Alchemy was first released on August 29, 2001.
In June 2002, a version was released that was available for shipping.
In September 2002, a handheld version was released.
The object of the game is to turn a board of squares from Lead to Gold by placing randomly generated symbols called runes on every square. The symbols used as runes consist of the astrological glyphs (zodiac symbols) Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Gradually, as higher levels are reached, runes can appear in more of these symbols and more colors.
The game can be started at three skill levels. Level one starts at board 1. Level two starts at board 4. Level three starts at board 7.
Each play consists of a rune of a random color and shape being generated by the computer. The rune must be placed directly adjacent to at least one other rune (either above, below, or to the left or right; runes located at a diagonal to the square have no meaning), unless the board is totally blank. All runes that are adjacent to the square where a rune is being placed must share its color or shape.
If there is no available square for the rune currently in hand, it must be discarded into the forge on the side of the board either by clicking the left mouse button while the arrow is on the 'discard' tab, or clicking the right mouse button while the arrow is anywhere on the board. A rune can also be voluntarily discarded into the forge when an available square for it does exist. Doing so and waiting for a better rune may at times be to the player's advantage; a skilled player will likely recognize when doing so is optimal.
The forge has three levels that can be filled before the game ends. Each time a rune is discarded, the forge will be filled one level. When a rune is successfully placed, the forge drops one level to allow for an additional rune to be discarded.
Filling an entire row either horizontally or vertically makes all the runes in that row disappear and leaves the square gold. This also empties the forge to allow for a fresh set of three discards.
Clearing a board will not empty the forge. The final rune that is placed prior to clearing the board will lower the forge by one, so it cannot be more than ⅔ full at this point. Since at least five runes can be placed easily when starting a new board, this is more than enough to empty the forge for a fresh start on a new board.
Occasionally, a solid block that functions as a wild card appears. The wild card may be placed adjacent to any runes, regardless of color or shape, and any rune may be placed adjacent to a wild card, provided that all other adjacent runes match either its color or shape. A wild card also starts each round, and after the first round, may be placed on any square of the board since no runes are present on the board at the time. A wild card will also appear if all runes have been cleared from the board without converting every square into gold, though this is a rare occurrence.
A skull and crossbones symbol will also occasionally appear in lieu of a rune. The skull and crossbones functions by removing any rune of choice from the board. The skull and crossbones can often be used to the advantage of the player by clearing one of the runes from a joint (a square adjacent to two or more non-matching runes where the number of possible runes that can be placed there is more limited). When fewer runes are present on the board, the skull and crossbones symbol may be more harmful than helpful.
Use of a wild card or a skull and crossbones lowers the forge one level. Both of these can also be discarded, which will fill the forge one level.
The strategy of the game revolves around choosing exactly where to place runes in order to maximize future move possibilities. If poor rune placements are made, or luck does not allow for good rune organization, future moves become more difficult or impossible, endangering the game. The game becomes more difficult at higher levels, where there are more runes and more colors, making matching more difficult.
Points will be scored whenever a rune is placed, a row is cleared, or a board is cleared. The number of points scored for each of these actions increases as the game progresses.
Players are given rankings for various scores, as shown below. Whenever a board is completed, the ranking will be listed, along with the score at which the next ranking will be issued and various other statistics, such as the game time, the number of boards cleared, and the highest number of runes that have been placed in succession without a discard.
|6000-6999||Wizard 3rd class|
|7000-7999||Wizard 2nd class|
|8000-9999||Wizard 1st class|
|12000-13999||Alchemist 3rd class|
|14000-15999||Alchemist 2nd class|
|16000-19999||Alchemist 1st class|
|40000 and above||Grand Alchemical Emperor|
There are two music tracks used in Alchemy:
- The load music for Alchemy, played at the Welcome screen and load screen (visible only on Trial Version) is named War in the Middle Earth
- The in-game music is named He Has No Face
Both are created with Scream Tracker 3, and are the work of the module musician, Peter "Skaven" Hajba.