In my role in the industry, I rarely get to play the same games too often, at least not games I’m not actively working on. When I first starting getting into the hobby, my game group and I would focus on one game, play it to death, and learn its rhythms and strategies. Now, when I’m gaming with friends, I want to introduce them to the latest and greatest titles I’ve come across, or at least new games that I have to get to the table for reviews. This can lead to me passing over fantastic titles, literally forgetting they exist. I have to remember who I’ve actually played a game with, and who I still have to teach.
I recently had a couple of really great experiences teaching one particular game and I wanted to share them.
I visited my great friend Miguel in Kingston a little while back, and a few things are certain when we get together; some amount of debauchery and a large amount of game playing. When I’m going to see Miguel, I carefully select the games I’m going to bring. I want to have a wide variety of deep and light titles for all player counts. We end up just playing the two of us a lot, but often his wife Carlyn will join or he’ll have friends come over to play.
A week before I went, it occurred to me that he might never have played The Quacks of Quedlingberg. Which might seem crazy to people immersed in the hobby, or perhaps it’s just me. I found it hard to believe this game might have passed him by. See, I associate Miguel with games. He was the guy I learned Catan with, and Carcassonne, and Caylus. When he lived in Toronto, we used to play together all the time. We’d go to my cottage, or his, and games were always on the menu. We even spent six months living together in Peru, with countless games, of Cribbage, and Dominoes, and Euchre, and more Catan than I can remember. So suffice to say, when I know I’m going to see him, I’m excited to show him the great new stuff our hobby has to offer.
We played a ton of games that weekend, but by far we played the most Quacks. Several games just the two of us, and one night some people came over and we played two more rounds. It was the hit of the weekend. I took note of how easy it was to teach to players of varying skill levels and how addictive it was. It never overstayed its welcome and we were excited to to play several rounds.
A few weeks ago, I had a friend in town visiting and we had an afternoon game day with one of our Snakes and Lattes pals. I was again surprised, but also super excited that neither of them had played Quacks. I made sure that it was the first game we played…and they made sure it was the second and third game we played. We tried different combinations of ingredient powers each game and they both won at least once, which is more than I can say for myself. I lost every time we played, but I still had a great time trying new combinations and seeing what worked as a strategy and what didn’t (mostly what didn’t in my case).
The success I had been having recently with the game made me think back to some of my other teaching sessions. I remembered teaching a bunch of people at PAXU to great results. I also remembered teaching it to my brother and his kids (some of my regular gaming circle). They went out and got it pretty soon after. It’s one of the games we all got together to play on Tabletop Simulator since gaming in person has become more complicated for some reason.
This is not a review of Quacks, you can find that here. This article is more about the experience of playing it and the pretty much universally positive reactions I’ve gotten to it. Quacks has a few really great things going for it, that make it a fun game, no matter how well you’re doing in it.
1) Multiple Endorphin Bursts: Like most push-your-luck games there is a tense moment when you see if your gamble paid off or if you blew it. Your odds actually start pretty bad in Quacks, pulling different ingredients from a bag. It’s not too uncommon to bust in early rounds, and what’s more, it’s not that big a deal. Losing out on a point or two to buy new ingredients is a small price to pay. Making it more fun is that fact that as the game goes on, you should start doing better and better. It makes the risks so much more exciting and tempting to take.
2) Helpful Fortune Teller Cards: Each round a new Fortune Teller card is flipped providing some or all of the players with a bonus or an choice of beneficial things. These can include earning rubies, adding ingredients to your bag, or even doubling the catch up mechanic for the round.
3) The Catch Up Mechanic: The rat-tailed-based, scored board catch up mechanic is one of the simplest and smartest implementation I’ve seen. It makes being behind not feel nearly as bad, and being ahead feels almost like a handicap.
4) Things to Discover: Most of the ingredients have multiple different possible powers. You can take the suggested sets from the game or you can just throw them together. Each game you play will be different than the one before. You also won’t see even half of the Fortune Teller cards in a game, so whichever come up will make a big difference.
These are just some of my observations about Quacks and about why it might make for a great second-level gateway game. What games have you had great successes teaching? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below.