Buzzworthiness: PotionSlingers

Thanks to Anthony Fasano for providing a review copy of this game.

All right you no-good yellow-bellied biscuit-eating son-of-a-dragon-wrangler, it’s time to see if you have what it takes to join the ranks of the

image by BGG user Cuccumella

PotionSlingers is a 2-4 player deck-building battle game designed by Anthony Fasano. It was first published in 2021. In the game, you’re trying to brew potions and collect different items, not for the common good, but to chuck them at other people and show that you’re the best PotionSlinger around.

Each player takes a board (conveniently labeled with turn order), as well as a set of five starting cards. Of these, the two potions, the vessel, and the artifact are placed in a face-up line. This is your Holster. The other card, a ring, is placed face down to start your deck. Players also get a character card, which will give you a special ability, and possibly even a unique item you can unlock during the game. Players will need decide which mode of play you’ll be doing for this game – Elimination or Capture. For either mode, players will be taking four Essence cubes. One will go at the top of your HP track, and the other three will in an Essence storage area on your board. You’ll create a market by taking the potion and item decks and dealing out three face up cards from each.

Starter Items – image by BGG user Cuccumella

On your turn, you first fill your Holster. You always have four slots in your Holster, so you’ll draw cards from the top of your deck until they are all filled. Then, you can start taking actions, which can be done in any order and as many times as like (as long as it’s possible). There are a number of things you can do, some of which cost pips. There is a ten-sided die in the game that is used to track pips, and you start each turn with six pips.

  • BUY. With your pips, you can purchase a card from the market. The cost of each is listed at the bottom of the card. Purchased cards go on top of your deck.
  • SELL. You can sell something to increase your pip count. Sometimes, cards will cost more than six pips, so this is a good way to get more currency. The sell price is also on the bottom of the card.
  • THROW A POTION. You can throw any potion from your Holster at any opponent. This will do a certain amount of damage, and possibly will trigger an effect from the card as well. Thrown potions are trashed after use. It doesn’t cost any pips to do this.
  • LOAD A POTION. Artifacts and vessels don’t work unless you have loaded potions into them. So, you can put a potion under an artifact or vessel for this action, which also doesn’t cost anything.
  • THROW A VESSEL. If your vessel is loaded with two potions, you can throw it at any opponent. Add the damage from the two potions, and apply the effects of the potions and the vessel. The potions go to the bottom of your deck, but the vessel is destroyed.
  • THROW AN ARTIFACT. If your artifact is loaded with one potion, trash the potion and use the effect of the artifact. Artifacts can be reused as often as you want.
  • DROP AN ITEM. If you don’t want an item in your Holster, you can drop it to the bottom of your deck. This costs one pip if it isn’t a potion.

At the end of your turn (i.e., when you’ve run out of actions to do), if you have reduced an opponent’s HP to zero, take their cube off their health track. It is replaced by a new one.

The game ends depending on the mode you’re playing. For Elimination, when a player runs out of Essence cubes, they are eliminated, and the last player standing wins. For Capture, a player wins when they have collected seven Essence cubes.

image by BGG user Cuccumella

So that’s how you play. Now, let’s look at the components. The player boards are double layer boards, which means they have a recess so your cubes don’t go flying with the slightest bump. The health tracker, which looks kind of like a thermometer, has little ticks sticking into the track so you can know exactly where your cube goes. However, they’re only on the right side of the track, and aren’t that effective in keeping your cube from bouncing to a different health level with a bump. They’re also the same color as the indentation, which makes them hard to see. The boards aren’t illustrated either, just purple, which doesn’t bother me. They’re very nice quality.

The cards are nice. Designer Anthony Fasano did the art for this game as well, and as far as I can tell, there’s no repeat artwork on the cards. Even the starter cards are all different. I can’t even imagine the amount of work that went into that, it’s very cool. The text on the cards is generally good, and they all have different flavor text. The character cards are larger than the standard cards and are OK, except in my copy they were kind of warped. I do live in Colorado, where the dry air often causes some of my cards to curl up, but these were kind of wavy out of the box. I don’t know what was up with that. It doesn’t really bother me, just thought it worth mentioning.

The rulebook in this game is kind of a mess. I’m a pretty linear person when it comes to game rules – I want to know what I’m doing first, then the specifics. This one talks about different game concepts before it gets to the actual flow of play, and it seems really disjointed. Plus, there are questions that I eventually had to intuit because I could not find any mention of them anywhere. For example, there’s no mention about combos. Vessels and artifacts often specify a type of potion, but there’s nothing that says whether you can or can’t put other potion types in there. I eventually decided you could, because having a certain kind of potion (like Hot) triggers an effect on the Vessel. But again, there’s no mention about whether you can use the effects on the potions when in a vessel or artifact. (From looking at a FAQ on BGG, I think you can with a vessel, and cannot with an artifact.) Also, there’s a poster right in the middle of the rulebook, breaking up a section on the layout. I know you can just take it out, but it broke up my rule reading flow.

Once I got past the rules, however, I found this to be a pretty clever game. The deck building mechanism was pretty unique, and pretty deceptive. As you purchase cards and put them in your deck, you’ll be using them the next turn. But most things are quite consumable, and as such you’re not really building for the future so much as you’re building for the next turn. I had to learn pretty quickly not to be precious with my potions. If you want to use them and keep them, you have to have a vessel, and even then it may take a while to get back to them. At the same time, you don’t want to load up on vessels and artifacts. because they’re only any good with potions. Having your hand be your Holster is cool because these are the tools available to you this round, and possibly next round. It also gives your opponents something to mess with on their turns.

However, all that said, this is a conflict-based game with quite a bit of take that in play. I generally classify myself as a Care Bear gamer, i.e. someone who doesn’t like a lot of beat on your opponent games. So this game didn’t really sit well with me. I just don’t like it when an opponent can undo a long-term plan just by playing a card that they were able to acquire at the right time. I want to be able to build those combos and execute them for massive damage at the right time without having to worry about someone pulling the rug out from under me. It’s very frustrating to have spent a lot of money on an item only to have it trashed by someone’s two-cost potion.

I don’t know that two players is the best way to play this. A big part of the game seems to be out-maneuvering your opponents, and I think it’s a bit more interesting with more than two. If you are playing with two, I would suggest doing Elimination mode as the Capture mode makes the game twice as long. One rule in Capture mode that I haven’t mentioned yet is that when someone loses all their cubes (remember, you always start with four), they discard their Holster and reset with starter items. I don’t particularly like this rule – I’d rather grab a new cube and keep going. That’s probably the Care Bear in me.

There are some variants for more advanced rules that I haven’t explored yet. But they seem to make the game more vicious and punishing towards the players, so I don’t know if I will.

My daughter’s design for the Ring of the Hand Drawn

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? PotionSlingers is not really a game for me. I like a lot of the ideas that are there, and I do think it’s a clever and interesting game. But it’s inherently too much of a conflict game for me. However, if that sort of game is your thing, you should check this one out. It’s available at

Thanks again to Anthony Fasano for providing a review copy of PotionSlingers, and thanks to you for reading!


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