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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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Dave Ross
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Heard about this game on Reddit, got a secondhand copy, played it a few times and found out the negative reviews were right - this game is just a mish-mash of mechanics that feels thrown together, and the backstabbing nature is really too much (especially with the market and the brew festivals). I would also agree that the box just doesnt work well on my shelf, and overall, we gave it away.

I can tell some loving went into this game but it just isn't good. After about 10 plays we were bored to death - we had seen and done everything and there's very limited replayability. As for the positives, the components are solid and the rulebook is very clear.

Overall, if you're looking for one beer themed game for your collection, Brewin' USA is definitely not it. I'm writing up a more in-depth/full review to post here soon.

*edited to change the word "themes" to "mechanics"
 
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Eric Buscemi
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Rugbydave wrote:
this game is just a mish-mash of themes that feels thrown together

I'm sorry the game didn't work for you, but I strongly disagree with this statement. The theme comes through in the components, the cards having real beer brands on them, the process of matching the actual ingredients that make beer (water, grain, hops, and yeast), and the idea that the beers are promoting it areas that enjoy those styles of beer. I think this game's theming is one of its strongest positives.

Maybe you meant to say the mish-mash of mechanics didn't work for you? If so, that I could see. But I would ask you two questions. First, do you like take-that mechanics in general? Because I did mention this game features that and conflict averse players may want to avoid it. Second, how many players did you play with? Because there is an auction in this game, and auctions usually (and in this case) work better with more players. So if you only played it at two players, for example, I could see your argument more than if you played at four or five.
 
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Dave Ross
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ericbinnyc wrote:

I'm sorry the game didn't work for you, but I strongly disagree with this statement. The theme comes through in the components, the cards having real beer brands on them, the process of matching the actual ingredients that make beer (water, grain, hops, and yeast), and the idea that the beers are promoting it areas that enjoy those styles of beer. I think this game's theming is one of its strongest positives.


Yikes, my apologies, I meant "mish-mash of mechanics", not themes. The theme is a huge pro for us! I've edited the original post for clarity! That'll teach me to post while on the train :-)

ericbinnyc wrote:


Maybe you meant to say the mish-mash of mechanics didn't work for you? If so, that I could see.


Exactly, my apologies again! I'm glad you could see that the "mish-mash of mechanics" could be a critique to some.

ericbinnyc wrote:

First, do you like take-that mechanics in general? Because I did mention this game features that and conflict averse players may want to avoid it.


Absolutely, we detest negative player interaction. We prefer games that have this minimized, or we usually just adapt it ourselves. Your review was excellent in explaining that, but we just love Beer-themed games that we wanted to support this game for that reason! We are open to pretty much anything, and we do enjoy some "take-that!" games (e.g., Taluva is one of our favorites even though it's pretty heavily "take-that", it's just the thing with that game is, sometimes you're actually benefiting the board when you do something, and the work you've done mostly is still there).

ericbinnyc wrote:

Second, how many players did you play with? Because there is an auction in this game, and auctions usually (and in this case) work better with more players. So if you only played it at two players, for example, I could see your argument more than if you played at four or five.


Absolutely, I feel like any good review of this game should include both a 2P aspect as well as a 3+ aspect. We played with 2P and with 4P, but mostly 2P. It just doesn't work that well with 2P (as is the case normally with some auction games), but even at 4P, our critiques have zero to do with the auction.

It's alright that we didn't like the game! We have joined up with the creator's newest kickstarter which also has their hallmark (at this point) negative player interaction, but we love their component quality and art enough that we're excited to give them another shot. Not all games appeal to all people, you know? There's nothing wrong with it at all!
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Eric Buscemi
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Rugbydave wrote:
It's alright that we didn't like the game! We have joined up with the creator's newest kickstarter which also has their hallmark (at this point) negative player interaction, but we love their component quality and art enough that we're excited to give them another shot. Not all games appeal to all people, you know? There's nothing wrong with it at all!

Internet high five for polite discourse even in disagreement!
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Dave Ross
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I'll take it :-)
 
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