Reviewed by Ward Ahders

KUPFERKESSEL CO. (Goldsieber, about $20)


With the proliferation of games and game designers these days, the effort required to develop a truly new (and marketable) game mechanic is daunting. Most designers will blend some tried and true mechanics, perhaps modified in some unique way, to develop a new game. While some of these games will feel exactly like a mixed-bag of poorly integrated mechanics with a pasted-on theme, occasionally the recipe will result in an enticing game. In this instance, take a large portion of set collection from Fossil (Summer 1998 GA REPORT), mix in an ounce of memory management from Mamma Mia (Spring 1999 GA REPORT), add a pinch of Knizia-esque scoring, throw in a large pot and stir with a clever movement system. What you’ll come up with is Kupferkessel Co. (Copper Kettle Company), one of two new games introduced at Essen 2001 by Gunter Burkhardt. The contestants in this 2-player game by Goldsieber Spiele are magic wielders attempting to purchase the best ingredients to give their potions the highest strength.kupferkessel_deckel

The game comes with the following components: 56 ingredient cards (14 different ingredients in 7 colors with values 1 to 4), 4 corner cards for the tableau, 2 scoring summary cards, 13 prescription cards (used in the variant game), 2 player figures and a rule book.

To start the basic game, the 56 ingredient cards are shuffled and 32 are laid out to form a tableau of cards 6 x 6 in size, with the four corners left free for the corner cards. The remaining cards form a draw pile. The corner cards must be placed so the two starting positions are diagonally opposite one another. The two player figures are placed beside the corner cards showing their color figure.

The goal of the game is to collect as many complete or nearly complete sets of ingredients in your Magic Kettle as possible. Since only the topmost card of your Kettle is visible you must (try to!) remember what you’ve collected so far. As can be seen by the scoring rules below, some ingredients can really ruin your potion and reduce your score if you’re not careful.

Each player draws one card from the draw pile and places it face up in front of him to start his Magic Kettle. If this card shows a black or white background, it is placed on the bottom of the draw pile and another card is taken. Repeat until a card with a color other then black or white is drawn. The player with the white pawn moves first.

On his turn, the player moves his pawn around the outside of the tableau. The number of spaces (from 1 to 4) the pawn moves is determined by the current card on the top of the player’s Kettle. Only one pawn may land or stop next to each card so, if a space is occupied by the opposing player’s pawn, it is skipped over without being counted. Once movement is completed, the player must take a card of the row on which he landed. If the player’s pawn ends on a corner card, his turn ends without any other action. The removed ingredient card is placed on the top of the player’s Kettle, completely covering all others so it is the only card visible.

Two ingredient cards have special abilities – the Magic Hat & Wand and the Exploding Kettle. If the player takes a card with the Magic Hat & Wand the player immediately gets another turn. Only one extra turn per turn is allowed, so a second Magic Hat & Wand would have no effect this turn. The Exploding Kettle forces your opponent to remove the top card from his Magic Kettle and place it at the bottom of the draw pile (except for the starting card). If the draw pile has been exhausted the card is removed from the game, which can be particularly nasty late in the game if the card completes a set!

Once a player has completed his turn, the empty space in the tableau is filled with the next card from the draw pile, if there is one. Once the draw pile is exhausted, gaps will begin to appear in the tableau. The game ends when a player takes the last card in a row, which he has the option of placing on his Kettle or simply discarding.

Now each player checks the ingredients in their Kettle to determine who concocted the more potent potion. The cards are sorted into ingredients of the same type and are scored as follows :

Single ingredients score minus the value of the card (-1 to –4)

Two of an ingredient scores nothing

Three of an ingredient scores the sum of the values of the cards

Four of an ingredient scores the sum of the values plus a 5 point bonus

The point values of the ingredients in the players’ color (white or black) score double (but not any bonus)

The player with the most 1 value ingredient cards scores a 5 point bonus

The player with the highest score wins!

The recipe cards are used in the variant game to give the players extra bonuses for completing additional goals. The 13 recipe cards are shuffled and each player is dealt two, which are kept hidden from the other player. If either recipe is fulfilled the player receives additional points; there are no deductions if the recipes are not filled.

With few rules and quick play time (20 to 30 minutes) the game is a delight to play. There always seems to be a choice between choosing an ingredient to improve your potion, or taking one to prevent your opponent from getting it. Even though it may result in a negative score for you, it may outweigh the benefit to your opponent, especially if it would be the fourth card in the set. Having your next move based on the top card of Kettle also gives you the ability to mess with your opponents plans by taking an Exploding Kettle card. A nicely planned move suddenly becomes a move onto a corner card, resulting in nothing. A particularly nasty setup is to position your pawn just ahead of your opponent, when he’s on a corner and has a 4 value card on top of his Kettle. Since he has to skip your pawn, he ends up on another corner! As long as you can get onto the side ahead of him, you’ll get ingredients while he gets nothing (except very mad at you!). – – – – – – — Ward Ahders


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