Review – Potion Explosion

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Designer Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi, Lorenzo Silva

Artist Giulia Ghigini

Publisher Horrible Guild

Category Marble Drafting, Set Collection

Length 30-45 minutes

Release Date 2015

Player Count 2-4

Potion Explosion puts 2-4 players in the roles of students in a totally-not-Hogwarts potions class. Under the watchful eye of Professor Albedus Humblescore, they use marbles to mix potions and gain skill points. Let’s check it out!

Review

Potion Explosion is a lighthearted game of drafting marbles and brewing magical serums. In this game, players take turns choosing marbles from a dispenser and trying to trigger explosions that will gain them more marbles. The goal is to earn the most points.

At the beginning of the game, 80 marbles are poured into a dispenser, half of which will trickle out to form a random, 5-column display. Everyone starts with 2 potion tiles, each of which shows a point value, a game effect, and a number of spaces where marbles will be placed.

On a player’s turn, they take a marble from the display. When they do, the marbles higher up in that column will roll down to close the gap. If 2 or more like-colored marbles collide as a result, an explosion occurs. The player takes all the exploded marbles, which in turn may cause another explosion, and so on. Players want to trigger these chain reactions as much as possible, because doing so will earn them extra marbles.

If a player wishes, they may also ask the Professor for help. This is in addition to their normal pick, and it allows them to take any single marble, ignoring explosions. Each time someone asks for help, they receive a token that is worth -2 points at the end of the game.

Then, whichever marbles the player ended up with are added to their potions. Up to 3 marbles can be saved from round to round, and any extras are returned to the dispenser.

When a potion is completed, it is flipped over and set aside, and its marbles are returned. Completed potions offer single-use abilities, which include:

  • Take a single marble
  • Take 2 adjacent ingredients of different colors
  • Take up to 1 ingredient of each color from the bottom of the tracks
  • Steal an opponent’s reserved marbles
  • Use a spent potion a second time
  • Discard up to 5 ingredients of a single color from a single track

If a player completes 3 of the same potion or 5 different potions, they receive a skill token. These come from a stack which acts as a game timer. When the stack of skill tokens runs out, players finish the current round, and the player with the most points wins!


Potion Explosion is a game I have enjoyed for years. It feels like a board game adaptation of a Bejewled-style mobile game, and indeed, it has its own official app. This is a very simple game, which makes it great for groups of mixed age and skill level. I taught it to my 5-year-old, and she was able to play with minimal help/guidance. The decisions are simple enough that she could survey her potential moves and identify which ones were better than others.

Since the display changes so much from turn to turn, it can be hard to plan ahead, but things move quickly nonetheless. Usually, there are a couple of choice options each turn, so it’s rare that someone gets stuck in analysis paralysis.

The physical act of pulling the marbles is great fun, and the dispenser gives Potion Explosion a nice toy factor. It is incredibly satisfying to trigger a large chain of explosions and rake in a bunch of marbles. To that end, Potion Explosion does have strategic decisions, but it’s not overbearing or brain-burning. It puts the fun first.

It’s worth noting that this latest printing features an improved plastic dispenser, which works better than ever. The glass marbles have a great tactile quality, and the game art has that trademark Horrible Guild silliness. Overall, I am pleased with the production, and I’m glad to see that the publisher has ironed out some of the issues from earlier versions of this game.

Bottom line, Potion Explosion has stood the test of time for me. Every time I play this game, I find myself enjoying its clean simplicity. It’s light, it’s breezy, and I think it will appeal to families and fans of mobile games like Bejweled and Candy Crush. If you have never checked it out, I recommend doing so.

A review copy was provided by Horrible Guild.

The Bottom Line

I have enjoyed Potion Explosion for years, and my enjoyment continues to this day. It has a fun drafting mechanism and it plays great with groups of mixed age and skill level. Recommended.

 

7

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.