Following up on the breakout success of Quacks of Quedlinburg (Schmidt Spiele), designer Wolfgang Warsch has returned to Quedlinburg but, title notwithstanding, this time around there's not a 'quack' to be seen. In Quacks & Co. you're not brewing medicinal potions but feeding your animals as you compete to win a race.
Tho' there's an array of different tokens that may seem initially daunting for younger players, Quacks & Co. is actually a relatively simple game that's aimed primarily at children age 6 and up. Instead of the individual boards in the original Quacks game, players here are all moving along a central board. It's two-sided, allowing for a slightly shorter or longer game depending on which board you decide to play.
The 2-4 players each choose one of the cute painted wooden animeeples and a matching bag and board for placing their tokens. Players each start off with an identical mix of food tokens which go into their individual bags. Each turn, you draw a token from your bag and you move the number indicated. You then take the action indicated for that colour token. At the start, this will either be to roll a custom six-sided die and take the extra action rolled (that's for the yellow food tokens) or, for the red tokens, you collect one or two rubies. Four of the tokens in the bag (that's half of what you start off with) are 'dream weeds'. Draw one of those and your animeeple just daydreams the turn away: they stay put and don't move. However, this isn't just an annoying 'miss a turn' device. The 'dream weed' tokens go onto 'dream' spaces on your board and when you collect three it triggers an opportunity to build your bag. You spend the rubies you've collected in order to buy more tokens. These go into your bag along with all those you've drawn. If you haven't picked up any rubies - tough luck, you just get to refresh your bag with all the tokens you've drawn. Note tho' that if you're in last place on the race track when you draw your third 'dream weed', you are given a compensatory ruby - so that's literally a catch-up mechanic.
Drawing 'dream weeds' then, stalls your immediate progress in the race but it isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's not like drawing the white herbs in Quacks of Quedlinburg. Because you only routinely draw one token per turn, there's no risk of going bust, indeed there's no push-your-luck element in Quacks & Co. This may come as a surprise as it was the core mechanic in the original game. Quacks & Co. does tho' replicate the bag building, and here there is room for a judgement call from players on how best to spend your rubies to develop the bag from which you're drawing. Just as the main board is double-sided, so too are the tiles that indicate the actions taken for each colour of token. Children are encouraged to start off with the simpler 'caterpillar' side and to exclude some colours. You can then vary the game by using instead the 'butterfly' side and by adding in the other colours. This increases players' agency and choice when deciding how to spend their rubies, and it also allows for the possibility of setting up potentially powerful combos.
Adult fans of the original Quacks game may be disappointed that Quacks & Co. isn't more of the same but despite, or more accurately because of, its relative simplicity, this is a great family game. It's light enough for quite young children to enjoy but it's engaging enough that adults won't feel it a chore to play with their children.
With art by Michael Menzel, Schmidt Spiele haven't skimped on production quality. The irregularly shaped herb tokens in the original game were so prone to wear that many owners felt obliged to resort to 'sleeving' them in coin capsules. That's much less likely to be an issue with Quacks & Co. because the tokens are made of sturdy thick card and they're round, so altogether much less prone to show wear. The game comes with a bag for each player that's colour matched to the player's lovable animeeple. Even the box is well designed, with a separate compartment for each value of token that corresponds to its cost in rubies. There is, however, an unfortunate misprint in the English rules for set up: the text indicates you start with two 'red 2' tokens when it should say two 'red 1'. If Quacks & Co. does half as well as Quacks of Quedlinburg, then there's sure to be a reprint and so an opportunity to correct this typo. Quacks & Co. - Quedlinburg Dash! is distributed in the UK by Coiledspring Games.