More years ago than I want to consider, I went to my first board gaming event at a bar, at the now defunct Kildare's King of Prussia, PA location, thanks to Kevin and the Seize Your Turn folks. I wasn't able to drink way back then...silly underage person but at least it was a bar / restaurant so they let me in the front door! I didn't know it then but I'd spend a lot of time drinking beer and playing board games over the coming years at many locations. One of the side effects of these experiences is having it rammed home that color vision deficiency(CVD) really hurts when playing games in dark dreary bars. Look for two upcoming posts on this topic, one about CVD and one on the worst game I've ever played, at least for CVD folk like me. The other thing to come out of this was when I heard that a game about running a craft brewery was coming to the Unpub Mini event at Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, MD I knew I had to play it! That was back in early June and I have played the game in question many times since and that is the real purpose of this post!
Brew Crafters by Ben Rosset
I can't comment on the quality of the components or production, or even the colorblind friendliness of the game, because, well, nothing is finalized yet. But that's a great thing in my opinion, Ben and Chris are working hard to get the best game into the hands of the fine folks who will end up supporting the game.
Fortunately, I can comment on the quality of the game play. Its great, but don't take my word for it, let me tell you how the game plays. In Brew Crafters the players (2-5) play out 3 years of running a small craft brewery, competing for the most points at the end of that time. Each year has 4 seasons that are more or less identical. The players place workers to collect brewing ingredients from a central market that also has some other options that I'll discuss shortly. After that phase, during which one player's workers can block another, the players have a brewery phase, with a separate set of workers, which allows them to interact, with no fear of their opponents blocking them, with their brewery. It's my understanding that this two phase worker placement mechanic arose because Ben had some cognitive dissonance with regards to some other worker placement games that shall remain nameless where your ability to say, have a child, was blocked if someone else did it (snicker). The second phase is where you get to upgrade your player tableau(s) with additional brewing path ways, farms for growing ingredients and even research new brewing and management techniques. However some of these upgrades come with a cost. At the end of each Winter, you have to pay your operating costs. Costs come from brewery equipment, your brewery staff as well as skilled workers that you can hire to help your brewery. Skilled workers help by increasing your efficiency, whether it be allowing you to store more ingredients, gather more from the market or score bonus points for taking certain types of actions during the market or brewery phase. The research you do can get you new resources, score you end game bonuses or even generate special powers every winter as part of ongoing returns from your research. I haven't even touched on brewing a beer yet! Are you intrigued?
As part of setting up a game of Brew Crafters, you select a set of beers to use throughout the game. There are categories of beer and you select 9 total beers, 3 categories, divided into 1 basic beer from each category and 2 advanced beers. Basic beers require fewer ingredients but score fewer points. You must brew a basic beer before you are able to brew advanced beers of the same category. I don't know how many beers they intend to include or how many will end being included but I've played with maybe 20 including Ales, Porters and Stouts. Advanced beers include a Lambic, Imperial Stouts, Chocolate stouts and Apricot Ales and more. These beers require ingredients like malt, hops, yeast, coffee, spices, and fruit to brew. Once you have all the ingredients in your brewery, you select the process beer action in your brewery combine the ingredients into a beer. Once that has been done, it will move through the brewing process, from fermenting, through bottling and on to sale, garnering you $2 now and points at the end of the game( You must process beer 3 times (by default) in order to ship a beer). I'm sure they will cover all the gameplay in more depth (is it possible...I'd love some feedback on whether I delved too deep into gameplay here) on the kickstarter page so let's move on.
All of the game reviews I've ever seen like to compare games, I don't think that's really helpful. Because if a game is like, for hyperbole's sake, Trouble or Sorry, that doesn't tell you why you should consider the game under review instead of the game you are comparing it with. Play this game if you like player interaction through blocked action spaces, research (I'll leave learning about that as an exercise to the reader) tracks, individual player powers (advanced variants), player tableaus and games that take about 30 minutes per player. Additionally, this game drips with theme, but not in the "I spilled beer on my beer board game" sense, in the carefully thought out and liberally applied sense. Ben has done a wonderful job of marrying theme with mechanics and if you like the idea of trying to out brew your local competition, it will be a lot easier to do in Brew Crafters than in real life.
Another common feature of reviews and previews. I guess my biggest complaint is that the game has enough thinky bits that I can't enjoy it with a pint of beer. I need a clear head to even attempt to compete with Ben Rossett, but maybe this will be resolved when I can play against less experienced players, who don't have the entire spreadsheet that balanced the game in their brains....CURSES BEN....CURSES!!!!
I'm sure the pros will have some gorgeous art to show off Friday when the campaign launches (scheduled for 30 days) and I hope this preview has given you something to think about and hopefully it reduces the amount of time you sit contemplating the big green pledge button, because I can't wait to support my chance to play a full production copy of this game!