Quacks & Co. Is a Kid's Version of an Already Kid-Friendly Board Game

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<i>Quacks & Co.</i> Is a Kid's Version of an Already Kid-Friendly Board Game

The Quacks of Quedlinburg has been a hit since the press-your-luck game first came out in 2018, winning the Spiel des Jahres and continuing to grow in popularity, to the point where friends of mine who don’t know many board games have asked me recently if this would be good to play with their kids. (It would, if they’re at least, say, seven.) It does have one downside for playing with younger kids: pressing your luck means that you can bust, and in this game, busting means losing most of your progress on that turn. Just being able to do a little mental math helps you understand whether or not to keep drawing tokens from your bag, but below about age seven or eight, that’s probably asking too much.

Quacks & Co. is the new kids’ version of The Quacks of Quedlinburg, borrowing the original’s core mechanic of drawing potion ingredients from your bag and getting bonus actions based on the color you draw, but getting rid of the possibility of busting. Every player now progresses on a single track, rather than building up their own boards. It’s a race to the finish line, and allows you to customize the game to the skill level of the players and the length of game you want.

In Quacks & Co., each player starts out with the same eight tokens in their bag, four of which are valued 1 or 2 and come in three different colors, and four of which are “Dream weeds” with 0 value. On their turn, each player draws one token at random from their bag, moving the number of spaces shown on the token, and then taking the action associated with that token’s color. Red tokens grant you one ruby (regardless of the token’s value); yellow tokens let you roll a die that has six possible actions on it, from getting a ruby to moving forward three spaces to taking another turn. If you draw a dream weed, you place it on your board but don’t move or take any action for that turn.


After you’ve drawn three dream weeds, you get to use all the rubies you’ve accumulated to buy more tokens from the box. Tokens come with values 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8, and they come in seven colors; they cost from 1 to 5 rubies, and you can buy multiple tokens on a turn, but they must all be different colors. Once you’ve completed buying, you put all tokens—the ones you bought, the weeds you drew, any tokens you’ve drawn and played since the last buy—back in the bag.

The 8-value tokens have no action associated with them, but they let you move forward eight spaces. The green tokens allow you to put any token you’ve played back in the bag immediately, so you can see how you could use that to get your value 8 token back in the bag and use it more often. There are four colors in the base game plus the 8-value tokens, and two more colors you can add, optionally, to increase the complexity of the game.

That’s just one of many ways you can customize Quacks & Co. to suit your players’ ages and skill levels. The board itself has two sides, with a longer track on one of them. You can add the orange tokens, the purple tokens, or both. And there are two sets of actions associated with the tokens, the easy “caterpillar” side and the slightly more complex “butterfly” side. The butterfly side isn’t that much more complicated, but it at least allows you to fine-tune the game to the kids at the table.

The window for kids who could play Quacks & Co. but not The Quacks of Quedlinburg is pretty narrow; you could probably play this with a five-year-old, at least using the simplest token actions, but that same kid would probably be ready for the adult version of the game by age eight, at the latest. And I do think this game has a ceiling because nothing bad can really happen—there’s not quite enough of a challenge here for any but the youngest players to play this more than a couple of times. It’s a good reimagining for younger players of a brilliant game, but the earlier game is also simple enough that I think kids who love Quacks & Co. will be ready for the full experience pretty quickly.

Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.