17th Jul2019

‘Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches Expansion’ Review

by Matthew Smail

Quacks_Herb_Witches-box

When I look back at our Quacks of Quedlinburg review, I recall noting that it was both unique and very enjoyable, striking a fantastic balance between pushing your luck and careful planning, with factors that mitigate the possible swingyness that might otherwise be the norm in a game about drawing random features from a bag. Despite enjoying Quacks of Quedlinburg, I simply didn’t realise that it would go on to be considered one of the best games of the year by so many people, and considering how hard it was to find at first, I certainly didn’t expect an expansion like The Herb Witches to land quite so soon.

The Herb Witches is a classic “more of the same” kind of expansion that does what a lot of similar expansions to German euro style games do. In summary, it adds more stuff. To be more specific, The Herb Witches introduces the pieces needed for a fifth player, as well as a number of new recipe combinations. It also adds some fairly minor additional modules, including the titular witches (and the coins used to pay them) but in general terms it is neither evolution nor revolution.

Many of the pieces that this expansion introduces are simply added to the existing mix (and varied by player count) so there’s simply no reason why you can’t store The Herb Witches in the same box as the base game, should you be short on space. The price is also fairly low as well, with retailers in the UK cutting the price as low as £15 or thereabouts. With this in mind, The Herb Witches is already likely to be a must buy for fans of the base game, especially if the fifth player board is of particular use to your group.

Getting into more specific detail, what you actually get in the expansion box is fairly generous in terms of actual volume. There’s the fifth player board and all of the pieces needed to support it, including twenty more rubies, and then there are large pumpkins that have a value of six (rather than one in the base game.) There’s also a new ingredient called Locoweed, which basically has a variable value depending on what stage of the game the players have reached. There are then a couple of completely new ingredient sets (numbered five and six) as well as loads of new recipe books.

The above components make up the bulk of what is in The Herb Witches and on balance, they change little about the game. There are two further additions that do change things however, and I suppose you might look at these as the real changes between the base game and the expansion. Firstly, there are the twelve herb witches in three groups of four. Each of these groups corresponds to a coin (copper, silver, gold) and one witch from each group will be chosen randomly at the beginning of each game. Finally, there is an overflow bowl for each player that is added to their player board, which I’ll explain in a moment.

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The actual Witches are used to modify the game rules at various points in the game, as stated on their card. As an example, one witch allows the player to return a white chip (that caused an explosion) back to the bag. Another allows the player to take a number of victory points equal to the number of different items in their pot during the current round. Each player has just one coin to pay each kind of witch per game, and not using these coins results in scoring at the end of the game, so there’s a bit of a balancing act to consider.

The overflow pot is actually more of a necessity than a gameplay feature, and it attaches to the bottom corner of each board – it’s technically not optional, but it’s not required in every game, except when five players are involved. Broadly speaking, it is used to catch chips that are added to a potion beyond the number 33 space, and any chips added here provide considerable score and cash value. The first chip to be placed here is actually worth fifteen points and 35 cash, so it’s a significant event when it does occur. For some reason, five player games always seem to exceed these values and there are tons of rubies around too, hence why this expansion comes with an additional twenty (to double the number) despite adding only one more player.

I still love Quacks of Quedlinburg, and playing it at five players is exceptionally fun, with the addition of the overflow board showing the level of thought and playtesting that has gone into the game and its expansion. I also like the herb witch addition, as simple and straightforward as it is – it adds a little something, but nothing too dramatic or game changing. What I am a bit disappointed about is perhaps the lack of new ingredients and recipe mixtures.

Two new recipe books and one ingredient feels a bit lean, to me, and given that there’s so much “stuff” in here in prep for that fifth player already, adding maybe just one or two more boards of tokens featuring perhaps two more recipe books and maybe three more new ingredients wouldn’t have been that hard. With that said, what can I really expect for what is a very low cost expansion? As a fan of Quacks of Quedlinburg, I will probably play with some part of The Herb Witches in every future game I play, but I don’t think that it’s an essential purchase for any casual fan.

***½  3.5/5

A copy of Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches Expansion was supplied by Coiledspring Games for review.

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