Decanting Mystery: An Apotheca Q&A

As part of our April Spotlight on Apotheca, we strive to inform the readers of little extra tidbits surrounding the game. Games are made by people, and one of those tidbits we enjoy is learning a little bit more about the people behind them. Some designers shy away from the public stage, while others enjoy being front and center. In the case of Apotheca’s game designer Andrew Federspiel, it’s a sort of a case of the same dance in a different venue. Coming from the video game world to the analog one, Andrew has certainly been enjoying the transition. It’s a bit of a jump in many respects, but for a man whose last name literally translates to ‘spring game’, it’s all the more fitting that one of his early game designs has taken off.

We think it’s pretty fitting anyway, albeit a little confounding at times.

See, while Andrew has certainly been forthcoming about his experiences so far within tabletop gaming, trying to get details on Apotheca’s Secret Potion Society from which the game was inspired from have been far less forthcoming. It’s not for lack of trying, but there seems to be an awful lot of tight-lipped individuals regarding the entire premise of the game. Our intrepid investigators have been looking into rumors of clandestine meetings and unsanctioned contests, but none have reported back anything definitive as of yet. In fact, Francisco has been missing altogether for about a week now. We probably should look into that…

At any rate, this was our earnest attempt at learning about the game’s creation, even if the origins are still a bit, shall we say, fluid. Enjoy!

Round One Questions

CR: What was your Gateway Game?

It’s maybe not usually classified as a gateway game, but I have to say Magic: The Gathering. It consumed me and transformed me into a designer, as it has many others!


CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Apotheca)?

Wits and wagers partyHaha. Wits and Wagers Party. It’s really well designed, easy to teach and affordable – just a great package.


CR: How big is your game collection?

Oh about 40 games. I sold a bunch the last time I moved states – I still miss my copy of Hive 🙁


CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?

Deck/engine/tableau-building. I love games with boundless possibilities. That tends to be why I design games with singletons (unique cards that appear once). I love hidden information as well.


CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?

Hmm. You know, I’m positive on it. I can’t say I would play it today, but it did provide hours and hours of fun (and suffering) to the masses, so that can’t be ignored. I’ve also heard it’s decent if you play by the actual rules.


On Apotheca

Even the basic game board is enticing

Even the basic game board is enticing

CR: Apotheca is very attention-grabbing visually thanks to artist Eduardo Garcia. How important was that aspect to you going into making the game?

The artwork came after the meat of the game was designed, but the board artwork absolutely inspired the “Reveal -> Get gems -> Hire apothecaries” mechanic. We got lucky; Eduardo is very talented.


CR: The Apothecary’s powers usually grant special movement powers similar to those you’d find in a game like The Duke or Hive. What was the inspiration behind their abilities?

The game was inspired by the many match-3 mobile games, so it started there. Once we realized asymmetric abilities was the way to go, we tried everything under the sun to see what was fun, and determined what worked within our “strength spectrum” of powers. We looked to every abstract game we could find and tried some really wacky new stuff.


poker-cardCR: Speaking of which – which Apothecary is your favorite?

I have a few, but mechanically my favorite is probably Solas. He moves two non-adjacent potions in different directions at the same time. He’s a bit complex, but man can he do some weird stuff. He’s the only apothecary that can make a match from a diagonal formation (Note: normally matches have to be orthogonal in the game).


CR: The game uses a blend of set matching, spatial movement, and hidden information. Were all of those included from the start or did that mix of mechanics evolve over time?

It evolved over time. It started with set matching, then spatial movement was added in, then the hidden information. Like many games, the hidden information was really the icing on the cake. Cake just isn’t cake without icing.


CR: Apotheca did incredibly well for its Kickstarter debut and was a success on about every level. Were you surprised at all by the response the game got?

Definitely. I knew Eduardo’s art would draw people in, and the positive reviews boded well for the game, but I expected somewhere in the $30k to $50k range. $75k was a “holy crap” goal. When we got to $110k…so cool!!


CR: The game did so well, in fact, that it was quickly picked up by Renegade Game Studios not long thereafter. How did that all come together?

I have known Scott Gaeta who runs Renegade for some time now. I think we originally met when I pitched a game to him at Gen Con back in 2012.

Scott pinged me about Apotheca (“Have I seen this one?”), we had a couple of chats, and went from there. It’s great working with the folks at Renegade, I’m really happy it came about.


CR: Presuming you’ve now reached your goal of becoming a secret member of the Potion Society, what’s next on the horizon for Knapsack Games?

Stay tuned true believers! Prototype Shown

Stay tuned true believers!
Prototype Shown

Next is getting Apotheca out to retail – the US launch date is April 27th! I’m very excited.

As for our next one: I’ve been working on a superhero themed game for a long time that is really coming together. Players draft super powers and smash it out throughout the city! It has this cinematic / Saturday morning cartoon feel with simultaneous turns and lots of action. I’m planning to bring it to Kickstarter some time after Gen Con.


CR: Lastly…what happens if you enter a contest to get into a secret potion society and you don’t make it? Asking for a friend…

Haha. You really don’t want to know. It’s brew or die!


CR: Well then…we’ll miss you Francisco…

It would seem that The Secret Potion Society doesn’t mess around with amateurs, which makes sense. This is an elite secret organization of potion masters, after all, and they’ve managed to exist in secret for generations. Whispers and conjecture are all most people had to go on. Rumors swirl with every mention of their guild, and more than a few have spent countless hours trying to find their way into one of their rare contests for new members.

As it so happens, we know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who may be able to help you in this regard. We can tell you’re pretty serious about making it in, and while Andrew here is sworn (or forced) into secrecy, we may be able to assist. All you have to do is best everyone else interested. We’ll even give someone a copy of the game as a trial run. So let’s get started.

Brewing Up Competition
Apotheca indie cover


Photo Credits: Apotheca cover and artwork by Knapsack Games.