2-4 players, Competitive, Bag Collecting, Press Your Luck
Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Artwork: Dennis Lohausen
Publisher: North Star Games
Overview of Gameplay
Ah the glorious Quacks. Before I even knew anything about the game the name made me chuckle with delight. It lured me in like a moth to the flame. I got a chance to play a friends copy months ago and enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away at first. A few days later it popped back into my mind and I got to thinking about it again and how much fun I had playing. It was a creeper game for sure. A game that invades your thoughts, insisting that you play it again. I had to have it. So fast forward a few months and I finally find a copy and gave it a few more plays testing out a few different strategies.
Quacks is a pretty straight forward game actually. Turns are all simultaneous where each player just draws from their individual bag and pulls out a single token one after another laying them on their board. These tokens will have a number on them dictating how many spaces past the last laid token they are laid. Players will continue to do this until they decide to stop when they lay their bag on the table in front of them. Now deciding when to stop is where the fun resides……..you see you musn’t exceed a sum of 7 white tokens lest your cauldron boils over and spills all your added ingredients, ruining everything you’ve been working on and making a mockery of you and your lineage for years to come. There is a plus to not boiling the cauldron over other than the avoidance of mockery of course. You also get the chance to roll the luxurious bonus die at the end of the round and can spend bonus points towards new and crazy tokens to add to your bag AND gain victory points whereas those who boiled over their cauldrons miss out on the bonus die and only get to pick ONE of the last two items. However it is SO tempting to continue plucking little tokens out of the bag….especially when you only have a sum of five white tokens and the possibility of pulling that white “3” token and boiling over is 1 out of 4………
Anyway players will continue to do this each round, with each new round drawing an event card from a hefty event deck that changes small things about the game. Nine rounds players will do this and then whoever is furthest up on the victory point track will win the game and be renowned as the most profitable and reputable Quack of all of Quedlinburg.
Overall the components are pretty decent, leaning a little more to the positive note here mostly because of design choices rather than component quality. The player boards are shaped like cauldrons and the tokens like the double sided flask sits on the plate actually LOOKS like it sits on the plate……idk like it’s 3d or something. It’s neat. I think that’s actually the word that best describes the vast majority of the design choices here, “neat”. I like the colorful artwork on both the cauldron boards as well as the round/vp tracker board. The event cards are also great with interesting events and little bits of flavor text to go with them. The silky bags are plenty big enough to get your hand into and a super high quality to boot. The little flame round tracker is another nice touch as it is a tiny wooden flame token that moves along these oil lamps every round.
I’ll go over this a lot more in the replayability section but there are also some very nice “books” that detail the different type of tokens that you can acquire to your bag. They have that same “3d” look to them and are made of a sturdy hard cardboard material. The corresponding tokens are also made of a sturdy cardboard, they feel a bit lighter but I don’t see these wearing out anytime soon.
The box is pretty standard with a small insert that creates two sections that is adorned with colorful artwork. No real need for it honestly but I’m going to keep it just because it looks neat. The game also comes with a few baggies to store up some of the tokens, not enough to separate all of them unfortunately but enough to get you started at least. Storage is mind numbingly simple with everything bagged up and the box size is perfectly reasonable.
Visual Appeal /Theme
I really like the artwork and colors all over this one. The difference in tokens is made VERY clear based on the colors alone but there are also symbols on each one to differentiate as well. The theme is pretty far out there but I dig it. Again, the name drew me in so I’m glad the theme accurately holds up the name. It’s also fun to explain to everyone that asks me about the game that it in fact is NOT about ducks.
I didn’t find any issues with this rulebook. I mean the game is super straight forward and sometimes I look for MORE than what is actually there in most games and I did find myself doing that here as well, like going wild trying to find more end game victory point calculations. But…..it’s just that simple. The rulebook itself is really thin with pictures and examples and there is also a separate reference sheet that details each of the token “books” to better explain what the token powers are which is super helpful.
ACTUALLY now that I think about it there IS something that I found lacking. One of those back of manual round order/turn order references. I think every game should have one of those honestly. It’s just so handy when you haven’t played a game in awhile to flip over the manual, check out the round order to get a refresher of the game and the rules come screaming back to you. This game is lacking that unfortunately.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
Now this is where this game shines. Even though each player is confined to their own player board you can bet they will be talking to each other about their token pulls. Every dreaded white token that comes out will be met with a groan and every token combo that is pulled off will be met with celebration. And the closer that each player comes to boiling their cauldron over, the more and more intense each player will become. This is probably one of the most simple and yet at the same time most just flat out FUN games I own. With that said you can make it more complex by using different token abilities depending on which sets of token books you use.
Optimal Player Count/Replayability
I feel this game can be played and enjoyed at any player count from the 2-4. Since each player is simultaneously drawing and taking their turns there is extremely little downtime. I have played it at all different player counts and have enjoyed it the same every time although I think the more the merrier. Heck you technically could even go at this alone and see how far you could get on the ol VP track if you wanted although there wouldn’t be any of that patented tension to try and get just a little bit further than your neighbor.
Ah yes the replayability. It is overwhelming in this game, in a good way. So there are seven different ingredients (tokens) that you can mix into your bag not including the white ones. And each of these (except black and orange) has two double sided ingredient books. So that’s 4 different token ability possibilities per token that can be used every game. Add in the deck of 24 event cards where you end up drawing 8 cards per game…… so yeah they game has a ton of variability and replayability. On top of all that there is a reverse side to each player board that adds even ANOTHER layer of variability. This side adds these little test tubes to the boards that give you another choice of gaining specific bonuses during the game or gaining spaces in the cauldron. Anyway, bottom line this game receives my highest recommendation for replayabilty. It is superb!
Positive Final Thoughts
Such a fun press your luck style game with an interesting and unique theme. Turns are lightning fast and the entire game only takes about an hour to play from beginning to end. It’s super easy to learn and teach and even after your first game, when you realize all of the insane amount of variable choices that are on offer you are eager to jump back in and try out some different token abilities. Highly recommend this one, one of my favorites.
Negative Final Thoughts
This game isn’t for everyone right off the bat. I mean if you don’t like press your luck style of games then you will FOR SURE not like this. Also it’s not a long game, as I know there are those out there that prefer the longer 2 hour or more games. There really isn’t much strategy to this game either, I mean some of the token abilities can afford SOME strategy but it’s mostly based on luck if you can even draw it out of your bag. None of the above are negatives for me personally but I could see how they would be for some. For ME the only real negative thing I can think of is the lack of a round reference/turn order dealio on the back of the rulebook. That would have been super handy.