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It's tricky to get used to smashing balls vertically instead of matching them in chains!

Potion Explosion (and Fifth Ingredient DLC) – Game Review

Platform: PC (tested)

Release Date: May 2018

Asmodee has captured my imagination with their adaptations of board games into a digital format. They are often quite simple in their execution but usually very well done and show off the game mechanics really well. Potion Explosion is one of their latest, bringing a 1-4 player experience both locally and online that lets you become a wizard for points.

potionexplosion01
It’s tricky to get used to smashing balls vertically instead of matching them in chains!

The object of the game is to collect points but brewing potions. Each potion has a random number of points attributed to it usually meaning the more complex recipes are worth more points. Each game has six different potions in use but you’ll only be able to choose to create 2 of them at any one time. You create them using the ingredient slider containing different coloured balls in them. By clicking on an ingredient you get to keep it, but any two ingredients that then smash together, as a result, you also get to keep. Hence the name – potion explosion. The crux here is to try and either create a big chain for yourself of smashing colours or stop a huge chain for your opponent to capitalise on during their next turn.

To help you out during all of this, each potion also has a side effect. One will let you take an ingredient next to the one you choose of the same colour. Another lets you take one of every colour from the bottom row of ingredients. A third lets you use any colour ingredient you want in a potion to finish it off. This is where the deeper strategy comes in – particularly with the Sands of Time potion that lets you recover previous potions used to use their effect again. You can get on a roll of collecting and using potions to make a last-minute sprint for a winning position if you play your potions correctly. At the end of each turn, anything you have in your ingredients pile is discarded, but you can store up to three ingredients in your storage for a future turn – and yes one of the potions lets you steal someone’s storage!

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Each potion has a tactical advantage so it is up to you to find a good combo that works for your situation

The final piece of strategy is how the game actually ends. Depending on how many players you have, you’ll also have some rosettes. These are worth additional points and awarded when someone has made three of the same potion. So – do you go for low scoring easy ones to grab a rosette, or do you select some of the more difficult ones and hope you’ve got enough time?

Graphically the same is smooth and the music itself is cute. I haven’t tested online but I really appreciate the offline AI bots, which put up a great challenge. You can have several games on the go at once, with a mix of real and AI players and these are accessible from the menu itself. This is handy as although games are usually over in half an hour for a 3 player game,  if you need to stop and pick up again later, it’s simple.

The Fifth Ingredient DLC expansion adds four new potions into the mix. Mainly the focus on taking the vertical approach to smashing ingredients to add some horizontal moves. The big addition is the professor game mechanic. There are six of them although you can only add in up to two per game and they change the base rules of the game. Some add-in penalty points for having leftovers, some let you trade leftovers for moves, and others do things with the cauldron. The cauldron is a fifth ingredient pot that can in some rule changes act as a filler for any other colour. These professors can really change how you play the game and keep you on your toes tactically. You don’t need to use both professors, and you can just play with the four new potions and no professors which is nice too.

Potion Explosion + Fifth Ingredient DLC
Final Thoughts
Fun, lighthearted, family-friendly and actually quite deep tactically if you want it to be, Potion Explosion and its DLC expansion is a great digital board game.
Positives
Deceptively strategic.
Ability to run lots of different AI, local and online games at the same time.
Fifth Ingredient DLC genuinely changes the rules of engagement and strategy.
If you are colour blind, each potion has its own symbol so you can work with that instead.
Negatives
The game takes place on a single screen which means AI moves or online multiplayer moves are signalled via icons rather than actually seeing the move take place.
8
Great
Buy Store Credit

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