Apotheca is a board game that mixes spatial strategy with hidden information. Players utilize magical apothecaries to brew potions in a mysterious black market. The stunning, painterly artwork reels players of all ages in, and the approachable yet deep gameplay keeps them coming for more. Asymmetric player powers mixed with secrecy and a tight action/resource economy makes for challenging but rewarding gameplay. Players have great "a-HA!" moments, and feel clever when pulling off plans against opponents.
Game Designer: Andrew Federspiel
Artist: Eduardo Garcia
Graphic Designer: Philip Jenné
Apotheca began as an abstraction of the many match-3 mobile puzzle games. What would it be like to play with friends on the same board and in-person?
Immediately the challenge arose -- how do you set up matches for yourself but not your opponents? The asymmetric player powers were born. The game went from being inspired by something light to a cerebral and very intriguing place. But what really made the game tick were two special things:
1. Making the matchable objects both hidden and revealed, seen only by one player and optionally revealable by the other players (by spending an action).
2. A dynamite action system. Each action impacts and skews the games' axes in a different way. There is an elegance to each action, with far-reaching consequences despite the simplicity of the rules. It is tightly-wound, yet not too constraining.
On a different note, in mechanic-inspired games it can be difficult to find themes that feel like a natural fit. I think we succeeded in the aesthetic of Apotheca by marrying the feel of the mechanics with a black market potion-making theme. Players feel sneaky and clever when playing, not only by making plans, but also by deducing opponents'. The black market comes into play because you are using the profits of your potion making to hire shady characters that help you with further potion making. It sounds funny to explain it so plainly here, but it all comes together when you see the game on the table and feel its love.