There is a disease outbreak and you’re in a race to find the cure! Inquire, taste, trade, and sample from your neighbors’ ingredients to discover the herbs to combine for the remedy. Player interaction is abundant as ingredients constantly change hands in this game of deduction.
There are five action cards: Inquiring, Tasting, Trading, Sampling, and Curing. For your first game I would recommend using only the Inquiring and Curing cards. In subsequent games you can try a combination of the Tasting, Trading, and Sampling actions. Set the action cards in the middle of the table.
There are 14 ingredient cards: five blue, four green, three yellow, and two red. There are dots beneath each symbol that denote how many cards there are of that color. Shuffle these cards and set two randomly beneath the Curing card face-down: these are the cure. Deal the remaining cards equally to the players.
Each pharmacist begins with two tokens: one for tasting and one for curing. Set out the Prediction tokens on the edge of the table. Lay out the seven medicine cards in the middle of the table. These are used for both Tasting and Curing during the game.
Randomly determine a starting pharmacist; we let the player who most recently took medicine go first. On their turn, a pharmacist may either Inquire or Cure (or other actions in a more complex game). Pharmacists need to deduce a lot of information before they are ready to Cure.
At the beginning of the game the pharmacist will place the action marker on the Inquiring Card and move the Tasting token onto one of the medicine cards.
During an Inquire, a pharmacist will secretly give a neighbor a card that matches one color on the medicine card. The neighbor will say how many cards they have of the other color on the card with the token. If the Tasting token is on the identical pair medicine card, then the neighbor will tell you how many they have of that color (including the card given). The other, more advanced action cards (Tasting, Trading, and Sampling) provide similar information options for the pharmacists’ action tokens. At the end of their turn, a player may take a Prediction token to predict one of the cure colors. If they are correct, they’ll gain a victory point when the cure is revealed. If they are incorrect, they’ll lose a point.
Play continues with the next pharmacist. If the pharmacist Inquires, then they must move their Tasting Token to a new medicine card (medicine cards may have multiple tokens on them).
Deducing the Cure
Instead of gathering information on their turn, a pharmacist can move the action token to the Curing card. To do this they move their Answer token to the medicine card showing the two colors of cards in the cure. In clockwise order, neighbors can place their cure marker on a different card, play their Follow token on the same card, or pass.. Each pharmacist has only one guess, so use it wisely!
The pharmacist who placed their Answer token then secretly checks the cure. If anyone guessed correctly, the round is over and victory points are distributed. If the correct cure was not guessed, all guessers are eliminated from the round and the cure cards are returned. The remaining players continue Inquiring.
The game ends when a pharmacist reaches 7 victory points!
Herbalism is easy to learn and rounds are quick to play. It has constant player interaction, which requires determined focus to deduce which cards have been removed from the deck. Each player must trade cards and inquire from their neighbors to narrow down which two of the 14 cards are the cure. It is difficult to keep track of the cards that are moving between players, even if you write things down!
If you like deduction and risk-taking, then you are likely to enjoy Herbalism. It was a bit confusing for our younger kids to follow. If they accidentally give false information, it can lead to incorrect conclusions at the end of a round.
“It is kind of confusing.”Lydia, 10
“I think it’s great. It’s fun!”William (6)
Find Herbalism on Amazon or at your local game store for under $20.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Herbalism from Deep Water Games for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Number of Players: 3-4
Age Range: 8+
Playtime: 15-20 minutes