Game Buzz: Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula

Time to talk about another game that was a hit at this year’s Spiel. It’s got a name that’s fairly difficult to pronounce, but the advantage of doing this blog is that I only have to write it, not speak it. It’s called

image by BGG user GalaGalaxia

Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula is a 1-4 player game from designers Daniel Tascini and Frederico Pierlorenzi, as well as publishers Board&Dice. It’s a game of alchemy, where you’re trying to manipulate various elements to become the greatest alchemist in history. This is achieved by conducting experiments, publishing, completing formulas, and collecting gold.

To set up the game, you’ll randomly distribute Level 1 Experiment cards to their spots on the board, as well as Level 1 Artifacts. Level 2 and 3 of these will be saved for future rounds. Dominant essence tokens and bonus tokens go on the Mastery tracks. You’ll roll the 14-16 dice (depending on player count). Each side will show a different alchemical symbol, and you’ll sort them into their bowls. If any bowl has more than five dice, reroll them.

In reverse player order, each person gets their own laboratory board. You also get all discs of your chosen color, and two reaction tokens. The second player gets an ethereal die, the third player gets two, and the fourth player gets two plus a raw mercury. All players begin with one raw lead, one raw copper, one raw tin, and one raw mercury, as well as one of each type of essence. The materials are marked with cubes on your player board. You’ll distribute your eight formula tiles randomly to their appropriate spaces. You’ll get two starting experiments, two masterpiece experiments, two publications, and two starting artifacts randomly. From these, you’ll secretly choose one each, revealing the artifact and starting experiment you took.

image by BGG user SergiNS

There are four phases to a turn, though they won’t necessarily happen every time – draft, action, reaction, clean up.

DRAFT: If you have no dice on your potency track, take a die from a bowl on the main board. Count the number of dice that were in the bowl before you took the die, and put it on your potency track at that number (1-5). You can spend an Ethereal die to increase the potency by one (but not past 5). If you choose to draft when you have a die on your potency track, the first die is retired and you lose the rest of its potency.

There is a die face that shows an infinity symbol. If you draft one of these, you get to set its face to one of the other sides. The potency remains what it was in the infinity pool, you just now get to use it as the material it now shows.

ACTION: You’ll do one action on your turn by spending potency. Your options:

  • Harvest Materials: Spend 1+ potency to gather the raw material matching the face of the die.
  • Acquire Essences: Spend 1+ potency to gain essence. The type of essence you can gain is shown next to the bowl you took your die from.
  • Perform Transmutations: Spend 1+ potency to move a material along a track that matches the color of the die. This will allow you to turn raw materials into refined materials, or even into other materials. If your material passes over an unused artifact during this process, you activate it at this time. Once you’ve used it, flip it over – it is exhausted until the end of the round.
  • Acquire an Artifact: Spend 3 potency to get a new artifact from the market. It must come from a space that matches the color of your die, and can be placed in any artifact slot on the outside of your board (replacing old ones if necessary). You can use it immediately, and don’t have to exhaust it yet.
  • Recharge an Artifact: Spend 1 potency to flip an artifact face up.
  • Acquire an Experiment: Spend 1 potency to gain one experiment from the main board in a section corresponding to the color of your die. You can’t have more than two experiments.

There are also some free actions you can take at any point during your turn, with no limit to how often.

  • Purchase a Formula: You can do this either by completing an experiment, or by spending gold. These go in your vault, where they become part of your Philosopher’s Stone.
  • Use a Formula: Turn it face down and use its special ability.
  • Perform an Experiment: If you have the required mastery level, pay the material cost of an experiment and receive the bonuses. You then slide it into the appropriate column. The first time you do this in a column, you unlock a formula.

REACTIONS: When you’ve finished your action, your opponents may do a reaction. Flip a reaction token face down (you only have two per round), and do one reaction:

  • Gain a raw material matching the symbol on the active player’s die.
  • Gain an essence based on the active player’s die.
  • Transmute a raw or refined material based on the active player’s die.
  • Recharge an artifact.

Reactions do not cost any potency.

CLEANUP: If your die reached zero, move it to the retired area. If you have three dice there, your round is over, and you move to the first open position on the turn order track. You can still react.

A round is over when all players have reduced three dice to zero potency. Everything gets reset for the next round. After the third round, the game is over, and the player who has accumulated the most points is the winner.

image by BGG user ed_5150

This game seems like it has a LOT going on. The way the dice drafting works seems very interesting, with the potency levels and everything. And you have a bunch of different moving parts to your engine you’re trying to work with, so there’s a lot of resource management going on. It looks very much like a thinker. The theme looks pretty solid, and though the characters all come from different time periods, it does seem like they all have some connection to the overall story – I had no idea, for example, that Isaac Newton did alchemical work. But there you go.

So this one looks like a fairly heavy game, and with a lot of the quality you come to expect from Daniele Tascini, whose other games include Tzolk’in and Teotihuacan (he likes difficult to pronounce names). This is the first credited design for Frederico Pierlorenzi, but it looks like a good first impression.

That’s it for today – thanks for reading!

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