Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alchenemy Review


Quick Look:

Info:
Designer: Charles "Chip" Schmelz
Artist: Thomas Little
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
WARNING: This is a preview of Alchenemy. I was sent a prototype version of the game. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Alchenemy puts you in the shoes of an alchemist that works for the vaguely named Kingdom. Following a lack results and an increase in budget cuts, you and your fellow alchemists must demonstrate your abilities to the Royal Treasury. The greatest alchemist will be given the title of Royal Alchemist, but the runner-ups will find themselves out of a job!



Review:

Rules and Setup:
The rules of each round of play are fairly simple. Each starts with a player resetting their Alembic (an alchemist's furnace) tokens and resolving any cards played the turn prior. After that, the player can choose to discard Element tokens to purchase new Alembic tokens or vice versa, as well as play Formula cards (which can be either Material or Power Formulas) from their hand to either make new materials or activate powers. After all this has been resolved, the player draws new Element cards, then draws extra Element cards, Formula cards, or a combination of the two. If they have extra Formula or Element cards by the end of their turn, the player must discard down to the hand limit.

Once a player's Formula draw pile runs out (and they try to draw a new one), the game ends and the value of each player's Material Formula cards are added up. Whoever has the highest sum has earned the Kingdom the most gold and is granted the title of Royal Alchemist!

The game comes with 4 player aid cards, 12 Alembic tokens, and a whopping 108 Formula cards and 108 Element cards.

Setup for Alchenemy goes pretty quick. Each player is given an Alembic and one of each type of Element. The rest of the Element cards are shuffled and put in the center, with the Alembics placed nearby. The Formula cards are then shuffled and each player gets 27 cards as their personal deck, with the first 7 going into their hand immediately. The oldest player starts, and play continues around the table.

(golf commentator voice) "Four alchemists, the finest in their craft, now compete for the title of Royal Alchemist..."

Theme and Mechanics:
The game does well to keep the "ancient art of alchemy" theme going without sacrificing game mechanics. The artwork and wording do well to keep the players engaged in the world, with the Formula cards even including theme- and era-appropriate artwork and quotes, as well as Latin spellings of each card's name.

Power Formula cards can change the game in an instant, if used correctly.

The game mechanics are relatively simple, avoiding the complex rules and multiple win scenarios of other modern games. It boils down to gaining more elements to make more materials, with the occasional spell thrown in to mix things up. While those used to more advanced games might find it relatively boring, it's still a fun game with good replayability, and making good use of the Power Formula cards which can change the course of a game very quickly.

The different types of elements, along with an artwork change to realism.

Artwork and Components:
The artwork on the cards is a strange mix of realistic imagery and sketches that look like something from ancient texts. While they both look very nice and fit the game's theme, I'm not sure how well they mesh together. The calligraphy lettering on the cards is also a nice touch, and the small symbols on the cards are helpful instead of cluttering the space.

There's a solid variety of metals and essences you can craft as an alchemist.

All told, there's not a large amount of components to this game, but the lack of complicated parts serves it well and keeps the game fast, simple, and fun. I enjoy the inclusion of player aid cards, as I often find myself looking through the rule book of new games every few minutes and slowing the game to a halt. The easy-to-understand cards provide all the information you need to know throughout the course of play.

Player aid cards, double-sided for your convenience.

The Good:
Alchenemy is easy to learn, provides a fun mix of strategy and luck, and has enough variety in its simple design to keep you coming back, whether it be for all-night game sessions or for a 30-minute filler game. It even includes a few variants to make for faster or more balanced games.

The Bad:
The artwork, while nice, seems like it can't decide what game it wants to portray, and the lack of complexity might be a turn-off for more veteran players.

Final Thoughts:
If you're looking for a quick and easy card development game with a fun medieval theme, this will be right at home on your shelf.

Players Who Like:
Fans of Splendor and 7 Wonders will find a new love in Alchenemy.

I am giving Alchenemy 7 out of 10 super meeples.

7 10

Check out Alchenemy on:

        


About the Author:
David Jensen has tried his hand at everything from warehouse work and washing dishes to delivering pizza. Now, he's writing reviews and working as an editor for a start-up literary magazine. When he's not busy procrastinating, he's playing tabletop games with friends and writing fiction.

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