By Michael Chamberlain
Published in 2012 by MAGE Company, Wrong Chemistry by Tony Cimino is a game of scientist trying to create new elements using an action point system to move the molecule you share with your opponents towards your next score card. The game plays two to four players and plays in around half an hour in my experience. The box recommends it for players eight years and older which I see no reason to disagree with though I can see children wanting to play against other children at that age rather than seasoned gamers as they will simply be out thought.
The components of this game are seven hexes (one blue and six yellow), five large white wooden discs (Agricola worker size), four small black discs, a stack of element cards, two reminder cards and a multilingual rule book. The version I have been playing with is the Kickstarter backer version I received when it was first released. The box is a light small box that loosely holds the cards and components. The art on the cover has a more detailed and less whimsical style than the cards inside but it does get across the theme. The seven hex boards are all of a good size and of nice thick card stock that have been more than up to the play they have received and the wooden discs are very clear against then. The cards that are the major component that players will be using are very clear and with a comical, whimsical art and the names on the cards are puns and humorous spins on the elements of the periodic table (Sillycon and Phonesforus are a couple of examples). Each card shows the number of points the card is worth (one to three also identifiable at a glance by the colour of the background) and a picture of the molecule you need to create to score that card. The cards are of light enough stock so that I have sleeved mine from the start to protect them from wear.
Set up for the game is really simple, you set up the start molecule (blue hex in the centre surrounded completely by the six yellow hexes with a alternating white and black markers on top of them), the two reminder action cards (Restartium and Extramovium) are place in sight of both players, the deck of molecules is shuffled and lastly each player is dealt a starting hand of four cards.
Each player starts their turn with four action points with which they can manipulate the molecule. For each action point you can take one of six actions; three of the actions relate to adding, moving or removing the coloured discs from the molecule, one lets you move an empty hex to another position, Restartium is an action you can take once per turn which returns the molecule to the setup configuration described above and the final option is to discard one of your cards in hand. If you manage during your actions (which is after all the point) to create the configuration of a molecule that you have on a card in your hand you may score that card placing it in front of you. Once you have a card in front of you it scores you points at the end of the game (between one and three) and if you manage to create a run of atomic number you gain bonus points for doing so. Also once you have scored cards in front of you you’re able make use of Extramovium, by discarding a scored card you gain an extra three action points (this action can be taken any number of times in a turn). After a player’s turn they draw back up to three cards in hand, if there aren’t enough cards in the deck to achieve this then the game ends. Players then score points for the molecules they have created and any bonuses for runs in atomic numbers and the player with the highest score wins.
Wrong Chemistry was a game I was excited enough about the concept of to back it on Kickstarter and while initially I was disappointed that it wasn’t a deeper game it has stood the test of time well. It’s still an occasional filler game that sees play and when it comes out it is a nice light way to round out an evening. The game play is quick enough and light enough that it is enjoyable to chat over and I feel plays best as a two player game. The game has a lot of random in it based on the luck of the cards and I have seen this be game breaking for players with them having no hope of winning. This pushes it further from the pure abstract than I would like. This game is something of an enigma, I enjoy it (often in fact) and yet I feel it gets picked over better games. If you get the chance to play this one I would recommend it as it seems to hit a very different spot on the gaming spectrum from many and it’s certainly possible to have a lot of fun playing it.