Base price: $11.95.
3 – 7 players.
Play time: 10 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 5
Full disclosure: A review copy of The Potion was provided by Foxmind Games.
Alright, next up is another game from Foxmind, who published Manhattan, the super-pretty game I took a look at last year. It’s been a while, but, it’s nice to see what they’ve got coming down the pipe next. This was a Gen Con release last year, but they were looking for additional reviewers, so I was enthused about getting a chance to take a look. Let’s dive in!
In The Potion, you play as secretive alchemists making a powerful brew while adding mysterious ingredients. Add enough, and you can take control of the final mixture, proving your alchemical mastery for all. Naturally, your opponents would prefer that honor, so they’ll try to outwit you and beat you to it. Will you be able to create an incredible potion? Or will you end up with less brewin’ and more ruin?
There’s not really any setup. Give each player two of each ingredient:
Set out the dice. If you’re playing with 3 players, only use the 1 and 2 dice, not the 3 die.
You’re basically ready to go!
The Potion is a whimsical bluffing game! Players try to meet random criteria set by the dice, but you might have to rely on your opponents to get there! A clever opponent may decide to fake you out, but you won’t know until you risk it! As you meet criteria, you’ll be able to put ingredients back into the bottle. The first player with only one type of ingredient left wins!
So, turns happen simultaneously. A player rolls the dice, and then players choose what ingredient they’re going to offer to attempt to match (or bluff!). Once everyone’s chosen, all players reveal. First, add together the counts of each ingredient offered by a player (so you might have 2 Mushrooms, 1 Vial, and 1 Beetle), then check:
- If any of the pictured criteria on the dice is met, all players contributing to that criteria may potentially return their ingredients to the bottle. Note that 1 Vial and 2 Vials are separate criteria; they don’t become “3 Vials”. If players have too many or too few ingredients, collectively, they do not meet the criteria.
- If none of the pictured criteria on the dice is met, all players who revealed an ingredient not pictured on any of the dice may potentially return their ingredients to the bottle.
Once you’ve figured out who can potentially return their ingredients to the bottle, do one more check:
- If all players would return an ingredient to the bottle, none do. Sorry; it’s more an “everyone loses” sort of tie.
Play continues! Once any player (or multiple players) runs out of two types of ingredients, they may reveal the ingredients kept hidden in their hand to win the game! If multiple players win in the same round, they share the victory.
Player Count Differences
Not much of one, honestly! The major difference is that you only use the 1 / 2 Dice at 3 players, rather than 1 – 3, which you use at 4+. At higher player counts, you might see more collisions (where players provide too many of a resource), but it’s more likely that players will try to double- or triple-bluff each other. I’ve seen an all-mushroom round at 5 players and only one mushroom was revealed. Personally, I think that makes it a bit funnier. The higher the player count, the more I enjoy the game, honestly, but I still enjoy it at lower player counts, as well. I don’t really have much of a preference for player count, on this one.
- Watch other players for patterns. Try to see if you can figure out how they play. Are they the type to bluff often? Are they a joiner? Do they tend to only go for solo criteria? If you know what other people are going to play, then you know what you need to play to win.
- If you want to be like that, you can count ingredients. If you know what people have left, it limits the options of what they can play. If you spend the whole game doing that, though, you very well might get thrown out. That might be a more more strategy than is desired by your group.
- Mind games are never a bad idea. Just try looking at someone and telling them exactly what you’re going to play. See what happens! Maybe you’ll rattle them, a bit. It’s kinda like Coup, in that sense.
- Strategy is overrated. This is a very light, very fast game. If you’re not sure what to do, try playing randomly! That’s also decently funny. It only takes a few minutes, so play around, see what works, and see who you can mess with; if you don’t take it seriously, you’ll probably find yourself having a pretty good time. Or you can, if you want; up to you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The bottle is surprisingly portable. It definitely fits into most of the gaming bags I use, so I’m probably going to start taking it with me places that I need a higher-player-count quick game. It’s faster than an Oink (and less strategic, so, that’s also fine). I appreciate it nonetheless! I just wish the bottle weren’t so dark (while understanding that it needs to be so that you can’t easily count ingredients from other players).
- Super fast to play. Seriously, the whole game is over in like, 10 minutes or less. It’s a hoot.
- Nice art / components. They’re very vibrant, feel well-made, and they look great. It’s a very striking game on the table, which I appreciate. It makes for a good party game (as someone who is notably not a huge fan of party games).
- I appreciate how light it is. There’s a pseudobluffing element to it, but it’s less bluffing and more betting, essentially. There’s not a lot of thought worth having about what you’re doing, typically, so games go quickly and players rib each other for their choices or get agitated when they end up picking the wrong thing, but in a funny way. The whole thing is very much a amusing farce, and players that lean into it seem to have a great time.
- Very family-friendly. A lot of party games can devolve into yelling or, let’s say, not-family-friendly-content very quickly; that’s the nature of things. This is one you can play with younger gamers and still have a really good time, and I appreciate that a lot.
- The rules not fitting in the bottle is an issue. It usually means I travel without the rules, which is fine but not ideal?
- I’d love to see a two-player version. I think it’d be a mess and that sounds delightful.
- I’m not sure how much this one will hold up to long-term play. It’s definitely fun now, though. I hear rumors of potential additional rulesets, though, so it’s only a Meh right now. Plus, I imagine you could create some pretty fun house rulesets for this one.
- The rules were also a smidge unclear. We took a while to figure out the exact configuration of things, but we got it, now. That’s not the best thing in the world for a light, family-weight bluffing game, but it’s fine. It meant we started confused for a game or so until we figured it out, but thankfully it’s a quick enough game that that’s not too much time.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think The Potion is a lot of fun! Like I said, I like how quick and easy to pick up it is. I’m not a huge party game person, but I do enjoy more of the games that have bluffing or some mild deduction to them; that’s part of why I loved One Night Ultimate Werewolf so much for so long. It also reminds me very much of probably my favorite game in this space, Cursed Court. It just has less money and is a lot lighter, which is fine as well. I think my worry with a lot of these types of games is that I really never have enough people that I’m interested in a party game; I’d rather just split the group and play some lighter strategy. That said, I end up in a lot of situations where I wish I had some light party fare on me, so I’ll probably be sliding this into bags or carrying situations from now on. Hopefully it’ll hold up in the long term, but even if it doesn’t I’m still having a solid time playing it right now. It’s also a solidly family-friendly party game, so I do appreciate that as well. Either way, if you’re looking for a fun party game for your next get-together and don’t mind a bit of betting and bluffing, I’d recommend checking out The Potion!