Buzzworthiness: Wrong Chemistry

Thanks to MAGE Company for providing a review copy of this game.

image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3
image by BGG user exa1zar2ius3

Wrong Chemistry is a game by designer Tony Cimino that was first published in 2012 by MAGE Company.  This year, they’re coming out with a new English-only edition with different cover art.  The game is for 2-4 players ages 8 and up, and takes 30 minutes to play.  You are playing scientists in a lab, trying to come up with brand new elements with some strange results.

The game comes with seven hexagonal tiles (six yellow and one blue), six natural colored discs, five smaller black discs, and a deck of 55 element cards.  To set up the game, the yellow hexes are set up in a ring around the central blue hex.  One discs is placed on each yellow hex, alternating natural-black.  Restartium and Extramovium are removed from the deck and placed near the board, and the rest of the element cards are shuffled.  Each player draws four cards from the deck.

On your turn, you can take four actions (called energy by the game).  There are six possible actions you could take:

  • Restartium: Once per turn, you can use Restartium to reset the board back to its initial state.
  • You can remove one disc from the board.
  • You can add one disc to an empty hex.
  • You can move an empty hex from one position to another.
  • You can move a disc from one hex to an empty hex.
  • You can discard a card.
WCS
image by BGG user Diogenis

Each element card shows a different hex pattern, and indicates which discs should be present.  It also shows a lightbulb representing how many ideas (points) it is worth, and a periodic reference number.  Once you have completed the pattern shown on the card, you can place it in your score pile.  Once you have cards in your score pile, you can use Extramovium.  For this, you must discard one card from your score pile, but then you get three extra actions on your turn.  You can do this as many times as you like.

At the end of your turn, draw back up to four cards.  When a player cannot refill their hand because there are not enough cards in the deck, the game is over, and the player with the most ideas wins.  You get points for the cards in your deck, and if you have a sequence of cards with consecutive Periodic Table numbers, you score extra points for the number of cards in that sequence.

COMPONENTS: Everything here is good quality.  The tiles are cardboard and very sturdy, the discs are wooden and functional, and the cards seem pretty good as well (standard sized).  The cards are all easy to read, and the information is easily accessible.

I never played the first edition, but I looked into it.  From what I can tell, they changed the cover art, went with natural color instead of white on the discs, and they added portraits of scientists to each of the yellow hexes.  It’s all aesthetic, but the thing that bothers me most is that the cover art does not match the cards.  The cards seem to be exactly the same in both editions – the image of that Solfur card is from 2012, and it is identical to the one in my box.  But as you can see from the cover image, the styles are very different.  It just provides some disconnect for me – I wish they had gone all the way with new art.

The only other minor nitpick with the components is that the black discs blend in with the blue hex.  If you have an element that requires a black disc on the blue hex, you may forget about it.  Other than that, the components are all good.

THEME: The game has a loose science theme which doesn’t really mater – the game is mostly just about making patterns.  But there are some opportunities for education as each element card has a Periodic Table reference number on it, and the rules includes a copy of the Periodic Table.  So if you’re looking a Magazinesium, which is #12, you can refer to the Periodic Table to see that that is based on Magnesium.  It’s a lot of puns like that, puns that make more sense if you know where they came from.  Not every element on the Periodic Table is represented – those that are not are highlighted in yellow in the rulebook.

MECHANICS: This is a straight puzzle game.  You are trying to manipulate the various game components (discs and hexes) to form your new element.  The game does use action points as each player has four things they can do on their turn.

Restartium and Extramovium are bonus actions that anyone can take, and they make it so you can do more.  The ability to reset is very good if you just can’t get anywhere with the current setup (though you’ll likely only be able to get to a 1-idea element afterwards), and Extramovium is good for those times when you just need a couple more actions to complete that 3-idea element (you’ll usually just trash a 1-idea element to get those 3-idea ones).  Both are good additions to the game.

The sequential scoring aspect is a little odd, and I’d recommend you not really pay much attention to it.  Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get Periodic reference numbers in a row – there are a lot of cards, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get too many in a row.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There’s not really strategy in this game.  There’s almost no forward planning at all – you can try, but odds are good that your opponents will leave the board in a completely unrecognizable state before your turn occurs again.  You may want to try to go for the sequences, but I wouldn’t call that strategy.

ACCESSIBILITY: This is a very simple game to learn.  The rules explanation takes maybe a minute.  Everything is pretty intuitive, and this is a game that people will be able to pick up quickly.  My only issue here is that some of the cards are not necessarily appropriate for the target demographic of ages 8 and up.  Case in point: element #108, Hassium, has been turned into Hasishium, complete with smoke on the card and a joint in the corner.  There’s also barium, which shows a couple of drunk scientists; beerlilium, which shows scientists with beer; and urineium, which shows a scientist on the toilet.  Granted, that’s only a few out of 55 cards, but it is something that people, particularly parents, should be aware of.

REPLAYABILITY: The game flows pretty well, and offers up different challenges from game to game as you get different cards and have to work with different layouts.  Your mileage will vary based on your tolerance for puzzles.  My biggest concern going in was that you would be playing through the entire deck, and that would make the game overstay its welcome.  That doesn’t seem to be a problem since the game moves very quickly, and that helps its replayability.

SCALABILITY: Wrong Chemistry is for 2-4 players, and the more people you have, the lower your scores will be as players don’t see as many cards, and the longer your downtime will be.  Action Points and Analysis Paralysis seem to go together (they even have the same initials), so you may have to wait while people think through every possibility in their hand. And, as I mentioned, there’s no preplanning, so there’s nothing really to do until it’s your turn again.  So I think this game is probably best with two players.  It feels like there could be a good solo variant, I just haven’t seen one yet.

INTERACTION: There’s almost no interaction here.  Each player is solving their own puzzle on their own turn.  You could try to mess someone up by fiddling with the board if you have a leftover action, but you don’t know what’s in their hand, so you could be helping.  I think a card draft could be used to increase interaction – rather than blind drawing all of your cards, deal out some cards and take turns selecting until each player has their own personal deck they have to get through.  Then it becomes a race to see who can finish first rather than a points game.

FOOTPRINT: This is a game that doesn’t take up much table space.  The hexes are about 3.5 inches wide, with 2 inch edges, and you need a tiny bit of space for them to spread out.  But really, this game could be played on a fairly small table.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Wrong Chemistry is a good puzzle solving game.  There’s not much in the way of strategy, but it does offer a challenge and is easy to understand.  It’s definitely something I’d recommend as a good filler.

Thanks again to MAGE Company for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!

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