The 6th Student is the second expansion for the 2015 set collection, potion brewed themed title Potion Explosion. Published by Horrible Games, designed by Stefano Castelli, Andrea Crespi and Lorenzo Silva, this expansion can be seen as both a game upgrade for those whom own the original edition of the base game and a mini expansion. With new potions and having the potential to play with up to 6 players there is plenty included in the box. However, is this a worthwhile addition to Potion Explosion or a potion of greed? Let’s find out!
Starting with an addition, the new wild ingredient found in the dispensers is Mandragora Leaf. These leaves behave rather differently, even compared to the wild ingredient of Ghost Ectoplasm found in the Fifth Ingredient expansion. They are treated as a separate ingredient type for explosions and as wild ingredients that can be used in place of any colour. The twist is that a potion layer that includes Mandragora Leaves cannot contain another ingredient type – so plan ahead! While an optional extra for 2 – 4, Mandragora Leaves are mandatory for games with 5 – 6 players. In 2 – 4 player games, this is simple done by removing 5 marbles of each other colour and 10 Mandragora Leaf marbles.
For 5 – 6 players there is a new mode which not only requires this new ingredient but also two separate dispensers. Thankfully, there is one in the base game and another in this expansion. Setup is slightly tweaked to help the game flow with the increased player count. Depending on the player count additional potion stacks are created and more types of potions are included, a relatively minor change. On top of the 80 ingredient marbles from the original all of the 30 Mandragora Leaf marbles are mixed in. These are used to fill the first dispenser before adding the “bell” lid, and then the remaining marbles fill the second dispenser. From here, players will draw from the dispenser with the bell and discard into the other.
During play, at the start of a players turn, if the discard dispenser has more marble tracks full (9 showing marbles) than the picking dispenser then a Change Classroom event occurs. This sees the bell ring and the bell lid swap from one dispenser to the other. This only occurs at the start of a players turn, and you can approximately judge when this may happen. The only other change is that there is an additional way to get a skill tokens, balancing out the increased variety in potion types. When you get your first set of ten potions, regardless of type, a skill token is awarded – taken form the countdown track. Other than this the gameplay is consistent with that of the base game.
Offering more brewing opportunities are two new potion types: Generosity Confection and Concentrate of Selfishness. These are both focused on the pools of players. The first really is generous as you take ingredients from one dispenser track, the amount equal to the player count, and give one to each player including yourself. Timing here is key, as if an opponent’s pool is full the marble is discarded. Concentrate of Selfishness is particularly effective as the player count grows, as it enables you to steal an ingredient from each opponents pool. Both, as with other potions, are a little weak with only two players – something to watch out for if this is how you find yourself commonly playing Potion Explosion.
Component wise everything included is strong. The Mandragora Leaves marbles have a neat green visual swirl that is reminiscent of leaves, inside an otherwise clear glass marble. Standing out two fold from the rest in the dispensers, due to none of the other ingredients being clear or green and none have such a visual non solid colour design. One minute issue with new dispense is, while it gains the robustness of plastic, the rather gorgeous golden trim seen on the old cardboard one has been lost. This is a crying shame as the trim helped the dispenser of old pop, something lacking in the new solid brown design.
With the release of the 2nd Edition of Potion Explosion Horrible Games should be commended on not forgetting the current player base. For owners of the original a huge draw will be the shiny plastic dispenser that is included in the box. As expected this is a significant upgrade, feeling more robust, removing issues of dodgy dispenser construction and generally being more visually pleasant in the centre of the table – it is just a shame the gold trim is gone.
The downtime for a full 6 player game is on the edge of too much for my liking. Due to this, despite the entertaining usage of two dispensers, I cannot see myself needing both the new improved plastic dispenser and the old cardboard one – so will most probably recycle the old and combine the expansion with the base game. Conversely, the new potions and the Mandragora Leaves ingredient marbles are excellent additions to mix into the original selection, so add just enough to refer to this as an expansion. However, if you are mostly wanting a new expansion brimming with new Potion Explosion content you might come away disappointed.
[Editor’s Note: Potion Explosion The 6th Student Expansion was provided to us for review by Horrible Games, at Essen Spiel 2018.]