What is it? Bejeweled, the board game
The deets: 2-4 players, 30-60min
Designer: Giulia Ghigini
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not
Potion Explosion is unarguably one of the most unique new board gaming concepts that came out this year. (Okay, you can argue. Go ahead. I dare you.) But, I mean, look at this setpiece. (Look up). It’s just beautiful, but it’s also functional. The goal of the game is to score points by completing sets of potions. How do you complete potions? By mixing the correct ingredients, represented by marbles. And how do you get those ingredients, you ask? Well, on your turn you simply get to take one from the potion-ingredient-dispenser.
Just one, you say? Of course not! If, after you remove a marble, two marbles of the same color clack together, you get to take more marbles! Take the marbles that clacked, and any additional adjacent marbles of the same color (adjacency only works in columns, not rows). Guess what? If, after taking THOSE marbles, two more marbles of the same color clack together? That’s right, you get those too. It’s called an explosion, and you just keep going until the two marbles that bump each other are not the same color.
Then, you take all the marbles you’ve collected and place them on your potions. You have to match color to color, and you have 3 slots off to the side where you can temporarily store ingredients for later turns. Once you’re done, you put all remaining marbles back into the dispenser. If a potion has all its ingredients, you complete it and take a fresh new unmade potion.
Potions you complete are worth points, but you can also quaff them to activate a one-time-use special action. These actions might let you take extra marbles, use marbles as any color, or steal from another player. You can use these before or after your normal draw, so you might be able to set up a bigger explosion.
On components alone, this game is a big draw. It’s just fun to pull those marbles and watch them clack together, especially when you get an explosion. It gets even more fun when you can pull off a suave move to set up a big chain of explosions. I can’t see people NOT wanting to play this game if they see it in action, and it doesn’t hurt that the rules are so simple.
Does Potion Explosion have enough depth to last longer than the launch hype? I hope so. Maybe it’s essentially a tech demo; maybe it’ll need expansions to keep it alive, or maybe someone will figure out how to use the mechanism in a more expansive game. Regardless, it’s hard not to get excited about what it is already. Few gaming experiences are more satisfying than hearing that “clack” of marbles as you nail 3 explosions in a row.