In the final round the Exhibition tile is placed on the board to replace the action option Experiments and you can choose an action option for Presenting a Potion.
After this final round Reputation points become victory points and you score artifacts, grants, gold and gold from Favor cards. Then the Theory board is evaluated, you score points for correct theories and lose points for wrong ones.
As you can see from this short resume of the rules, the Alchemists and their experiments are themselves a rewarding target for exploration, which is made easy by the fantastic components and the excellent rules with their very cute and witty flavor texts. The rules even give you instructions who you can check the current result on the App to set up the game master triangle in case there is a problem with the smart device.
The game itself is then not that easy – and I absolutely recommend to play the game using the App – it facilitates game play, arriving at results and does not make mistakes in resolving the brewing of potions. If chance or deduction have the main role in the game will be seed differently by many. I believe that chance has exactly the right role in the game, it dominates card drawing and revealing adventurers, but the emphasis is on deducing the Alchemicals. And that is the core of the game and you need to take care not to make mistakes and also do not spend too much time on deduction; if necessary you can debunk your own theory and then publish a new one, because in the end its victory points that count!
If you like lots of direct interaction, you will miss that a bit in the game; you are alone with the thrill of seeing the result of brewing; the most reaction are to be had from the action option of Experimenting – who will not be happy when an opposing Alchemist is paralyzed? – but in long stretches of the game you act on your own. Indirect actions comes from shared information on potions and the publishing and debunking of theories, where even a bit of bluff can come into play.
It might be because I am a chemist myself that Alchemists for me is an absolutely felicitous and very well-made game. The App does not dominate the game, topic and mechanisms go well together, the rules are cute and good, randomness and decisions are well balanced and familiar elements like selection of order of play or worker placement together yield a very innovative game with lots of challenge and fun in playing!
Dagmar de Cassan
Designer: Matúš Kotry
Artist: David Cochard, Jakub Politzer, Philipp Murmak, Frantisek Horalek
Price: ca. 30 Euro
Publisher: Heidelberger Spieleverlag 2014
Genre: Deduction, App
Users: With friends
Rules: cz de en es fr it jp kr nl pt ro
In-game text: yes
Well-made, good rules
Innovative mix of mechanisms
App exceedingly well integrated and not dominant
First game of this kind
Czech Republic (cz and en), Italy, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Romania, Spain, The Netherlands
My rating: 6
Dagmar de Cassan:
A visual eye-catcher, a well-working hybrid of modern technology and medieval theme, an attractive mix of mechanisms and lots of fun, change and deduction – what more could you want?
Chance (pink): 1
Tactic (turquoise): 3
Strategy (blue): 0
Creativity (dark blue): 0
Knowledge (yellow): 0
Memory (orange): 1
Communication (red): 0
Interaction (brown): 2
Dexterity (green): 0
Action (dark green): 0