Potion 21

Summary

Game: Potion 21Age: 13+
Players: 2- 4Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: easyReplay Value: high

You are in the laboratory of Dr. Jack, a chemist who failed 20 attempts of creating immortality. Finally, potion 21, the cure to eternal life. He has abandoned his lab since then, leaving behind his failed experiments. A few doses of immortality remain among other other things, dangerous or not. Players will be looking for the remaining potion 21 potions, avoiding the failed experiments (monsters) and drinking whatever left over red potions there are to become stronger. First player to grab 3 potion 21’s wins.

Players will all start with a character card, ability card, counter card and dungeon card. Each player will be given 7 red potion cards. Lay out the remaining red cards to the side for an easy grab. Set up the dungeon so that the amount of purple cards equate to or are lesser than the green, yellow, and blue lab decks placing the respective deck when the minimum is reached.

For example, I lay out purple cards with the experience level of 2 4 and 2. This would equate to 8 where I will then place the green deck as indicated by the ≥ 8 sign. This will continue with the rest of the dungeon with yellow deck being ≥ 11 and the blue deck being ≥ 14. If you go over because of a card ( experience of 2, 4, 4 for example) place the ≥ 8 after that card, and continue placing the ≥ 11 and ≥ 14 as mentioned earlier.

Dungeon setup

Experience

This is a game that really caught me by surprise. To be honest, I was slightly thrown off by the artwork, however, After playing the game a couple times it turns out I am a huge fan of rogue-like black jack! The game is pretty simple to understand but the game play itself mimics black jack as in players do not want to bust, or exceed a power strength of 21. The dungeon mimics the dealer as it gets stronger as each card turns over. You are not entirely sure what the card may be next because all we know is that it can be anywhere between ≥ 3, ≥ 6, or ≥ 9 as stated on the purple cards. So players looking at a dungeon level of 15 but only have a power level of 19 should be weary to continue with a ≥ 9 card waiting ahead. But that’s the fun and risk of the dungeon!

How To Play

After all players have taken turns turning over red potions until they are confident with their power. You cannot look at your red potion cards so you can only hope to not bust while getting as close to 21 as possible (if you reach 21, you automatically beat the dungeon and can collect 1 of every color card in the dungeon). Once everyone is ready, the dealer will begin turning the dungeon over, adding the dungeon value to the side for everyone to see. When players reach a lab deck, they can take the top card from the stack and place it in their inventory (never surpassing 7 cards). Continue until everyone either runs away from the dungeon or dies.

Keep in mind, you have the right to leave whenever you feel you may die, if you come across a monster that is too powerful feel free to use whatever remaining potions you have to attempt to reach a higher level or a power level of 21, otherwise…. die.

What a game would look like, player, their level, the used potions, and the unused below.

Evaluation

User Interface

The game relies heavily on luck and risk. Being similar to black jack, players can assume that as long as you can get relatively close to 21, your only issues will be with the dungeon level succeeding your level or reaching 21 itself. Some of the lab cards allows you to change your power level or character level which can enhance your starting strength level. Strategically, with enough lab cards, you can begin finding ways to perfect a 21 strength run.

Mechanics and Game play

This game uses luck of the draw with dungeon crawling elements. Each player will be managing their players strength through potion cards that can range in strength level. You always risk busting over 21, but the closer to 21 you are, the likelier chance you will survive the dungeon and grab a potion 21 card. There is more to it than that, every lab you pass offers some sort of ability whether it be upgrading your character, or ability card, or receiving ways to manipulate your potion strength.

As far as player count, you could imagine it is similar to black jack in the way that everyone is doing their own thing but are overall–going against the house. So everyone is running through the dungeon together but no one is interacting with each other. Eventually, players trickle off, as they begin leaving the dungeon but overall, it’s a independent run. It is not similar to black jack in the way that your decisions wont necessarily effect the player next to you as it does with black jack.

Card Break Down

Every cards back side will have the likelihoods of their outcome. less than 3 cards will always be 1, 2, or 3. Less than 9 cards will be all the numbers are and in-between 1 and 9. The purple cards have experience levels on them to help identify how long the dungeon should be–this helps balance the run between getting new lab cards. Every red potion card will also include less than indicators which are used to build your strength up to 21, while still having the chance of over-doing it and dying. The other side will show the actual number of the card, potions will have descriptions for their use.

The artwork is of a 8 bit side-scroller arcade game. vibrant colors and simple design gives me the feeling of playing an atari game. Coupled with the rogue-like experience I think they go hand in hand. Since the game play moves so quickly, It’s not necessary to complicate the game with massive amounts of detail.

What I Like

I really enjoy the game play a lot. I love how to risk increases as the game continues. Dying early in the game is less impacting and more rewarding while dying toward end game is brutally agonizing. With every death you literally start the game over, losing everything you have collected. It is fun watching everyone take those giant risk moves. Players will risk a less than 9 purple monster card to get lucky and receive a monster level of 3 summing the dungeons power to one less strength than the player who took the risk. Those awesomely awful moments when the blue lab cards do not give us the potion 21 cards (even though chances are extremely high to receive them from the blue lab deck). Coming from someone who loves to hit the casino every once and a while–this was a happy inclusion to my collection.

What I don’t like

I think the artwork falls very flat in my options. While not everyone agreed with me with this, and I understand this is an 8 bit game. I feel it could have possible had a more creative interpretation of the bit-work. Since it is mostly cosmetic, it does not effect the game play at all. The game play is very solid.

Final Thoughts

My Advice

Take early game risks because you never know if you’ll get lucky enough to run through the whole thing in one fell swoop. I also personally enjoyed keeping cards that can manipulate my character and ability strength with me. So even if I used potions that could bust my strength over 21, I could throw in potions that can lower my overall character strength–or vice versa if I need that additional 1 or 2 points.

Outcome

I pleasantly play this quit often. It’s a quick game that asks for multiple plays. It is easy to setup, easy to learn, and quick to catch on to. Each card type in the game compliment each other well and I love how strategic the game can get. This is more than press your luck because eventually you are using different types of potions to manipulate as little as 1 or 2 points around at a time. I would highly recommend this to anyone really. It’s black jack, it’s a dungeon crawler, it’s enjoyable.

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