I’m a big fan of abstract board games. It’s like a visual puzzle on the board that you play competitively with others. Apotheca: The Secret Potion Society from Knapsack Games is one of those types of games. In it, players play as various apothecaries as they look to collect potion ingredients in order to make their various brews. The first person to complete 3 potions is the winner. Seems simple enough, but it’s not.
The game is played on a 4×4 grid. At the start of the game, each player gets an Apothecary card. That’s their starting character, but you can get more as you play. Extra Apothecaries are set out from the deck so you can buy them if you have the appropriate gems. The Potion cards are shuffled and several are placed, face-down on the board, with a few then turned face-up. On your turn, you can take two actions (but no single action more than once). The actions include: Reveal a card (turn a face-down Potion card face-up and collect a gem that corresponds to that Potion’s color), Restock the field (if there are less than 3 face-down cards, draw cards so that there will be face-down cards, and play them on the board on an unoccupied space. Only you know what cards you play. You can look at your own face-down cards whenever you want, but others have to spend an action to turn them face-up), Buy an Apothecary card (by spending two of the same color gem to get the corresponding Apothecary, or one gem of each color to get an Apothecary card from the top of the deck), or use your Apothecary’s power (if you have more than one Apothecary, you can do this action more than once during your turn, but you can only use each Apothecary once per turn). It’s these Apothecary movements that I love about the game. Each one has a special way in which they move cards around on the board. Whether it’s trade diagonal cards, or shift entire rows over by one, each one is different from the rest. If you match three face-up potions of the same color in a row orthogonally, you create a potion and take those cards off the board. There’s a catch, though, as you must place those cards on one of your Apothecaries, who is now out of the game. So you have to go get another Apothecary before you can create another potion.
I got a chance to try out a prototype version of the game recently. Spoilers for any upcoming review article, I loved it. It’s got a playstyle that’s a mix of something like The Duke from Catalyst Game Labs and “match three” games like Bejeweled. It’s a very smart game.
The Kickstarter campaign’s set to run for another 23 days. They’re only about 1/4 funded, but there’s plenty of time to make it up to the goal and on to stretch goals.