Board Game Review: Wrong Chemistry—Getting it Right?
I generally enjoy puzzle games. But, they can be difficult to implement since that genre is perhaps the most AP prone of all. But, Wrong Chemistry makes a decent attempt. The game is a lighter offering with a quick pace that keeps the puzzle elements moving quickly.
The Basics. Players are scientists trying to create various molecules. To that end, the board starts with a circular molecule with black and white discs placed on it. From there, each player gets four energy on their turn. It generally costs an energy to remove, move, or place a white or black disc. Energy can also be used to move one piece of the hex to another part of the molecule. If the board is too far gone, an energy can also be used to return it to its starting state. Finally, energy can be used to discard cards. At the end of the player’s turn, they draw back up to their hand size.
Players have a hand of cards each depicting a unique molecule. If they can get the board to match one of their cards, then they can play it down in front of them. Depending on the complexity of the card, it can be worth between one and three points. Finally, if a player discards a previously completed molecule card (along with the associated points), they can get a bonus three energy on their turn.
The game lasts until the deck of molecule cards runs out. Then, the players tally up their points and determine the winner.
The Feel. Wrong Chemistry is a light puzzle game. Players have to figure out the lowest number of moves that will result in being able to play a card from their hand. The gameplay is very straightforward and it is very easy to teach to gamers and nongamers alike.
The nice twist on Wrong Chemistry is the ability to hit the reset button. Sometimes, the playing field can get so far out of whack in a puzzle game that it becomes difficult to accomplish anything. With Wrong Chemistry, the ability to return to the beginning board state is a great boon. It allows most one point cards to be completed on your turn, and also provides an avenue for progress if the board has become a monstrosity matching nothing in your hands.
The game is also fairly quick, lasting about ten to twenty minutes depending on the number of players. While the modular nature of the board doesn’t lend itself to portability, it still provides a nice gaming experience that is useful when waiting for others to arrive or for another game to finish.
It seems the best strategy is to build up a lot of one point molecules early in the game. Then, sacrifice those points for extra energy to bring out the two and three point cards. When, exactly, to make that pivot is all part of the strategy.
The one major negative is the random nature of the card draws. Many of the molecules, while unique, closely resemble other cards in the deck. So, it is very possible to create a two or three point molecule, and then create additional two or three points with minor alterations. An especially good draw can have a person getting six or nine points on a single turn. Fortunately, the game is light and short enough that the occasional swing of luck is not a deal breaker.
Components: 4 of 5. The board pieces are on thick stock and the white and black tokens are wooden discs. The cards, too, are serviceable and I enjoy many of the puns and names of the various elements drawn from the real periodic table. Although it works fine, the molecule pieces are a little boring and contrast negatively with the fun and silly pictures on the cards.
Strategy/Luck Balance: 2.5 of 5. While strategic play and careful planning are essential, luck is often a dominant force. Card draws are extremely important. If you end up with a hand full of disparate looking elements, you’ll have a more difficult time. Get some with synergy, though, and you could quickly pull into the lead. Plus, if the player before you leaves a molecule that nearly matches something in your hand, it is a happy coincidence. If they leave you something terrible, you may have no choice but to restart and try for a lower point card.
Mechanics: 4 of 5. The game is a wonderful take on the puzzle genre. The reset button is a great tool to both help yourself and (potentially) spoil things for opponents. The game manages to move quickly and, despite the puzzle element, has relatively little AP. In fact, the whole lighthearted feel of the game also manages to dispel AP since it is hard to take very seriously. The only failing here is in the luck of the draw. Maybe a draw-two-take-one type mechanic should have existed to minimize the luck element, but perhaps that would have been too cumbersome.
Replayability: 2 of 5. If you’re looking for a light puzzle game, then I think this one will bear out the test of time. In fact, I’ve played multiple games of it in a row each time it has hit my table. So, it certainly is capable of repetition. Still, because it is a light game, it will simply see less table time for me. I’m just not looking to play a light puzzle game very often.
Spite: 2 of 5. Spite is present but uncertain. The major avenue of spite is to mess up the molecule so that it is hard to correct, or to hit the reset button so your opponent can’t build a bigger molecule. While this can be an effective tactic, it also has the potential to backfire. If you reset the molecule for me, then I have an extra energy to spend on my turn (since I don’t have to reset it myself), and may be able to build a bigger molecule. So, spite isn’t a sure thing, but it does exist.
Overall: 3 of 5. Ultimately, this comes down to a “when I’m in the mood for it” rating. If I’m looking for a light game — especially a light puzzle game — then Wrong Chemistry is on the list. However, I’m just not looking to play a game like that very often. Generally, I want something meatier that I can enjoy over ninety minutes or so. I see this more as an enjoyable niche or novelty game, but not something I’ll necessarily be pulling down to play every week (or even month, or season).
(A special thanks to MAGE Company for providing a review copy of Wrong Chemistry)