Number of Players: 2-4
Year of Publication: 1987
Creator(s): Nik Sewell (Designer) and Chantry House Studios Limited (Artist)
So, for this post, i’m going to move away from my Quick Games posts to write about a brilliant board game that we’ve had for longer than I’ve been alive; rather than things we’ve just come across like Java (which is awesome, in case anyone was unsure).
Definitely As Obscure As We Thought!
Elixir is a game we’ve been playing as long as we can remember – published in 1987 it’s been around far longer than either of us (almost 27 years now!!). As far as we can make out, this game was never released on a large scale, and it was withdrawn from production only a year or two after it was first produced, so very few copies have survived – a look on Amazon or Ebay will tell you that to acquire this game you’re looking at spending, at the very least £50, or closer to $100+ for anything coming from the United States. Even harder than getting a copy, is getting a complete, or undamaged copy; that seems to be nigh impossible – I know our copy is battered and has a few of the gold pieces missing from all the times we’ve played it over the years, but when I consider how many people have played it, and how little we were when we were first introduced to it, i’m amazed that it’s in as good condition as it is!
Playing the Game!
Elixir isn’t a complicated game at all. You play as one of four Wizards, either Red, Blue, Yellow or Green and your objective is to be the first to brew all three parts of the Elixir of Life – simple, right? There are three shops on the board, Special Ingredients, Herbalists and Jewelers. To brew any potion you need at least one Special Ingredient, Herb and Jewel. You can move four spaces per turn and you move around the board entering shop and purchasing ingredients for your potions. At the start of the game you are given six gold pieces and you are given one more at the beginning of every turn. These are used to pay for your ingredients. Once you have everything you need to brew a potion, you return to your lab and commence brewing.
But you need to be wary! Every time you stop on one of the grey street squares you must take a Stranger card, these are random and are a mixture of good and bad. Some Strangers might offer to buy ingredients or potions off of you, others might offer to sell you ingredients at a special rate. Some are for hire, you can use them to incapacitate or rob your opponents. Others will simply try to mug or curse you. It’s completely down to chance which card is on top of the deck when you draw a card. There is another element of chance thrown into the game with regards to Stranger cards; and potion brewing too. For each Stranger that attacks you, or you hire to attack or steal from another Wizard there is a success rate on the bottom of the card. For this you role a die. It is the same with brewing. The jewel used in brewing the potion determines the likelihood of a successful brew, and using anything less than a diamond can result in failure when rolling the die, there is a chart in the rule book that states which combinations of jewels and which numbers on the die will yield success or failure for you. When you brew a potion successfully, or if you fail, you must return all three components to the shops that they came from. In this way players are able to continue brewing potions throughout the game, without ever running out of ingredients.
The Special Ingredient and Herb that you use determine what potion you brew. There are nine possible potions that can be brewed and once you have successfully brewed you look at the relevant Formula card and then find that potion in the potion pack. The middle of the board is taken up by a 3×3 grid, this is divided up into the Special Ingredients and the Herbs. There are nine Formula cards that are shuffled at the beginning of each game and placed in this grid. In this way the game remains unpredictable and it is impossible to know from one game to the next which combination of ingredients will give you the Elixir. Of these nine available, three are the respective parts of The Elixir Of Life, the other six are all different. Each potion has a description on it, which tells you what it is useful for, for example, Speedy Soda is a potion that will allow you to move eight squares instead of four each turn for four turns after you activate it. However, other potions such as Baneful Brew are much less helpful. Although it will not harm you to hold this potion, it can have negative effects on anyone trying to attack or mug you, but you cannot “drink” it, as you do the other potions. So whilst it may seem like an unfortunate potion to brew in your quest for the Elixir, it does have its perks!
It’s wise to note down which combinations of ingredients your opponents are using so that if they then start to “drink” a potion, you have the chance of knowing one of the combinations that will not give you the Elixir. To drink a potion, you simply place the card face up on the table, showing the other players what it is. The potion, if it is drinkable (the only ones that aren’t are the three parts of the Elixir and Baneful Brew) will have four squares on the bottom, showing a small image of the potion bottle with varying amounts of liquid in it. You then take a red counter from the box and place it over the first of these squares. Every turn you take you must move the counter, until you’ve “drunk” the entire potion. For every turn that the potion is activated, you can enjoy the advantages it gives you, be it taking an extra piece of gold for your turn, or being able to move eight spaces instead of four, however, if you do not use the advantage of the potion on one turn, you must still move the counter along as if you had. Planning your turns once you’ve activated a potion is important!!
It’s also possible to slightly obstruct your opponents in their quest for the Elixir. You can go into any shop and buy all of one, or all or the ingredients, providing you have enough gold. Once you have these, the other players cannot brew until you have, unless they mug you or steal from you. Using this tactic will slow the game down a bit, and probably make you the object of unwanted attention!
If anyone’s interested, my next post will be about Nine Men’s Morris, another one in the Quick Games chain of posts, and that should (fingers crossed!!) go up Thursday evening!
For the people that occasionally fill their procrastination time reading our posts, firstly, thank you, for filling your procrastination time with our ramblings, but also, if there’s any game you’d like to see us write about that you’ve played, please, don’t hesitate to tell us in a comment! We’d love to know which games you love and have grown up with!