Dearest readers, yes, it has been a while since we published something, and for that, both Emmet and I would like to say sorry. We did warn you though, in our first podcast of the year, it was looking like we would have a very busy year, both in work and personally, and it has proved to be true. But, for me at least, I can start to see the clouds clearing on the horizon, and so I should be able to get back to writing and recording over the next few weeks. With that in mind, let’s talk games!
Brew Crafters is one of my favourite games. It’s a worker placement game, in the same vein as Agricola, but with the need to pay overheads instead of feeding your family. It’s about building a successful craft beer brewery instead of subsistence farming, a game that I find interesting and innovative in a few ways. But I’m not here to talk about Brew Crafters today, I’m here to talk about its little brother: Brew Crafters Travel Card Game.
Ostensibly, the objective of BC:TCG (stout smooth that…) is to collect ingredients, hire staff, build equipment and make beer to get points. That’s a lot of things to try fit into a small package. But they do it pretty successfully by making the cards in the game multi-functional. Each card is either an employee or piece of equipment, or an ingredient (malt, hops, yeast, fruit or coffee). On your turn you draw two cards. This can either be from the five, face up cards in the middle, or blindly from the top of the deck.
Next, you can either play an employee/equipment card in front of you, gaining it’s bonus for the rest of the game, pass, or complete a beer recipe. You complete the beer recipe by discarding the right ingredients from your hand to match one of the recipes in the game, gain points from your pints (get it?) and repeat until one player passes the 21 point mark, triggering the end game. You finish off that round and the game is over.
As you can tell, the turn structure is quite straightforward. Not quite Love Letter of simplicity, but close enough. Take two cards. Then either pass, play or brew. Does this lead to an interesting game though?
I find yes, it does lead to interesting decisions. You look at your starting hand, then look at the recipe card, next look at the five cards you can draw from and shuffle your hand around a bit. Hmmm…maybe I have the right combination of card straight out of the gate to start brewing the low scoring basic ale immediately.
Or perhaps if you just play this piece of equipment in front of you, you’ll get bonus points when brewing higher scoring recipe, like the lambic beer, which you can brew next turn. But if you play this employee, you’ll get free malt every time you complete a brew, setting up a nice little engine to help you more effortlessly get ingredients in the future.
That’s where the tension in the game comes from: do I go for multiple low scoring beers, fewer high scoring beers or something in the middle? These strategies mirror those available in the Brew Crafters board game. On your turn I’ll be trying to decide to cash in on what I’ve got now, versus drawing more cards and hoping that I can hit the jackpot in the future? Or do I develop my brewery with equipment and staff, and hope the game lasts long enough to take advantage of them? Fruit and coffee are rarer ingredients, should I take that card to prevent my opponent taking it, or do I take that staff card which will add to my own engine?
Having said that, the game doesn’t really get my heart racing, or tie my stomach in knots around whether my decisions will pay off, which big brother Brew Crafters does manage to do. The decision I have to make seem to lack impact, don’t feel that important or influential. However, that’s not unusual for smaller games like this, so it’s not necessarily a fatal flaw. At lunch I don’t want a game that takes serious amounts of brain power, I want to be able to chat, engage with my co-workers, relax a little, and most importantly eat my lunch!
A big plus for the game for me is its short play time (about 20 minutes), its portability and its low price: about €10. All of these combine to make it a decent lunch time game in the office. It plays 2-4, though I’ve played exclusively at 2, and the 4 player game is a 2 vs 2 team game, which doesn’t appeal at all.
How does it look?
The art used in the game is taken directly from Brew Crafters, so if you’ve played that you’ll be instantly at home with this game and everything will look familiar. However, the difference in art style between the workers and equipment in the card game can be a bit jarring, as it’s significantly different in style. This comes about from the character art being lifted from cards, whereas the equipment art is lifted from the boards players use in the Brew Crafters. The cards are designed to look like a paper folder, with sticky notes, photos and pictures attached to give all the information. While it’s effective, and shows everything you want, the font doesn’t seem quite right, and there’s something about the graphic design that seems off, especially compared to the slick design you see on the beer recipes in the parent game. Speaking of which, in Brew Crafters there are a number of fake brands used to represent different beers, about 24 of them in face, with some wonderful logo design and art. Why not reuse this art, rather than replacing them with block colours with a large letter?
Would I buy it again if my house burned down? I’m not sure, but at the same time, it’s nowhere near my trade pile at the moment. I play it, I get asked to bring it to the table, and while nobody laughs out loud, and there’s never been any hugely memorable plays, the games are usually fairly tight and end with a groaned “If only I had one more turn!” That’s good enough for me.
Whatever you want! Seriously though, this is a lunchtime game for me, so no beer when I’m playing. But the weather outside is lovely, and I can totally picture myself, outside in a beer garden, sipping on a saison or a pale ale. So that’s what I’m going to recommend the seasonal Appleation from Beavertown. My only issue is I don’t know what season it comes out in, and I really want some of this truly incredible beer.