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Old 01-17-2018, 09:08 AM
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Kalir Kalir is offline
I have a Plan
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Utah
Posts: 6,780

dtsund's got a lot of ingredients to sort through right now, so in the mean time...


So as you can see, Alchemists is a pretty good game, right? But how does it stack up to repeat plays?

I personally think it holds up quite well because of how much variation you can get out of it. Even outside of randomizing the properties of the eight ingredients with each play, there's a number of ways to modify the base game. I'll be putting much of this in a spoilerpop, as it is in no way required reading.

First up, we've got the artifacts. These are central to gameplay, as they provide extremely powerful benefits but require significant focus to get to, so even having a single one is going to contour your playstyle. There are six artifacts at each of the three tiers, and I've already gone over the ones we'll see this game, so let's see the others!

Yeah, that's the ticket. Let's go over each tier in turn, shall we? Our tier 1 artifacts that we got this game were clearly popular enough to merit purchase, but here's what we could've seen.
  • Boots of Speed: Costs 4 gold, awards 2 victory points. Once per round, take an action after all other players have acted on that space if you have a cube there. This one is obviously good for expanding your actions, but it's secretly supergood for actions where taking the second one normally, particularly publishing and transmuting, costs you more cubes.
  • Magic Mortar: Costs 3 gold, awards 1 victory point. Whenever you mix a potion for any reason, you only discard one ingredient (randomly chosen). This lets you go a lot longer between gathers, examine the properties of a single ingredient multiple times, and lets you play more aggressively in turn order, but it can also clog up your hand with ingredients you have no further use for. Still very powerful.
  • Robe of Reputation: Costs 4 gold. Any time you gain reputation, you gain 1 more. This works like the reputation modifiers for high/low reputation. The Robe of Reputation obviously favors a publish-heavy playstyle so you can milk each of those boosts for just a little bit more, but that requires a lot of gold even if you have the Printing Press as well. Do note that it doesn't work in the final round in order to balance out the exhibition, which I'll explain a bit later this post and when we get there.

All really nice, but I like our current crop of tier 1 artifacts just fine. My favorites are the ones aturtledoesbite picked up, personally. But when it comes to tier 2 artifacts, I'm sorry everyone, but you clearly missed out on the good stuff.
  • Seal of Authority: Costs 4 gold. Any time you publish or endorse a theory, you gain 2 more reputation. Beware the player who somehow snags this, the Robe of Reputation, AND the Printing Press, because it doesn't really matter if they're wrong on everything or if they don't even bother with starred seals. This thing will skyrocket the reputation of a publish-heavy player.
  • Thinking Cap: Costs 4 gold, awards 1 victory point. Immediately test 2 separate pairs of ingredients in your hand without discarding them. Obviously a really strong way to just get info fast, but the problem is that you need to have 4 ingredients in your hand to do it, after selling and transmuting. The optimal scenario for this is hard to come by, but getting this as early as possible puts you in a very cozy spot for endgame.
  • Witch's Trunk: Costs 3 gold, awards 2 victory points. Immediately draw 7 ingredients. You no longer get freebie ingredients through turn order. Ingredients aren't worth anything at the end of the game, so if you want the Witch's Trunk, then be prepared to burn through every single one you get via sales and tests and to otherwise run pell-mell through turn order and publishing. Or you could try for the exhibition in the final round, especially if you've already published everything you care to.

Honestly most of the tier 2 artifacts are kinda "eh" but in my opinion you guys got the most "eh" of them all. That said, almost all the tier 3 artifacts are neat in some way, as they reward players who focus on alternate strategies for the game, like gathering up gold, reputation, or artifacts in your cases.
  • Wisdom Idol: Costs 4 gold, awards 1 victory point per correct theory with your seal on it. This helps a player who made a bunch of hedged publishes early on but happened to unluck into correct answers, while still letting them use their starred seals on new things. Honestly though, if a player manages to get the full 8 points from the Wisdom Idol, they've already won even without it. Still, it's nice enough.
  • Bronze Cup: Costs 4 gold, awards 4 victory points. The only interesting thing I have to say about the Bronze Cup is that it contrasts with the nearly-as-boring Silver Chalice from tier 2, illustrating the difference between blowing 4 gold on a blank card in midgame between blowing 4 gold on a blank card at the end of the game. Anyway if you like points and have money it's good I guess, but I'd much rather work towards literally any other artifact in the game.
  • Feather in Cap: Costs 3 gold, worth 1 victory point for each separate ingredient type used during the exhibition. The exhibition replaces the Test on Students and Drink Potions actions in the last round, and it basically lets you mix called potions for reputation boosts. The Feather in Cap is the most economical way to turn a hand full of ingredients in endgame into tasty, tasty victory points. Don't underestimate it, especially since it's one of the cheapest tier 3 artifacts out there!

So yeah, every game will have a different spread of artifacts to choose from, which is a good way to see different playstyles come to light.

There's also three difficulty options to take. Right now, everyone here is playing on Apprentice difficulty, but there are three things that separate them from Masters. The first is starting ingredients. I gave everyone 3 to begin with, but Masters only start with 2. This is my favorite difficulty modifier because it puts a LOT more pressure on you in those early turns to figure things out. With 3 ingredients, a skilled player can usually figure out and publish a theory with no risk of reputation loss by turn 2. That's harder if they only have 2 ingredients to start with (although not impossible).

The second difficulty option is debunking. As you'll all see shortly, normally a debunk is "name an ingredient and an aspect and I'll tell you what they are". Which is nice for sure, but not especially involved. Masters must be far more rigorous with their debunking, and must demonstrate an experiment that disproves the theory in question. They have access to all eight ingredient types and all of the potion types. They first set up their experiment (for the sake of our illustrated guide, we'll say we're using the existing theory board and mixing the mandrake root and the mushroom to make a speed potion) and then illustrate for the other colleagues precisely what the possibilities will demonstrate. The app will then say whether the test proposed does or does not make the predicted potion. Since this affects two theories at once, you can potentially debunk up to 2 theories in one shot...

Or you can call theories into conflict! If our test there DID result in a speed potion, then we'd know that one of the theories on the board is wrong (since the combo clearly calls for an insanity potion) but since they both have positive green aspects, we can't reliably call which one is wrong. Any theories that are in conflict are treated as blank: their seals do not count towards grants, conferences, or the Top Alchemist Award. This means that a clever alchemist can use Master Debunking to temporarily nullify legitimately correct theories!

The last difficulty modifier is conferences. As you'll see next round, conferences have a bare minimum of seals on the board to get the 1 reputation needed, and for every seal you are short of this cutoff, you lose 1 reputation. Master conferences require 1 extra seal at each one, putting more pressure on players to put out theories regardless of whether they're correct or not.

There's also the King's Golem expansion which adds four new modules to the game. I could go over them in detail, but I'll refrain and just post quick summaries. Common to almost all of them is a new app feature that lets you visit the library, where you can learn about one of four ingredients in some detail!
  • Startup Funding: Instead of everyone starting with 2 gold, 1 favor, and 2-3 ingredients, players are dealt 4 cards with possible resources on them and choose 2 to keep. This lets you customize everyone's starting positions somewhat. Also adds a new tier 1 artifact, the Replicator, which clones starting resources.
  • Busy Days: Changes the turn order track every round, including the costs to take certain spaces (might take actions or reputation) and the rewards (draw more favors or ingredients, get gold, or even learn a little info!)
  • Royal Encyclopedia: Adds a second theory board in which you discuss aspects, not just ingredients. Players can declare their expertise over a given aspect by indicating the properties of four ingredients in that aspect. Great for players who keep getting screwed over by only seeing one potion color.
  • The Golem Project: For players who think the deduction of the base game is too easy. Not only do you have to publish theories as normal, but you ALSO have to figure out how to activate a golem at the king's request, pushing all your alchemical knowhow to the limit in the process. Also adds a new favor, the Courtier, who can put in a good word with the King for you, and two new artifacts, the Signet Ring (four Courtiers glued together) and the Mahogany Bookshelf (like the Crystal Cabinet but for library visits).

Anyway this is a good game I like it and watching you guys is a blast.
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