Petersen Games has been in the board game business for a little while, but they’ve had most of their success with big games (Apocalaypse World), games about the Cthulhu Mythos (Evil HIgh Priest), and big games about the Cthulhu Mythos (Cthulhu Wars). On March 9th, they’ll be launching four new games on Gamefound under the title “Monster Invasion,” each of them with a unique theme and set of designers. I was sent the smallest of the four, Potions & Profits, a quirky little game from Zoran Dobrijevic (Trifecta). Let’s dive into the complicated world of magical pharmaceuticals and see what we can mix up!
What’s In The Box?
I’ll admit that there isn’t anything particularly mind-blowing about the art of Potions & Profits. It’s very well done technically, and can be both funny (Ground Up Pixies) and disgusting (Cannibal Spit) as the theme of the game allows. But it’s fairly bog standard fantasy art. The colors are appealing, sort of a neon on black look that pops on the table. The cards are made of some incredibly sturdy (and I believe water resistant) material that I’m starting to see game companies use more and more. The only real problem might be the board, which has a pretty dark color palette that looks kind of muddy on the tabletop. The overall aesthetic is nice, evoking big money casinos and board rooms, but doesn’t have the same visual distinction as the cards.
How’s It Play?
Each player of Potions & Profits is a Wizard working for a magical pharmaceutical company. You’re trying to invest in the potions that will make you the most money without totally souring public opinion of the company. Not all potions are helpful, after all. The game happens in rounds, with each one having a certain number of potions (one per player) revealed that you then bid on. You’ll bid based on how the potion will affect your stock value, PR value, or based on its special ability. Your goal is to either gain a monopoly (invest in three potions of the same kind) or invest in three potions AND have a PR value over 16.
Players bid on each potion in a round, and when they do they mix in an ingredient in. This is the best part of the game, since these add a LOT of variables into the decision-making process and allow you to bluff your competitors or, if so desired, totally screw them over. There’s also “trick” money that you can bid that affects the game and messes with how the process works, adding more variety to what is a pretty small game.
I love games that put a lot of theme onto easy to play mechanics. There’s a trend in board games to only assign the most creative themes to the crazy innovative (or crazy expensive) games, but Potions & Profits is nice for just sitting around the table and having some fun. It mixes several different mechanics together well enough that they don’t really get in the way of each other, and none of them mix in a way that’s confusing. The fantasy theme is also pretty fun and there’s a darkly comedic edge to the whole thing that reminds me quite a bit of Red Dragon Inn.
There’s only a couple of drawbacks, like the darkness of the board that makes you really wish someone in Magical R&D would turn a light on. The speed at which the game plays is fun but it also means games are painfully short sometimes, with one of my players commenting that you could theoretically in win three turns if the cards fell right…which it promptly did. A few times. It’s nice to have variety in playspeed, but it felt like Potions & Profits is too fast for its own good. Some of the effects don’t really pay off in short games, and the player interaction is severely limited when there’s little chance to mess with opponents. Not something that will ruin the experience, not a guaranteed outcome by any means, but something to keep in mind when playing.
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You can learn more about Potions & Profits and the rest of the Monster Invasion at the preview page on Gamefound.