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Subject: The Cardboard Hoard: Review of Brewin' USA rss

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Eric Buscemi
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Brewin' USA is the first design from Adam Rehberg and his company, Adam's Apple Games. It was originally seen on the second season of Tabletop Deathmatch, but went through many revisions before it appeared on Kickstarter in February of 2015, where it successfully funded with over $36K in pledges.

Before I get into gameplay, I want to mention how much I love the game's components. Three specific elements really sell the microbrewing theme of the game:

1. Bottle caps are used for the player markers and game's currency.
2. The board is made up of a number of tiles (varying with the number of players) which look like beer coasters.
3. The beer brewing cards are represented by actual U.S. microbrewery beers, such as Sun King Brewery's Sunlight Cream Ale from Indianapolis, Indiana.

The gameplay is straightforward -- the board is laid out with tiles representing U.S. cities, each with certain restrictions on styles of beer the city is interested in and a bonus for controlling that city. The players draw five beer brewing cards, keeping three, get some bottle caps for currency, and the first round of the game begins with an auction for ingredients.

The players must then balance using their money, which doubles as the game's victory points, to get ingredients, and then use those ingredients to brew beers, which will then be placed on cities on the board. Players can choose to play on unoccupied cities, or to challenge a beer already controlling a city, creating a brewfest for control of the city. The game ends the round after a player launches three beers, and then bonuses for cities, regions, and beers brewed are added to the amount of money a player has remaining to determine the winner of the game, referred to by the game as the Brewmaster.

Pros: Brewin' USA is straightforward and intuitive, and a great "next step" from gateway games in both the auction and area control spaces. The game plays in forty-five minutes to an hour, and all players remain engaged throughout. It plays well from two to five players due to the modular, scalable board. The components are excellent, and really help to sell the beer brewing theme of the game. The rule book is well written and the game also comes with reference cards to aid players and a score pad to make end game scoring easier.

Cons: Heavy gamers may expect a bit more from this game and be a bit disappointed, but the BoardGameGeek listed weight of just over 2, or Medium Light, is accurate. There can be a good amount of take-that in Brewin' USA, between brewfests and certain special ingredients that allow players to steal money from opponents and manipulate the board state. The game's box, which is high quality and stores the components well, is an odd shape that is not designed to fit in a gamer's Kallax shelves.

Brewin' USA is one of my favorite games that not a lot of people know about. I have played it with many different groups of people, at all player counts, and it has always been a hit. Highly recommended.

See more of my board gaming thoughts on my blog, The Cardboard Hoard, and my GenCon 2015 travelogue.
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