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Neil Cook
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Teaser

If you’re a gamer who likes theme (as I am) Guatemala Café is a game about planting, harvesting and ultimately shipping coffee beans. If you’re more interested in the ‘science of mechanic’, it’s a relatively straightforward area control game, with a slight twist. Either way, it’s a game that I’ve found interesting after my first couple of plays. I should probably point out at this stage that I’ve only played it 2 players, and as such can’t comment with any degree of authority on how well it scales between the 2-4 players it supports.

Components

The first thing to say about the game is its weight. Not of the gameplay, but of the box and its contents. I can’t think of another game that has as many pieces crammed into a box of that size (approx 30cm x 30cm x 5cm), and as a result, its not the easiest of games to pack away again after playing. That said, the components themselves are wooden and similar to those found in any number of ‘euros’. They are up to the usual standard, and the main pieces consist of workers, ships, factories (hereafter referred to as commodities) and coffee sacks. There are five different colours of coffee that players are able to produce, and there are the same numbers of these pieces for each colour (e.g. 3 ships of each of the 5 colours, 9 workers of each of the colours, etc). There are also roads, which are not colour specific. Before playing for the first time, you’ll need to apply the 35 stickers supplied (7 each of the 5 colours) to one side of the coffee sacks.

There are also two double-sided boards. The first is the production board, and is used to place the commodities and, as the game progresses, roads, from where players select the pieces they want on their turn (more of which later). The second is the plantation board and is where players grow, harvest and ship their coffee beans (or control their area, depending on your preference as detailed above). This board also shows the scoring track around the edge.

The game also contains 5 coloured tiles (used to show ownership of the plantations on the plantation board) and a scoring marker for each of the four player colours, cardboard money chits, a buyer which is used to mark which commodities are available on the production board, rules in both English and German, and a cloth bag.

One final thing that’s included is a bag of real coffee beans (complete with warning not to drink them!!). These are simply for decoration and have nothing to do with the game itself. Although they do ensure the entire room smells of coffee whilst the game is being played!!

Set-up

Set-up of the game consists of filling every space on the production board with all the commodities and 6 of the 35 coffee sacks. Where these are all placed depends on which side of the board you choose to play. One side has a predetermined set-up, where each and every space is marked with a colour and commodity. The other goes for a random approach, where players place the various commodities where they choose. The predetermined set-up is suggested for a more tactical game. The remaining 29 coffee sacks are shuffled face down, then 5 placed in the cloth bag. The 24 left are divided between the players. Each player takes their starting money ($15) and their scoring marker and coloured tiles. Finally the buyer is placed anywhere around the edge of the production board. The plantation board is also double sided, with one side used for 2 players, and the other for 3-4 players.

Game-play

Each player’s turn consists of two actions. Firstly they must move the buyer. The buyer moves in clockwise fashion around the perimeter of the production board, with each space being alongside a row or column of the board. Players can move the buyer 1-3 spaces for free on their turn, or a 4th space at the cost of $2. Where the buyer finishes it’s move will likely influence what the player does next…

A player’s second action consists of either buying commodities or harvesting.

If a player chooses to buy commodities they may select up to 3 pieces from the row or column in which the buyer ended its movement. These pieces are paid for as they are placed on the plantation board, you cannot ‘store’ them for future use, and their cost is dependent on where they are placed on the plantation board. The plantation fields are divided roughly into 3 areas. The mountains are the cheapest to place commodities, but are further away from the harbour where the ships wait to ship your coffee. The meadows are most expensive to place in, but are closest to the harbour and the forests lie between the two. Factories are placed on predetermined spaces on the plantation board, and the coloured tiles are placed with them to denote ownership. Workers of the same colour as the factories should be placed next to the same coloured factory (and alongside each other) in an attempt to have larger plantations of the respective colour than your opponents. Each square can only contain one worker and each players like-coloured workers may not meet. If players choose to purchase a ship, it's placed on the harbour on the cheapest available space. Finally the spaces that are left on the production board are filled with roads (one road per space). Thus, as the game progresses, available commodities reduce and roads become more prevalent. These roads can, in future turns, be selected as one of the 3 available commodities and placed on the plantation board. Roads are used to link factories to the harbour, and in doing so increase players score.

If a player chooses to harvest, they select a coffee sack from the production board – again ensuring this sack is in the same row or column as the buyer ended it’s movement. The player whose turn it is collects $8 from the bank. The colour of the coffee sack that was selected is then scored. ALL players score points for the relevant colour coffee, but only the active player collects any money. Players score points equal to the number of the relevant coloured workers in their plantations. If a player’s factory is connected via roads to the harbour, and there is also a ship of the same colour in the harbour, that players points are doubled. If there are 2 or 3 ships of the correct colour the player’s score is tripled or quadrupled respectively. If a ship is used in the scoring phase, it is then removed from the game. The coffee sack that was taken from the production board, is then placed on the highest unoccupied space on the score track – so the first scoring round will result in filling space 50 on the scoring track, the second will go on space 49, etc. The empty space on the production board is then filled by any one of the player’s coffee sacks received at the beginning of the game. If the player has none left, one is drawn at random from the cloth bag.

When a player chooses to harvest, their opponents may block the scoring that goes with it. To do this, any opponent may take one of his coffee sacks given at the start of the game – but it must match the colour being scored – and replace it on the production board. All players scoring for that round is cancelled – a very handy tactic if the colour is your opponents strongest, or your weakest… Note that the coffee sack taken is still placed on the scoring track, and the active player still collects $8. It’s just the scoring that’s cancelled.

The game continues in the same way until one player’s scoring marker reaches a coffee sack on the scoring track. The first player to do so wins the game immediately

Conclusion.

For an hour long game, I can’t think of anything that’s grabbed my attention as quickly as this game. I’ve only played it a couple of times, and only 2 players. I hope that both of those figures will increase over the coming weeks. Thoroughly enjoyable game all round.
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Nick Fisk
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Good review.

Saves me some time, as I was thinking of doing one

I'm pretty much of the same opinion. I enjoyed the game the first time out, and was very happy to play it again pretty soon after.

It's also in the games bag for tonight, and I'll be hoping to play it again!

One thing:

Our first game was with two, but our second game was with three players, and it played very differently.

I guess most of that is down to the roads:

In a 2 player game, you can place roads anywhere to join your sheds to the harbours, but in a 3/4 player game, you have to place the roads on pre-marked paths.

The difference here is that in a 2 player game, you can place roads that only help you; whereas in a 3/4 player game, all roads you place will help the other people who are along your road (unless you are up in the hills and furthest away, then everyone else on the road helps you).

I much preferred the three player game, and am looking forward to playing with four, as I have a sneaky feeling this will be the game's best number.


N.

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Neil Cook
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Having merely looked at the 3-4player board, I'm inclined to agree. The roads look to be a big difference as they all simply move vertically down the board. Also makes the ships a little more fought over I suspect..

Have you played both sides of the production board yet?

I've only gone with the pre-determined layout - I think the anarchy of free for all placement wouldn't go with my OCD!!
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Wade Broadhead
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Interesting review. Thanks for the first one. The game sounds pretty good, but I just really despise immediate scoring/ending games in general.
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Nick Fisk
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Pallet Ranger wrote:
Having merely looked at the 3-4player board, I'm inclined to agree. The roads look to be a big difference as they all simply move vertically down the board. Also makes the ships a little more fought over I suspect..

Have you played both sides of the production board yet?

I've only gone with the pre-determined layout - I think the anarchy of free for all placement wouldn't go with my OCD!!


Yes ... the three player game was randomly set-up.

Oddly, setting them up randomly takes longer than setting them up according to the little symbols! And there's a definite case of "trying" to be random with it, as the shapes are quite obvious!

And you can't use the cloth bag for randomly picking them, because you've randomly placed 5 coffee sacks in it!


N.

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Neil Cook
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Moviebuffs wrote:
And you can't use the cloth bag for randomly picking them, because you've randomly placed 5 coffee sacks in it!


N.



I thought you set the production board up first, then put the 5 random coffee sacks in the cloth bag?
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Neil Cook
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denverarch wrote:
Interesting review. Thanks for the first one. The game sounds pretty good, but I just really despise immediate scoring/ending games in general.


The couple of games we've played have resulted in someone coming from some way behind, posting a big score, and ending the game there and then - but that's usually because someone (me!!) hasn't kept their eye on the ball.... That said, the endgame mechanic is one that it seems wouldn't be favourable to you.

The game itself is excellent though
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Nick Fisk
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Pallet Ranger wrote:
Moviebuffs wrote:
And you can't use the cloth bag for randomly picking them, because you've randomly placed 5 coffee sacks in it!


N.



I thought you set the production board up first, then put the 5 random coffee sacks in the cloth bag?


Well ... yes .... that's how we did it last night (first four player game).

If you follow the instructions, you place 5 sacks, pick a random one, discard five into the bag, then fill the board .... but it's easily tinkered with

I think the pre-determined set up may be more evenly spread, but I would randomly select the last coffee colour, rather than always having red.

The four player game was excellent.

The winner was actually one place short of the coffee sacks when the last scoring was called, making the sacks catch her up! She successfully blocked that scoring, allowing her to be the only person "in the sacks", otherwise she wouldn't have won as someone would have passed her.


N.

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Neil Cook
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Quote:
I think the pre-determined set up may be more evenly spread, but I would randomly select the last coffee colour, rather than always having red.


I think that sounds like a good idea. Hoping to try more players with this tonight - as long as I can convince them to leave 'Magic CCG' for a while!!

Bit of an off the wall question, but are you likely to have a games evening Bank Holiday Monday?
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Nick Fisk
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Pallet Ranger wrote:
Quote:
I think the pre-determined set up may be more evenly spread, but I would randomly select the last coffee colour, rather than always having red.


I think that sounds like a good idea. Hoping to try more players with this tonight - as long as I can convince them to leave 'Magic CCG' for a while!!

Bit of an off the wall question, but are you likely to have a games evening Bank Holiday Monday?


Oddly enough, we (Sue & I) are at the theatre on Monday 9th April.

However ... that won't stop the games night going ahead ... what might stop it is other people having other stuff to do, because it's a bank holiday!

N.

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Alexandre Rivaben
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Nice review. I decided to buy this one after your text. I'm used to play with my girlfriend so I think I will have more to say about experience in play Guatemala with 2 players. I will try it next week and write back.

Thank you again
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Neil Cook
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Excellent.

My wife really likes this game. I hope your girlfriend does so too..
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Steve Oliver
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Nice review!

Quote:
The game continues in the same way until one player’s scoring marker reaches a coffee sack on the scoring track. The first player to do so wins the game immediately


Don't you let everyone score, and then whoever has the highest score wins? Because more than one player might score, and there's nothing to determine who should score first in the same turn.
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Steve K
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The review oversimplified slightly.

Scoring a colour may indeed cause multiple players to score points. Game end is triggered when someone reaches a coffee sack on the scoring track, but the winner is the player who scored most points.
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