Have you ever wanted to craft a love potion? How about a potion that lets you travel through time? In Potion Explosion you are a student at Horribilorum Sorcery Academy for Witty Witches and Wizards. Sound familiar? And now it’s time for final exams and everyone is competing to see who the brightest student is.
Right away, Potion Explosion looked like it would be a fun time. At the very least it would look great on the table with its toy aesthetic. This game is kind of what I pictured a board game version of Candy Crush would be like. I mean, take one look at the marble dispenser and tell me it doesn’t look like it. And you know what? The gameplay really isn’t too far off from it. Except instead of collecting delicious treats, you have ingredients like ogre mucus and fairy dandruff. So, is Potion Explosion a blast or does it bomb? Let’s take a look.
How to Play Potion Explosion
In Potion Explosion players are trying complete sets of potions in order to obtain skill tokens. The game ends once a player has reached a certain amount of these tokens. To complete a potion you have to have the required amount of colored marbles. You obtain these marbles by simply taking one marble from the dispenser. You also gain any marbles that collide after picking your initial marble that are the same color. Once you complete a potion, you get to pick a new one and start the process over again. Potions also have a one time in game effect that can be used to give you a leg up on the competition.
What’s Inside the Box
Potion Explosion is a pretty simple game that doesn’t have too many components:
- Dispenser: The dispenser holds all of the marbles and does require assembly.
- 80 Marbles: There are four different colored marbles, 20 of each type.
- 64 Potion Tiles: There are eight different types of potions in the game, each with their own abilities.
- 15 Skill Tokens: Skill tokens trigger end game once a player reaches a certain amount.
- 21 Little Help Tokens: Little help tokens allow you to take an extra marble, but are worth negative points.
- 1 First Player Token: This baby goes to whoever goes first.
- 4 Desk Boards: This is where you hold your two potions that you are trying to complete as well as your pool of marbles.
The setup for Potion Explosion is pretty simple. Decide who goes first and give them the first player token. You only play with six of the eight available potion types so remove two from the game. From the remaining 6 potion types, find the ones that have a star symbol on them. These are your starting potion tiles.
Starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise, each player picks a potion tile. Once everyone has picked one potion, do it again. Once everyone has two potion tiles, place them on your desk board. All of the remaining potion tiles are shuffled and placed into five stacks. All of the marbles are poured into the dispenser. Place the little helper tokens and skill tokens in a pile near the dispenser. Create a “countdown” stack with a few of the skill tokens. The number of skill tokens to be put in this stack depends on the number of players.
On your turn, you must take one marble from the dispenser. You are free to take any visible marble from any of the tracks.
When you take a marble from the track, you may trigger an explosion. When two marbles of the same color collide, they explode. If this happens then you take all the marbles of that color that connected.
Ask For a Little Help From the Professor
Once per turn, you may take a little help token from the supply to pick an extra marble from the dispenser. Any marbles that collide from this do not trigger an explosion. Little help tokens are also worth negative two points at the end of the game.
Once you have finished gathering your marbles, you can place them on your potion tiles. You can place your marbles on any of the matching colored spaces on the potion tiles. Once you have placed your marbles they cannot be moved. If you are not able to place some of your marbles then you must place them in your ingredient pool on your desk board. There is only space for three marbles so any extras go back into the dispenser.
Once you have completed a potion tile by placing all of the necessary marbles, you flip the potion tile over and return the marbles to the dispenser. You then choose a new potion tile from any of the available stacks. Completed potions are worth points at the end of the game and they have one time magical effects.
At any time during your turn, you may choose to drink any of your completed potions. You do this by turning your potion tile upside down and taking the associated effect. There are eight different potions in the game:
- Potion of Wisdom: Take one marble from the dispenser.
- Elixir of Blind Love: Steal all of the marbles from one opponent’s pool.
- Potion of Magnetical Attraction: Take two adjacent marbles of different colors from a track of the dispenser.
- Potion of Prismatic Joy: You can place any of your marbles on any potions regardless of its color.
- Abyssal Draft: Take up to one marble of each color from the bottom row of the dispenser.
- Sands of Time: Use the ability of one of your used potions.
- Balm of Uttermost Stickiness: Take two adjacent marbles of the same color from a track of the dispenser.
- Filter of Lavamancing: Discard up to five marbles of the same color from a single track of the dispenser back into the tank.
It’s important to note that explosions do not trigger when you take a marble from the dispenser from a potion effect.
You earn skill tokens by completing a set of three potions of the same type or by completing five different types of potions. If you complete a set then you take a skill token from the “countdown” stack. Each skill token is worth four points at the end of the game.
End of Game
There are two ways to trigger the end of the game. The first is by running out of skill tokens from the “countdown” stack. And the second is by running out of all the potion tiles in the supply. Every player that hasn’t gone in this round gets one last turn. You then add up all of your points from your completed potion tiles, skill tokens, and little helper tokens. The player with the most points wins.
Our Thoughts on Potion Explosion
Art & Components
There aren’t any cards in Potion Explosion so the artwork is a bit more limited. They went with a whimsical aesthetic with very bright and vibrant colors. This game really catches your eye when its all setup. That is in large part due to the awesome looking marble dispenser. It looks like a really neat toy and once you throw all the marbles into, which is a lot of fun in its own right, it looks even better.
The dispenser does require you to assemble it, but the instructions are pretty clear and it wasn’t too much of a hassle. Once it’s all put together it feels really sturdy and hasn’t shown any signs of wear. Just be prepared for a whole lot of cardboard particles to go everywhere.
The glass marbles are really nice and look pretty, but you may run into a few broken ones like I did when opening it up. Luckily the game does include a few replacement marbles in the box so at least they were aware that it could be an issue. I think they learned from this issue since in Gizmos they decided to use plastic marbles instead.
Overall Potion Explosion is a great looking game with some really neat components.
Potion Explosion is a very simple game. You take a marble from the dispenser and place it on your potion tiles. The core mechanic though is the “explosion” mechanic. Once you pick a marble from the dispenser, any of the marbles that collide that are the same color also go to you. So you could potentially get a dozen marbles on your turn with a really good explosion. This mechanic is a lot of fun and creates a sort of puzzle that you have to figure out. It’s extremely satisfying when you create the perfect explosion that lets you complete multiple potions in one turn. Of course, this can trigger AP in those that want to figure out the best explosion possible.
Each of the eight potions has their own one time abilities that you can use after you complete them. Most let you do things like taking a couple of extra marbles from the dispenser. But some let you do things like stealing all of your opponent’s ingredients from their pool. These abilities are a lot of fun, but it’s pretty clear that some abilities are way more useful than others. Sure taking a couple of extra marbles is nice, but being able to wipe out your opponent’s pool is a huge advantage. Or the potion that lets you ignore the color restrictions on your potions and place any marbles anywhere can easily fill up a potion tile. These potions are a bit unbalanced, but you only play with six of the eight potions so you can remove two of the ones that really seem unfair to your group.
There is also a bit of set collection in the game. You gain skill tokens by either completing a set of three potions of the same type or a set of five potions of differing types. Skill tokens are important because once a player reaches a certain amount, the game is over. I like this because you have to think ahead as to which sets of potions you want to collect. Although I found that you really are at the mercy of whatever you have available to you when you have to pick a new potion.
Little helper tokens can be used to take an extra marble from the dispenser. They don’t trigger any explosions and you can only use them once per turn, but they are worth negative points at the end of the game. These can be extremely, well, helpful as they can be used to get rid of a marble that is blocking you from the perfect explosion.
There really isn’t any player interaction at all in the game. Some of the potions have a “take that” mechanic where you can steal their pool of marbles, but that’s about it. Potion Explosion really has you focusing less on what your opponents are doing and more on what you’re doing. So the interaction between players is really limited to the ways you can block them by either taking the marbles they want or the potions they want.
I do wish that there were a few more potions in the game. As I mentioned they aren’t very balanced as I found at least three of them to be extremely overpowered. There’s only eight types included and you get to use six in a game. We usually try and leave out the more overpowered potions, but it kind of makes the game stale after a while since you are always playing with the same ones. This really brings down the replayability of the game.
It can also be hard to catch up in this game if you are falling behind. Unless you hit the jackpot with one of your explosions, then there’s really no way to compete with those that have completed more potions than you. The tank of marbles is random after all so when you are returning marbles to the dispenser and a whole bunch of yellows lines up for someone it can be a bit frustrating. The good thing is that a player can only complete a maximum of two potions on there turn so there is at least some sense of balance management.
The setup for the game can also be a bit of a hassle. You have to separate all 64 of these potions by type and then look through all of the potions to find the starter potion tiles, just to reshuffle them all together to create the supply. It’s a minor complaint I suppose and there’s really no way around this, but still.
The game does move pretty quick, as long as players don’t sit there trying to over analyze the display of marbles. With four people you should be able to run through a game within an hour. The straightforward gameplay makes Potion Explosion a board game that you could sit down and play with anyone regardless of their experience with the hobby.
Overall I found Potion Explosion to have extremely engaging gameplay with a few flaws in some of the potion mechanics. The highlight of the gameplay is definitely the explosion mechanic and being able to set up the perfect chain reaction is exhilarating. The game definitely knows this and gives you plenty of tools to set up the perfect explosion between the helper tokens and the potion abilities.
Potion Explosion is essentially a Harry Potter potions class board game. I mean with names likes “Albedus Humblescore Headmaster of the Horribilorum Sorcery Academy”, I don’t think it’s a secret where they drew inspiration from. But that’s not to say its a bad thing. I found the theme to be very fun. Picking your ingredients from the dispenser to craft your potions is simple and the tactile experience makes it super engaging.
The story is also very straightforward and does a good job setting up the game:
Dear students, It’s that time of the year. Your last year at the Horribilorum Sorcery Academy for Witty Witches and Wizards is almost over, and it’s time for the final exams!
As always, the rules are the same: Take the Ingredients from the Dispenser in the Potions Lab to complete your Potions. Keep in mind that the explosions you may trigger can be useful! The use of Potions you brew during this exam is not only allowed, but encouraged! Use them wisely to do a quicker and better job, and it will prove your worth as a soon-to-be witch or wizard.
When enough Skill Tokens have been awarded, the exam will end. Remember, though, that in order to win the Student of the Year Award, you’ll need to be the one who brewed the most difficult (and valuable) potions! Good luck!
I would recommend Potion Explosion to anyone looking for a lightweight board game that they can introduce to new gamers or even your kids. There’s definitely some strategy to be found here, but I think the tactile nature of the game makes it so anyone can have a good time just picking ingredients from the dispenser. It’s really not a very complicated game and you can pick it up really quickly. Plus, kids will absolutely think that this thing looks like a toy and will want to play it.
Similar Board Games to Potion Explosion
- Gizmos: I consider this to be the spiritual successor to Potion Explosion. It’s a super fun engine builder from the same publisher who made this game. So if you like Potion Explosion I think you will enjoy this one.
- Point Salad: This is another set collection game. It plays extremely fast and is easy to pick up.
- Tsuro: Tsuro is another lightweight game. It has a very zen feel and is a great game that doesn’t burn your brain.
- Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game: This is a great family game and it includes some really pretty components.
- Century Golem Edition: This is a card drafting board game that also has some really pretty gems.
Potion Explosion does a great job of creating a fun tactile experience with engaging gameplay. Its Candy Crush style gameplay is really fun and figuring out the perfect chain reaction is super satisfying. Not to mention it looks great on the table too with its whimsical aesthetic and theme. Sure some of the potions aren’t exactly balanced, but I have always had a good time playing. I think this one is definitely worth checking out as long as you aren’t expecting a super strategic brain burner.
Figuring out the perfect chain reaction in Potion Explosion is an absolute blast and the tactile nature of the game will keep you engaged throughout.
- The tactile nature of the game makes the chain reactions is a lot of fun.
- The whisical theme and aesthetic.
- The overall quality of the components.
- Very easy to understand and start playing.
- Some of the potions are a bit unbalanced.
- It has a long setup for a short game.