Remember a few months ago when Cool Mini or Not announced they would be publishing Potion Explosion in the United States? I do. I was skeptical (may have even guffawed) that the company known for miniatures and big, expansive Kickstarter campaigns would shift gears so intensively to a family-friendly marble pulling game.
Fast forward to Gen Con and you have Potion Explosion – one of two new releases from Cool Mini or Not that actually sold out. Not The Others, with its expansive Kickstarter campaign-fueled miniature-fest. But this cute little marble-pulling game.
Of course, this review isn’t about Cool Mini or Not. It’s about Potion Explosion, a game by Italian designers Stefano Gastelli, Andrea Crespi, and Lorenzo Silva, originally published by Horrible Games and then 999 Games before Cool Mini or Not snagged distribution in North America. And what a perfect game to facilitate the ongoing rebrand of CMoN’s efforts here.
How Potion Explosion Plays
There are marbles and you have to match colors to complete your potions.
That’s about it. And it’s one of the reasons the game has been so popular off my game shelf in recent weeks – that simplicity and the accessibility for a wider audience make it a must play for wives, children and game-night attendees alike.
There’s a bit more to Potion Explosion than marbles smashing into each other though (and yet, not much more).
Each player is attempting to complete various potions in their personal tableau. There are 8 different types of potions (of which you’ll play with 6 at a time). Each potion tile requires a certain number of marbles of different colors. You get points for each completed potion, and then additional points when you complete a set of three like options or a set of five unique potions.
The game ends when a certain number of sets are completed amongst all of the players. This number varies depending on the number of players but it sneaks up on you pretty quickly no matter how many are fighting over them.
All that is cool, but the real reason this game is so hot right now is the marbles. The centerpiece is a marble distributor with five tracks, each containing a number of marbles in five different colors. Every turn you’ll remove one marble from the track. If you can make like-colored marbles crash into each other, you get all of those too. If more crash into each other at this point, you get those too.
What We Like About Potion Explosion
This game doesn’t try to be much. Marbles crash together, match up and help you complete potions. It takes only 30-40 minutes to complete a game and it’s super easy to teach. All of these add up to a perfect addition to my family game collection and one of the most genuinely fun games I’ve played all summer.
This is not a big heavy euro or a medium weight thinker. Even the one way in which you can actually lose points (taking assistance from the professor) has minimal impact on the game. Completed potions turn into special powers that allow you to chain together actions and take bigger and more fulfilling turns, and some of them can even hurt your neighbors (though you can easily leave those ones out since two have to removed from the game to start anyways).
In short, this is a great light weight family game and a perfect one for kids as young as five – as long as you can trust them with the marbles.
Issues with Potion Explosion
As long as you know what you’re getting into here, Potion Explosion is harmless fun. For some gamers, that’s not a glowing endorsement, but for most, there is a place for this kind of game on the shelf, and I kid you not – non-gamers adore this one. If you’re having trouble getting your spouse or parents to game with you, Potion Explosion may be the game that finally breaks the embargo.
But be prepared for one heck of an assembly process. Gateway games don’t typically weigh this much, nor do they require 1-2 hours of assembly before you can play. We wondered at how few people were playing the game at Gen Con, and when I got home and put it together, I immediately figured out why. It took me 90 minutes to punch everything and build the marble dispenser, checking it several times over to ensure it all fitted together properly. There are instructions on storage, but if you miss them, the game can get beat up a little in the box.
The Bottom Line
Potion Explosion is one heck of a good time and has been the kind of shiny beacon to non-gamers that Pandemic and Love Letter aren’t always able to ignite. It looks as cool as it actually is and the tactile pull and crash nature of those marbles has yet to get old.
If you’re looking for a game to lure in your unsuspecting family members, entertain young ones or ween you off of that Candy Crush addiction, pick up Potion Explosion. This is a fantastic lighter game that you’ll have a blast with.
SUMMARY & RESULTS
Potion Explosion is more fun than it looks like it should be, and it really doesn't get old. Fast to play, faster to teach, and full of the sort of tactile (but not dexterity dependent) fun that pulls in new gamers and old alike, it's a must buy for anyone who casts a wide net with their game nights and family get togethers.