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VivaJava: The Coffee Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Best Part of Waking Up...- Games with Two review rss

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Jason Moslander
United States
Fenton
Missouri
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Originally posted at http://www.gameswithtwo.com/2013/01/the-best-part-of-waking-...

One theme that I have yet to see is coffee, which is surprising, especially with how much our society idolizes the drink. There is a Starbucks on every other corner, and a local coffee shop or fast food joint trying to imitate them on the other corner. Recently, Dice Hate Me brought us VivaJava the Coffee Game. VivaJava is a semi-cooperative, medium weight, Euro-style game for 3-8 players that plays in 1-2 hours. The game was designed by T.C. Petty III and was published by Dice Hate Me Games. In the game, each player is an employee of the VivaJava coffee company. You are trying to make the best coffee blends to earn points in order to gain a promotion. The player who scores the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Game Play
Each game of VivaJava is split into several rounds. Each round is then further broken down into 3 phases. The phases are In the Field, Blend/Research, and Popular opinion. These 3 phases are repeated each round until an end game condition is met. The first phase, In the Field, is a worker placement phase. Each player (in turn order) takes their worker and places it on a country. That player then does the action associated with the region and takes the coffee bean that is located there. After every player has done this, the players begin phase 2, Blend/Research. Players break up into teams based on the region of the country they placed their workers. The team then decides if they are going to research or blend. If the team decides to Research, the players then split off on their own and advance their research tokens 3 spaces. This is a tech track that players will use to better their chances at getting a good blend while limiting their opponents. If the teams decides to Blend, the players will take turns drawing beans from their roasters (beans they collected during phase 1). The players will then create a new blend that is placed on the best seller's list. The placement is based on what kind of beans players drew. The general rule here is that the "best poker style hand" will be placed higher on the list (4 of the same kind of bean beats 2 pair, etc). After players either blend or research, it moves onto the final phase, Popular Opinion. This is where the new blends are added to the Best Seller list and points are awarded. Play then starts over with phase 1. This continues until a player reaches 21 points, their are not enough blends to add to the market, or a player has reached the end of 4 of the research tracks.

Review
Components
If you like tons of bits, VivaJava has you covered. There are 6 different colored, coffee-bean-shaped bits that are used for collecting beans. There are 15+ heavy cardboard slates of the different blends. Breweples for each player, wooden and cardboard tokens, tech tracks to small game boards, cards, etc. There is a lot to this game. I actually thought I found a use for an extra storage container for this game, but then quickly realized everything wouldn't fit with the extra storage container. There is no insert in this box, and that is because it all wouldn't fit otherwise. Tons of high quality components in this one. My only beef is that some of the colors are too similar. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the brown and red and white and natural colors. So, if you are playing with a color blind player, you may need to help them out. When we played, I just announced that the colors are very close together in some cases so let's be sure to help one another out. The rule book for VivaJava is very well done. There is video tutorial online and plenty of appendices in the back of the book. There is even an area for variants and basic strategy.

Game Play

This game has some great game play. The game has multiple strategies as well as having a great social aspect. There is also the mix of individual and cooperative play. This mixing of strategy/social & individual/co-op gives a unique playing experience. The mechanics run smoothly, and players can catch on to the mechanics after a round or so. The game is also setup so that players who fall behind can catch up at the end. It's even possible for a last to first to happen in the closing rounds of the game. This is great since most players have a fighting chance to win, even up until the last points are tallied.

The only problem I am going to have with VivaJava is getting a group of 6-8 players together to play. Yes, the game supports 3-8 players, but the sweet spot is really in that 6-8 player range. Because of the high player count and the 2 hour play time, it's going to be difficult for me to get this one to the table on a regular basis, which is sad because it's a great game.

Final Thoughts
VivaJava is a beautiful game and that does what it sets out to do. It has a unique theme and unique game play. The components are great less the color issue, and I really haven't had a problem with the game play. I could see their being a dominate strategy developing after someone has played a few dozen times, but with my group I don't know if that will be a problem, as we are constantly rotating in new games and new players. Overall, this is a solid game, and if you are looking for a medium weight euro to break out with a larger group, than this maybe your game of choice.

see more at www.gameswithtwo.com
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Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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This game looks and sounds interesting; and love the theme. I don't know how often I would get to play it considering the other 6p games in our collection that are loved by all. The price also seems, to me, a bit steep for what you get compared to other games at the same price point.
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Dice Hate Me
United States
Chapel Hill
North Carolina
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bkunes wrote:
The price also seems, to me, a bit steep for what you get compared to other games at the same price point.


Just curious, but what other games in its "weight class" would you consider give you more for the price?
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Jason Moslander
United States
Fenton
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ckirkman wrote:
bkunes wrote:
The price also seems, to me, a bit steep for what you get compared to other games at the same price point.


Just curious, but what other games in its "weight class" would you consider give you more for the price?


Bill,

you get a ton of components and game play value for the price. This is a good value and is comparable to other games. I think this game has more bit than most (Fantasy Flight level of bits). The game play is also great 1-2 hour medium weight Euro. $55 is right on target.

I do agree with you on getting it to the table. For me it is difficult to get a group of 6+ together. Some groups it is perfect for, especially those who have a larger number of players.
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Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
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ckirkman wrote:
bkunes wrote:
The price also seems, to me, a bit steep for what you get compared to other games at the same price point.


Just curious, but what other games in its "weight class" would you consider give you more for the price?

Chris, fair question. This is more based on a quick visual impression more than anything else. I first saw a coffee can and I thought, "That for $55? Wow! Not sure."

This perception may well be an unfair one based on incomplete information, and it certainly is not based on having played the game. In fact, after a closer look I see that it actually comes in a box which is different than my original perception.

That being said, the comments I've seen regarding VivaJava over the past year indicate there is a lot of bean goodness packed in that can... I mean game.

I had a somewhat similar first impression after trying King of Tokyo at Origins. Fun game, but I struggled to justify the cost for what you got: a tiny board, half dozen dice, a deck of cards, and some stand-up card board monsters. I did end up buying it at Gen Con a couple months later because I couldn't stop thinking of how much fun it was to play.

Perhaps I will have an opportunity to play VivaJava and change my mind. However, I still have that challenge with the higher number of players needed for a more optimal game experience. I don't get to play the games in my collection that require that many players enough as it is.
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Michael Mesich
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I think it just takes a couple of games at the 3-4 player level with the interns to really get the differnet aspect they bring to the game.

5 plays just fine with the country block-offs setting up regions of 2-2-1 but the game does open quite a bit at 6+ when you can start having to negotiate with three players on blends.

The sweet-spot is probably 6-8, but I find it to still be quite delicious all the way down to four players (3-player is the only number I haven't played yet.)
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Craig Phillips
United States
Quincy
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jmoslander wrote:


One theme that I have yet to see is coffee, which is surprising, especially with how much our society idolizes the drink.


You should check out Guatemala Café. It's a coffee themed Euro from 2007. Fun, solid game, but nothing really original.
 
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James D
Ireland
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Excellent review.

Makes me sad every time I see a review from Jason. I hope that the family is holding up alright.
 
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