Spoiler for an upcoming top ten list but I think that Quacks of Quedlinburg is one of, if not, the best “new to me” game I played in 2020. 2020 was a dumpster fire of a year, but I actually got to play around 30 new games and I had a lot of fun with them but Quacks has gone down a storm in multiple play sessions with different groups.
Quacks is a bag building game where players have a bag of chips, seven of which are white and the white chips are bad. Each round you draw chips from your bag attempting to get further along a track than your opponents. However if you draw white chips worth more than 7 points you explode and the round is over for you. At the end of each round the player who got the furthest gets a bonus, usually some points or an extra chip etc. Then everyone who didn’t explode gets points along with cash to spend buying new chips. Everyone who did explode must choose cash or points.
The game then continues like that for 8 more rounds as players buy more chips, getting further and further along their track and scoring more points. Each chip type also has a special power, giving you interesting combos and additional ways to score points.
When you put Quacks out on the table it looks incredibly complex, there are bits literally everywhere and it is an incredible space hog, but it is actually deceptively simple. Not only that but the game builds slowly, adding new components over the course of the first three rounds so as to not overwhelm you with options in turn one. It also has a set of event cards to shake things up each round, this way each of the 9 rounds of the game feel slightly different.
It’s not a perfect game, players all play simultaneously for example, which speeds the game up immensely but makes teaching it a bit more problematic as you try to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. If you don’t play simultaneously though the game takes over two hours and it just can’t justify that play time. The game also has a “the rich get richer” problem which it solves with some of the most egregious rubberbanding I’ve ever seen. Quacks would literally be a broken game without it though and at least it rubberbands by giving the losers a boost rather than penalising the leader.
Every group I’ve pulled this one out with, be it in person or digitally has loved it. And I love it too. It’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s replayable with tons of variety in the base box and a relatively inexpensive expansion available that also increases the player count to 5. It’s not a campaign game with an epic story, or a box chock full of plastic miniatures, it’s not a game I’ll remember individual plays from years from now, but in terms of pure fun in a box this is one of the best games I’ve played in this sh*tstorm of a year!
On the 12th Day of Christmas, Santa gave to me... 12 multicoloured chips in a bag.