Meeple Mountain
  • Designers: Andrew Federspiel
  • Artists: Eduardo Garcia
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Player count: 1-4
  • Age range: 13+
  • Time range: 30 minutes
  • Mechanism(s): Action Point Allowance System, Grid Movement, Variable Player Powers, Tile Laying, Set Collection

Overview of Apotheca

Sometime in the spring of last year I started seeing pictures floating around on Twitter of a game board. It was a riot of color with amazingly lit chests and a beautifully colored background. That game was Apotheca and it was under development by Andrew Federspiel with Knapsack Games. I started asking about it, and following it’s progress on Twitter and discovered that it was due to be released on Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter campaign was a wild ride, all of the backers urging Andrew to higher and more challenging stretch goals. Thicker tiles, more character cards, and the pièce de résistance: custom transparent gems. It funded, oh boy did it fund…to the tune of over 500% over it’s $20,000 goal. Fast forward to 4 days ago when I got a notification that Apotheca had shipped and I was going to get the game I had been waiting for. Now it’s here, in my hands, and you’re going to see just what this game looks like. Let’s jump right in and see if Apotheca is worth the wait.

The Exterior of Apotheca

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The first thing you’ll notice about Apotheca is the artwork. I’m not familiar with anything else that Eduardo Garcia has done, but I expect great things from him in the future. The art is stunningly beautiful with vivid colors and and amazing use of light and transparency.

The box itself is a standard Euro size, having the same dimensions as Ticket to Ride, or Small World. The game requirements are clearly labeled on the top and the sides.

The Interior of Apotheca

After pulling out all of the components, make sure you take a look at the interior of the box. The bottom is printed in a high gloss design to match the playing surface, and conveniently shaped to fit the game board. The insert provides plenty of room for all of the components without giving them too much room to slide around. If you opted for the Deluxe version which included a bag for the tiles, then you’re in great shape.

The Components of Apotheca

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Apotheca comes with the aforementioned game board, in full color display, with an extra neat bonus, the addition of small parts treated with a UV varnish. This makes these areas stand out when caught at the right angle. Something I’ve only seen on one other game board, Specter Ops by Plaid Hat Games.

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You’ll also get 45 potion tiles (15 each in red, blue, and yellow), each with a custom illustration. The tiles are thick, and large, nearly 3 inches square. Clearly Andrew was building this game to last, and to be noticed.

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The game includes 15 Apothecary cards which are the main vehicle by which you’ll play the game. These cards showcase Eduardo’s signature illustration style, and feature unique and fantastical creatures. The cards are nearly tarot sized and should work great for looking at across a table.

Each card features a unique power which gives it’s owner a special movement type. The movement is clearly indicated on each card using a nice graphical display, along with a text description of the ability.

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Lastly you have the gems. These were the final stretch goal in a ridiculous race to funding. These gems are amazing. They’re fully transparent, crystal clear with brilliant blue, red, and yellow colorations. But not only that, each color gem has a unique shape. Truly one of the coolest components I’ve seen in a board game.

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The Rulebook of Apotheca

The rulebook is glossy and smudge resistant. The graphic design is well done with large, easy to read type and lots of full color examples of game play.

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As a nice bonus the rulebook includes back stories on all of the apothecaries in case you feel like you want to really FEEL the role you’re playing.

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The rulebook also features, on the back cover, a complete explanation of every Apothecary card in the game. Nice that it’s on the back to make it much easier to reference should you need it.

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What I Dislike About Apotheca

While Apotheca is quite the package, and has lots of things going for it, there are a few flaws. Many of the components are pretty dark. You might be able to write it off as intentional, but comparing the digital version of the rulebook to the printed copy and it’s quite easy to tell the difference. This is unfortunate for a number of reason, not the least of which is that the amazing art could have been even better than it is now. I’ve yet to play the game, so I can’t say how the darker printing will impact play. But if you tend to game in a room that’s less than well lit, you might have some trouble.

Another issue that is polarizing to some backers relates to one of the stretch goals, specifically the one which promises that all potion tiles would be upgraded to 3mm thick cardboard. Due to some sort of mix up with the printing company, tiles which should have been 3mm thick were only 2mm thick. Of the 5 sheets of tiles included with the game all but one of them is 2mm. You can read more about the issue on Apotheca updates page. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for sure, but the publisher appears to be doing their best to be open and transparent about the situation.

After handling the 2mm thick tiles I can tell you that they’re plenty thick and should easily stand up to many, many game plays. Sure the 3mm thick tiles would have been great, but mistakes happen. The primary drawback is that the sheet of 9 thicker tiles must either be taken out of play until they can be replaced, or risk them being too easy to identify when pulling tiles from the bag of your choice.

Final Thoughts on Apotheca

Does Apotheca live up to the potential I saw in it in 2015? It sure seems to. The artwork is certainly pleasing to look at, and only time will tell if the gameplay lives up to the design. Check out Apotheca from Knapsack Games and try it out for yourself!

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Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.