I had been expecting Apotheca to arrive any day and was slightly worried that it would turn up whilst I was away from home. It did and it was deposited in my blue recycling bin. Thankfully the bin is protected from the elements and provided a dry home for the game until my return one evening in the driving rain.
Anyone who has been following this game on Kickstarter will be aware of some of the problems involving the thickness of the tiles, which has led to all kickstarter backings receiving an extra nine ‘coasters’ (they are 3mm thick and the rest of the tiles are 2 mm thick). They aren’t really coasters, but someone suggested using them as coasters in the comments and I think that is a great idea, or maybe I could arrange them to display on the wall… The replacements for these thicker tiles don’t quite match the colours of the original tiles contained in the box, they seem to have less red in the colour mix on both the front and back, although I think the backs are similar enough in colour for this not to be an issue when playing.
The uniquely shaped gems and beautiful artwork on the cards are definite highlights in the box. There are three types of gems – rubies, sapphires and topazes – and each has been given a custom gem shape. The apothecary cards are on the large side which shows off the artwork. The powers are clear and easy to understand with both a diagram and text explaining what each apothecary does.
Several people have commented on the darkness of the board, however I feel that this adds to the atmosphere of the game: potions being produced in secret. I do understand how the darkness could make the coloured sections difficult to make out, especially for someone who is colour-blind (and for certain apothecaries the colour of a section does matter). However as the board doesn’t change orientation which section is which should be relatively easy to remember, or it would be easy to ask a fellow player and check. I’m not completely convinced by the UV spot coating, in certain lights it makes the highlighted items difficult to see because of the glare, but as these have no impact on game play it doesn’t really matter.
The rulebook is well laid out, including the main game, a solo variant, and a variant which pits one player as the master of the market against the other players. A nice touch is the inclusion of some thematic back stories for each of the apothecaries and a reference to the apothecary powers on the back page.
I was drawn to this game by the simple gameplay. It is in essence a matching game where you are attempting to get 3 or more potions of the same colour in a line. The first to complete 3 matches and so satisfy 3 apothecaries is the winner (however satisfying an apothecary means you can no longer use its power). Different apothecaries giving different abilities to manipulate the position of the tiles and the fact that you can always peak at uncovered tiles that you placed (so there isn’t a memory element) were other major plus points. I look forward to playing the game soon.