The Hungry Gamer Previews Animalchemists
Before I being I was provided a prototype copy of the game, in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview.
If you would prefer to watch a video version of this preview, check it out below.
I am not sure what it says about me that I have really become enamored with anthropomorphic animals in games over the past years. Back when I first discovered board games, and Mice and Mystics was just releasing I remember thinking “Mice are the heroes?, pfft. that’s dumb and completely unrealistic. I will stick with my orcs and dwarves casting their magics, fighting dragons and seeking magical treasures…ya know realism.
Since then, I have actually played Mice and Mystics, which is excellent, I fell in love with Wander: The Cult of Barnacle Bay, and adore Root. Hell, I just did a search on BGG for games with anthropomorphic animals and got a small list, and am tempted to try all of those out! (Side note if someone wants to turn Winnie the Pooh into a dungeon crawl I am so there!) Anyhow, I told you that story to tell you this one. When I got the chance to check out Animalchemists it was an easy yes for me.
I mean how sick do those characters look?! Now, without going too in detail this is a, relatively simple, set collection and hand management game. Each of you plays an Animal Alchemist competing with others to prove they are the mightiest!
Each turn you choose whether you are going to collect ingredients from the market, the deck or both; craft potions; or craft spells. At any time on your turn you can use the spells to effect the other players around the table (and yourself on occasion). As you can imagine, you need certain ingredients to craft potions, and combinations of potions and ingredients to make spells.
The end game scoring is triggered when someone crafts the spell on the bottom of the deck (Time Stop). Once this happens all potions are worth three points, all ingredients are worth one, and the spells each have a different value on the bottom of the card. Highest score wins!
So what do I think?
I really enjoy the simplicity of this game. I know I said I was not going into much detail above, but you could actually sit down and play the game now, and there would only be a few things you missed. It is fast to play and easy to learn, but at the same time there are definite choices that you have to make, due to depleting supplies, some of which do not refresh. The mechanic whereby the potions are limited is wonderful, it adds a little pressure to the decisions you have to make on when to craft them.
Second, I think the art is just top notch. The characters are stunningly drawn, the ingredients are fine, and the potions and spells are right up there with the characters. This game is just a pleasure to look at it. It makes me want to learn more about the world these characters come from.
Finally I really like the end game trigger. Everyone knows when the Time Stop card will appear, as it is at the bottom of the spell deck, but once it is out it can be crafted at any time with only base ingredients. This lets people try to earn those last points before going for it, but it gives players the option to feel like they are in the lead and try to end the game immediately. It just works.
The ingredient art is good, but compared to the potions and spells and characters it falls down a bit. Additionally on the spells, while it is clear what the point value is, it is a little challenging to read the value of the spell from a distance. (I will note that the publisher has already told me that is being updated in the final version, and it looks like this is fixed)
Speaking of the spells, I wish there were more of them. I think that it might become a little stale after enough plays with the same spells coming up over and over again. That said, adding more spells would probably mean you need to add another step to set up to select the correct number of spells you are playing with, in order to not simply lengthen the game.
Finally, I mentioned how fascinated I am with the world and the characters from the artwork. Well now I want to know more about them, more about the world, more about this competition.
I have very little to add here. The only quibble I have is that when you are crafting spells it can sometimes be hard to figure out what potions you need to do it. I am not sure if the icons need to be larger, or the colors more prominent, or perhaps it is just because the orientation of the potions on their cards and on the spell cards does not match. I will also add that I suspect this would be a challenging game for a color blind player to play, due to things like that.
Bringing it all together
This is a delightful set building game. The art is awesome, so good that it makes me wish I knew more about these characters. The gameplay is simple, though with a good touch of strategy thrown in. The end game mechanics and scoring is very well done, and feels perfectly balanced. There are some graphical issues that need to be adjusted still, but it is close.
Yeah…brewing potions takes time…no one does that, just give me the premade
*Fun, simple set collection game, with just the right amount of strategy
*Needs a few adjustments on spell cards to make them simpler to read
*Excellent end game trigger mechanic, it allows for a little push your luck strategy at the end of the game