A game doesn't have to be unique to be good. I've played many games that have well-worn mechanics artfully applied that are a joy to play. Still, there is something impressive about a board game that manages to be its own thing and Alchemist by Carlo A. Rossi is just that.

The board consists of 10 cauldrons. Onto each cauldron, players create potions that consist of one to five colored cubes. There are 10 victory point chips numbered one to 10. One chip is selected by the player who creates the potion and he or she receives that number of victory points. Each cauldron also awards two colored cubes, and those colors can't be used in the potion on that cauldron. The player who creates the potion receives the victory points he or she assigned to the cauldron, as well as the two cubes. The potion is also then marked with a piece of the player's color.

The unique twists of Alchemist is that once players have created a potion, they can't create it again, however any other player can. When the potion is created, that player gets the points and two cubes, and with the cubes that are used to create the potion, one is given to the person who created the potion, and the rest are removed from the game. At the beginning of the game, each player is assigned a cube color, dealt face down on a tile so the color is unknown to the other players. The goal is to get the most of that color removed from the game, so the fewest of that color remains at the end. There are substantial victory-point bonuses for having the fewest, or even second or third fewest cubes of a secret color remaining.

The result is a very interesting game in which players want to motivate the other players to dispose of the color of cube they want but not reward their opponents too many points for creating the potion and also not be too obvious about their secret color is. There's a lot going on and some players have complained about a lack of control. It is more a case that the best path to victory may not be the most straight-ahead and requires a certain intuition.

Alchemist offers a lot to think about, especially with a relatively short playing time. With so many new games sharing similar mechanics, games that are a bit more unusual will stand out. Alchemist certainly deserves points not only for fun, but for originality as well.

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