Playing with marbles is fun in Potion Explosion
Games and toys are made to be fun.
After all, having fun is why we get together with friends and family to play games. And kids love playing with toys because they’re fun.
So when we see a game with a big toy factor to it, we naturally tend to think it’s going to be fun.
Such is the case with Potion Explosion. The game has a big toy factor that revolves around playing with marbles!
And doesn’t playing with marbles have “fun” written all over it?
But is the marble toy factor all the game has going for it? Or is Potion Explosion actually fun to play?
It’s time to find out.
How to Play Potion Explosion
In Potion Explosion, players try to get the most points by completing potions. And they complete potions by collecting the required ingredients (colored marbles) from the dispenser. Players can also earn bonuses by completing certain sets of potions.
The set up is very simple:
Each player gets a desk board which includes a flask and two spaces for potions.
There are 8 different types of potions in the game, but only 6 are used each game. These six can be chosen strategically or randomly (we like random).
For each potion type in the game, the 2 tiles with stars on them are pulled out as starting potions. The starting player chooses one starter potion and then the next player chooses one and so on until the last player. The the last player chooses a 2nd starter potion and it proceeds in reverse order until each player has 2 starting potions on their desk — recipe side up.
Then all the potions tiles are shuffled and placed into 5 piles with the recipe side up.
Skill tokens are set out during set up an act as a game timer. Set out a skill token for each player plus 2. So in a 4 player game, there will be 6 skill tokens.
Last but not least, all the ingredients are poured into the dispenser.
This last part is definitely the funnest part of set up — where the marbles all randomly roll into the different slots in the dispenser.
Then you’re ready to play.
On a player’s turn they must choose 1 ingredient from the dispenser.
When they do so, the remaining marbles/ingredients in that row will roll together.
If 2 ingredient marbles of the same color then collide, they “explode”. When these ingredients explode, the player then collects all of the ingredients of that color connected to them. If removing those then causes another explosion, the player collects those ingredients in the same way.
In addition to their choice of 1 marble on their turn, a player may also use (“drink”) one of their already completed potions for it’s special ability. They can use this special ability either before or after taking their mandatory 1 ingredient.
The only catch is that when taking marbles using the special ability of a potion, the player doesn’t collect extra ingredients from any explosions caused.
Also, a player can take a “little help” token to collect 1 additional ingredient from the dispenser. Likewise, removing an ingredient in this manner won’t trigger an explosion. The catch here is that for each “little help” token a player has at the end of the game will be -2 points.
After a player has collected their ingredients, they may place them on potions they’re brewing.
To do so, they simply place a matching colored ingredient on a potion tile on their desk. Once placed on a potion, it can’t be moved. If the player has more ingredients in their hand than they can place in their potions, they can place them in their flask.
Once they’ve placed all their ingredients, if they have any still left in hand, they place them back on the lid of the dispenser where they will randomly roll into different slots.
When a potion has all of their ingredient spaces filled, the potion is complete!
The player then removes all the used ingredients and places them back in the dispenser and places their completed potion in their Potion area — completed side up.
Once a potion is complete, a player can use it’s ability by “drinking” it.
Since the ability can only be used one time, when a player uses a potion ability they rotate the potion upside down.
Drinking a potion doesn’t lose points for a player. At the end of the game, they will still score points for all completed potions whether used or not.
At the end of a player’s turn, if they have empty spots on their desk, they choose a new potion from the top of one of the potion piles and place it in the empty spot on their desk.
Then play moves on to the next player.
If a player completes at least 3 of one type of potion, the player collects one of the +4 point skill tokens.
A player can also gain a +4 point skill token by completing 5 different types of potions.
The game ends at the end of the round in which the last Skill token is claimed or there are no more potion tiles available.
At the end of the round, players add up points from all the potions they’ve completed and skill tokens collected and subtract points from any “little help” token taken.
The player with the most points wins!
Can the whole family enjoy Potion Explosion?
However, I didn’t get a chance to play the game because every time I passed the CMON booth, there was a line waiting to play.
So I was very happy when CMON recently sent us a copy to review.
I immediately constructed the dispenser and could hardly wait to get it to the table — all the while hoping we wouldn’t be disappointed.
And I’m very pleased to report that the game didn’t disappoint at all!
Potion Explosion is a fantastic board game for the whole family!
Just because a game has marbles doesn’t automatically make it fun. So we’re happy that Potion Explosion is more than just a novelty. It’s both a fun and engaging game.
At it’s heart, the game is a set-collection type of game. And people of all ages love set collecting games.
But instead of collecting and redeeming sets of colored cards like in many other family board games (ie. Ticket to Ride), players collect colored marbles.
The marbles are then matched up with brewing potions to both generate points as well as use special abilities.
Young kids will love collecting and matching colored marbles to their potions.
Older kids and adults will love finding the best combos they can as well as thinking through the more strategic elements of the game.
That’s right — Potion Explosion is more than just random marble collecting. There’s a level of strategy that may not be noticed on first glance.
Luck vs Strategy
There’s definitely a big element of luck in Potion Explosion. After all, the marbles will have a mind of their own when placed in the dispenser.
And the options for collecting ingredients in the dispenser will change by the time it gets back to your turn (especially in a 3 and 4 player game).
So it may seem like creating explosions to gather many ingredients on a turn is left completely up to chance.
But that’s not always the case.
Players can mitigate their luck by making strategic choices throughout the game.
For starters, players get to choose which potions they want to brew. And there are many things to consider when making this choice. The most obvious will be the number of points each potion is worth as well as which colors and quantity of ingredients are required to complete it.
But players also need to consider the special ability the potion can grant once completed.
Because drinking potions at the right time will definitely impact the types of combos you can create.
There may not be an explosion waiting to happen at the start of your turn if you were just to take your 1 ingredient. However, if you can use a potion or two to collect additional ingredients, you can do those first and set yourself up for making explosive combos.
It’s very satisfying.
And it’s that puzzly nature of Potion Explosion that we really love.
How does Potion Explosion score on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter?
Potion Explosion gets a very high score on our “let’s play again” game meter.
As we’ve mentioned, not only does it have a great toy factor, it’s also great for thinking through options each turn.
A typical game last about 30 minutes so it’s not hard to fit in a couple games in a row either.
Simply dump all the marbles back in the dispenser, change up the potion tiles and you’re ready to go.
Potion Explosion now has a prominent spot in our game closet so it’s easy to pull out and play.
We highly recommend getting Potion Explosion for your family!
We’d like to thank CMON for a review copy of Potion Explosion.