Man! Cool Mini or Not is just on fire. Not only did they have the most new product out of any game publisher at Gen Con, the quality of these games are fantastic! I picked up 5 of their new games at Gen Con (4 of which are coming out later) This one has just been released today to the general public. It did get a European release last fall at Essen, but Cool Mini or Not picked this up for North American distribution. This is definitely a “gimmick” game. But does that gimmick work, and does it remain entertaining throughout the game? Let’s find out!
POTION EXPLOSION (2016 U.S. Release) designed by Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi & Lorenzo Silva; Published by Cool Mini or Not – It plays from 2-4 players and takes about 30-60 minutes, depending on the player count.
In this game, players are students at a wizard academy and are now in their final exam. They must complete the most and best potions. There are several different types of potions (8 in total, though only 6 kinds will be used in a single game). Players will take ingredients, which are 4 different colored marbles, out of the dispenser and place them on their potions in order to complete them. Each potion gives you a certain number of victory points, depending on how easy or difficult it is to complete it.
Each player will begin with 2 starter potions placed on their burner/player board. The potions are completed by placing the corresponding colored marble on a matching spot on the potion.
On their turn, you can take one marble from the dispenser.
However, there is a way you can get more than one marble on your turn. If you’ve played iphone games like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, then this concept will be familiar to you. When you take a marble, the marbles will slide down. If this causes 2 of the same color to collide, this will cause an explosion. When this happens, you can take all marbles of the color that collided.
….. and put them on your potion.
If you ever get more marbles than you can put on potions, you can save up to 3 on your beaker.
When you complete a potion you turn return all the marbles into the despenser…..
……. and turn flip over your potion, which you can now use.
Then you pick a new potion to place on your burner.
Each potion can be used for a special power. There are eight different types of potions that come in the box. I won’t go over what each potion does here. But when you drink a potion, you turn it upside down, indicating that you drank it, then you get its one-time special ability, which could be anything from taking one extra marble, or stealing all the marbles from an opponents beaker. You can also be like me and actually pretend to drink the potion too…..
Also, there is a set collection aspect to the game as well. Any time you complete 3 potions of one type or 5 unique types of potions, you gain a medal, which will give you 4 points at the end of the game.
One more thing you can do during your turn is ask the professor for help. When you do this, you can take any one marble from the dispenser (no explosions can be caused this way) and take a help token, which will give you -minus 2 points at the end of the game.
There are a certain number of medals in a pile at the beginning of the game (depending on the player count), and once that pile runs out, this will trigger the end of the game. You keep playing until every player has had the same amount of turns. Players count the victory points on their potions, points on their medals, and minus points on their help tokens. Player with the most points is the winner.
And that’s about it.
So is that marble dispenser a gimmick? Absolutely! But is the game JUST a gimmick? Absolutely NOT!
This game is super fun! I found it incredibly engaging all 5 times I’ve played it. The main draw is taking a marble and causing explosions. Players are always looking for that perfect move they can make to cause multiple explosions. There are definitely ways to complete both your potions in one turn. And when you have completed potions to drink, it makes it even easier since you can drink as many potions on one turn to give you special abilities
So yes, there’s the toy factor. But I feel like the gameplay is also good. I love set collection in games, and this is a solid one. Trying to decided on which potions to take is very important. Do you go for the different sets, or do you just try to complete the potions with the most victory points. In one game, my friend won because he just chose potions with high victory points. He didn’t even have one medal. So I feel like there’s more than one way to win in this game.
But even if you don’t win, there’s just something so fun and satisfying about physically picking up a marble and causing chain reactions. I’ve played this with people of all ages and it’s been a hit with every age group.
That said, I’m sure there will be people that the gimmick will get old for after a while. You really are doing the same thing every turn. But for me, I loved doing it so much that I just wasn’t getting sick of it. I found it quite addicting.
This game has a really nice presentation too. Fresh, playful artwork and outstanding components. Also naming the ingredients things like Dragon Smoke, and Ogre Mucus was a nice touch.
I feel like this is going to be one of the biggest family games of the year. You can play this with just about any age group (I even played this with a 3 and 5-year-old and they loved it!). I think it’s a shame that the box says 14 and up. Don’t let that fool you. Almost any age can play this game! There’s a reason this game was getting huge buzz at Gen Con.
Potion Explosion is a wonderful family game that deserves your attention. If you enjoy set collection games and App games like Candy Crush, then you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. It’s terrific fun!