Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Designed by Laura Erwin, Potions Please is a light filler-length card game for 2–4 players that you can expect to play in around 15 minutes.
Players are witches, each of which has a single-use special power. You collect ingredient cards by drawing them (whenever you end your turn with fewer than 5 cards, you draw back up to 5), by asking opponents for a specific card type (essentially using a Go Fish or Happy Families mechanic) and by 'buying' them in the market (spending the notional 5 credits you have each turn to select face up cards from the 'market' display. The idea is that you are collecting ingredients in order to satisfy the requirements on cards in a potions display. If you have the ingredients for one of the three potions displayed, you cash them in and take that potion card. On a subsequent turn, you'll be able to 'drink' that potion (flip the card) for its special effect, which could be to get hold of more ingredients or even to steal a completed potion from an opponent. The game ends when a player collects four different coloured potions (whether quaffed or not).
Potions Please is a simple enough game that can be picked up and played by quite young children though they may need help reading and understanding the text on cards that set out their special effects. The game is a step up from Happy Families so it could be used to gently introduce players to mechanisms in other games. With automatic hand replenishment and so many ways to collect ingredients, you'll find you are making a potion on pretty much every turn, so the game largely becomes a race to be the first to get potions of four different colours. Insofar as strategy comes into play, it's about making most effective use of the special abilities for 'drinking' potions and about keeping a weather eye on what colour potions your opponents need to win and taking them first to try to deny them.
The game uses the familiar market mechanism of sliding cards along to fill empty slots, so the price of more expensive ingredient cards falls if they are unsold. While that works very well in games like Century: Spice Road (Plan B) where it is a core mechanic, it feels unnecessarily fiddly in Potions Please to have to slide cards along each turn. Unspent cash doesn't carry forward so you will mostly be able to buy two cards every turn unless you happen to want to take the card on the far end where that'll be all you can buy. Given the nature of the game and the relative unimportance of the market, we'd have preferred a simpler drafting system like that in Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder), allowing players to draw any two cards but only one if it's a wild card. That would take away the need for sliding cards along and make the game even more accessible for younger players. It's a 'house rule' option you might want to try.
If you're looking for an attractive, simple family game that doesn't overstay its welcome, Potions Please is a card game you should check out. We found it especially appealed to youngsters addicted to the books and films in the Harry Potter franchise.