Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Time: 100 min.
In Ars Alchimia, each player plays as a factory overseer in the land of Alchimia to become the most prestigious. Alchimia is a land where alchemy has gown leaps and bounds to surpass all other technologies. You will send your workers out to fulfill many different phases in the alchemy trade and will be judged by how many points you accrue throughout the four years.
Each player will choose the color of their factory and gain the workers, player board and cubes of each color to track on their player board. Each player will only start with a specific number of their 20 total workers…..yes workers run rampant in this game!
This is your typical worker placement game with a few twists. On your turn you need to place workers at various action spaces in order for them to work and do things to progress your factory forward. When you place your workers all the action spaces work the same. You need to place at least on more worker than what is previously at that spot. If no workers are there you have to put at least one, if there are 3 workers you have to place at least 4. There is no limit to how much you go over, in fact it benefits you to put even more workers out. They could give you a little bonus as well as make it harder for your opponents to take that action after you.
There are plenty of action spaces for you to go to with your workers. In each area there will be any where between 3-5 cards to go to. The areas are, Assistants, Locations, Forges, and Orders. Locations are where you go to gain resources. Orders are where you go to gain recipes for alchemy. Assistants are specific people who help you with certain actions you take. Forges allow you to turn your resources into alchemy potions, on Order Cards, or into more important and harder to obtain resources.
At the beginning of each year, players will choose what player order card they want for the following year based on points. The person with the least amount of points will choose first and then the next highest and so on. If you choose to go first you will get one new worker for the next round, but if you choose to go 4th you will get 4 new workers. So, you have to decide if you want to go first or get more workers. Great choice here.
Players will play for 4 rounds and determine who has the most points. Every time you complete an Order card during the game you will score points immediately based on the points on the card. At the end of the game you may get additional points based on the Orders you have completed. Each Order has an icon associated with it and you want to collect as many of the same icon type as you can. The more you collect the more points you will earn from the sets. You also get a point for each Elixir that you have made by turning 2 different resources into an Elixir when you visit the Forges. The player with the most points is the winner.
The components are pretty good in this game. I really like the size and shape of the workers, though you may be putting lots of workers in the same spot so they might be hard to move all at once. The art is really, really good. The Anime theme seems to work fine. The only issue I may have with the components are the player boards and using cubes to track your resources….they could move easily if you accidentally jostle the table or board itself. The cards are also really small and have extremely small writing on them, since they have both the Japanese and English explanations on them. Over all though, the components are solid!
There are quite a few things in Ars Alchimia that are in other games. There are a few things that this game does differently but sadly this was not something that I felt helped the game but only made it frustrating. The first and foremost was the worker placement. When you send workers, you have to place at lease one more worker than the workers that are already on that spot, which is fine……BUT you can put 3 more workers or 5 more workers…..if there are no workers there at all….you can still put 5 workers there. This will ultimately shut off that spot for the rest of the round. It gets too expensive for that many workers. This is huge when it comes to resources. There are not very many ways to get them and the one that gets taken first is usually the best one. It really deflates me when the first player goes to the Location that gives 3 white resources with 5 workers on their first turn. This mechanism of using so many workers in each area makes the final turns in a round seem pointless and the final round seem really pointless. The Mechanism that I really liked was the hiring of Assistants. Each Assistant has a special ability that they come with and you can hire as many as you want. When you hire them, you have to put a worker on them at the beginning of each round to make sure they stay there to help you. Each Assistant is also worth a point at the end of the game. So, you have to decide if it is worth a precious worker in order to keep the ability.
The replayability in this game is slightly above average. I don’t avoid playing it, but I don’t seek out to play it either. There are other games that fit this mold that I would rather play but if this is the only thing someone would want to play, I wouldn’t say no. Nothing changes much from game to game. You are still just trying to get resources, fulfill orders and trying to match icons on those orders.
This is where I really struggled with the game. There is some strategy when it comes to which Assistants you want to hire and use, choosing player order for each round, and the orders you choose. That is not enough for the randomness for me. Every area you go to you have a chance of gaining more than what is there. This is called being Perfect. For instance, if you go to a Location that gives you 2 red resources, you also roll a die and have the chance to get more resources, either of the same color or different. IF you roll the die and roll higher than what it says, usually 5 or 6. This is where the workers come in, for how ever many workers you put at that spot, over the minimum needed, you get to add +1 to your die roll. So, that is why players would put more workers than needed at an area. If I want to go to an area and there are already 2 workers there, I could put 5 workers there to get a +2 on my roll, again pretty much shutting that area off to other players. The other randomness is at the Forge and Location areas. In each of these areas, there is a face down deck. If there are specific resources that you need and everyone else pretty much needs due to it not being drawn during a round, then you can go to the face down deck and take your chances. Turn over the top card and you now can get the resource on that card. It might be the one you want and it might not…..if it is the one you want good for you, that just means that if someone else needs that resource it would be unwise to go to that area again hoping the next card will also have the resource you need. The last round is also a major down point, in my opinion. It felt like you need to make sure you get the things done as quick in the round as possible due to others freezing you out and by the middle of the round there are very few places to go or even things to get done.
Final Thoughts: 12/20
I am not saying this is a bad game. I feel like it does some things really well. It doesn’t do anything new or great but it fits the theme. I liked the idea of the game but I think there are other games that do this similar thing that I would rather play, like Coal Baron. This would be a good game to introduce to people who have played only a few worker placement games and are wanting a little different experience. For me, it just felt way too random and less strategic. If you’re looking for a relatively quick unique worker placement in a small package this might be your game. If you are in need of a deep strategic worker placement game you might want to look elsewhere.