Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Mina's Not-So-Mini Review - Crafting Beer With Two
In Brew Crafters, you will become the proud owner of a beer brewery! Your goal is to become the most reputable brewer by developing your brewing line, managing skilled and brewery workers, as well as your ingredient supply, and brewing the most valuable beer.
Brew Crafters is a complex game that requires a relatively extensive setup and rules explanation. I will only present a general overview of the 2-player version of the game here.
To set up the game, you will create a display of 9 random skilled worker cards, 2 local partnership cards, and 9 beer cards. The beer cards are arranged in a 3x3 grid, with the top three beer cards always being Pleasantly Porter, Everyday Ale, and Simply Stout. Below each of these, you will place two more beers of the same type (porter, ale, and stout), arranged in ascending reputation point order.
At the start of the game, you will receive 2 player boards. One is your research lab and the other your brewery. You will start with 2 market workers and 1 brewery worker and $6.
Brew Crafters is played over 12 rounds, which are split into seasons. There are 3 seasons in the game.
In each season, you will:
1) Restock the market board, adding ingredients and cash to restocking spaces
2) Take market actions - In turn order, you will alternate placing your market workers on the market board to take market actions. Once one action has been taken, it cannot be taken by another player until the next round. Market actions include:
A) Take the first player marker and any cash on the space or form a local partnership, gaining one of the local partnership cards
B) Hire a new brewery shift worker or hire a skilled worker, taking the card from the display
C) Take ingredients or cash
3) Take brewery actions - Players don't block each other on the brewery board, so you are free to take any brewery action you please with the brewery shift workers you have. Brewery actions are:
A) Process beer - This action takes place over three phases. First, you must sell any beer you have in your bottling plant, gaining $2 for each batch sold. Then, you must shift any beer you have in your brewing area to your bottling area. Then, you brew one batch into each empty fermentation tank you have, returning ingredients required for that type of beer to the supply. In order to brew recipes in the second and third recipe rows, you must have brewed the higher (simpler) recipes of the corresponding types beforehand.
B) Lab research - Your lab features 4 tracks with 4 levels of development. Experimental levels give you one-time benefits, annual winter levels give you a benefit at the start of each winter season, breakthrough levels give you an ongoing benefit, and game-end levels give you reputation points at the end of the game for meeting certain conditions. When you take the lab research action, simply increase one cube one space along one track.
C) Install new building or equipment - You may install 1 piece of equipment or 1 building. Buildings and equipment allow you to brew beer more efficiently by expanding the number of batches you can brew at once, provide points at the end of the game, expand your access to ingredients like fruit, hops, and yeast, allow you to store additional ingredients, or provide points over the course of the game or at the end of the game.
The game also comes with several "complex" actions you can add to the market or brewery board.
At the end of each year's winter season, you must pay $1 for each $ symbol featured in your play area. This includes your brewery shift workers, your skilled workers, and your buildings and equipment. If you cannot pay, you must take loans to make up the difference. Loans cannot be repaid.
At the end of the game, you get points for all beer you have brewed, game-end research points, your tasting room, any reputation points you have gained over the course of the game, and gold labels for being the first to brew each advanced recipe. You will lose points for loans.
Played prior to review: 7x
1. Looks amazing
Brew Crafters looks like a dream. It is filled with attractive, colorful chits and bits that bring the process of brewing beer to life, even for those of us with little knowledge about or interest in the subject matter!
2. Gives you a great sense of accomplishment in building and running a tangible engine
I love games that make me feel like I have built something effective at the end and Brew Crafters does that very well. You start with a few basic ingredients and pieces to your factory, no research powers, and little money and personalize your factory with a different set of equipment, workers, and abilities in each game. You end up with a real sense of pride, accomplishment, and investment in the thing you've created at the end of each game because it isn't an easy or simple process.
3. Tight and challenging
Many games are made tight and challenging by imposing restrictions on access to key resources or forcing you to make payments for features that allow you to expand your ability to get things done. Brew Crafters does both. It challenges you to acquire a sufficient number of the right types of resources to produce the most lucrative beer possible by heavily restricting the availability of advanced ingredients, which are key to being able to produce many advanced recipes. In order to get around such restrictions and enhance your ability to make such beer, you have to upgrade your brewing operations, adding a farm or a local importer or an skilled worker. But most of these will demand payment every time winter comes around. And money is another tight resource in this game. Particularly early in the game (which is when you have to start thinking about how to develop your brewery), you will be almost entirely reliant on the $2 space to gain sufficient cash to pay for your operation. Beer can become a reliable source of income, but you are only able to brew one beer at a time early in the game and it takes 3 brewery actions to get a SINGLE batch through the brewing-bottling-selling process and you get a SINGLE brewery action each round with no option to increase that until you've brewed at least 3 beers, so you won't exactly be swimming in money. There is a very palpable tension between wanting to upgrade the heck out of everything and hire ALL the workers (because darn it, they are GOOD!) and wanting to throw everything overboard when winter hits and you have to pay for it all. Resources are tight and money is tighter. And loans hurt. FUN!
4. High strategy with many different paths to explore
Brew Crafters is a game of strategy. Of course, it forces some tactical maneuvering when items get taken before you can get to them, but for the most part, the game allows you to create a plan and put it into action.
At the start of the game, you are presented with a display of skilled workers and a display of recipes. You first have to determine which workers to try to acquire and how best to exploit any potential synergies between those workers and the research lab and brewery upgrades you make in the game. You can think of the display of skilled workers as the Minor Improvement and Occupation cards in Agricola. Only in this case, they are available to everyone, so you have to act fast if you want a particular combination. Many of these workers give you extra reputation points for operating certain brewery upgrades or give you something extra whenever you take a certain number of type of ingredient. This means that they are often suited to helping you brew specific types of beer or to certain strategies. And there are many different paths to explore. You can focus on one particular type of beer or diversify. You can focus on ales, using hops infusers and skilled workers to help you maximize their point potential. Or you can focus on racing to be the first to produce all the advanced recipes and increase the points you receive from a large variety of beers with a Tasting Room and research lab upgrades. You can focus on barrel-aged beers with various upgrades and workers. You can try to consistently brew multiple batches to exploit certain bonuses. And you can try to do a million other things it would take me a year to list.
5. Many equally attractive options pull you in many directions
Brew Crafters is one of those games that not only presents you with a relentless stream of decision points, but actually makes all the choices available to you at each point equally appealing. And that is just !
Each turn, you will likely want to do all of everything at once. Only you won't be able to. Your market actions will be limited to 2 for the duration of the game unless you can get a skilled worker to expand that to 3 in the winter or an intern from some of the advanced actions. For the most part, you'll be limited to 2. And this will never feel like enough! You will want all of each ingredient and you will want the cash and you will want the skilled workers because all those things are amazingly good and you need them!
But the more tasty (and more restricted) options appear in the brewery phase. You only have 1 worker for brewery actions at the start of the game and you have to use this worker to upgrade your research lab (which is awesome because it gives you super powers), produce beer (which is awesome because you kinda need it to score points and make cash), and upgrade your brewery (which is awesome because it allows you to brew more efficiently or gain bonus points or store more resources, among other things). You'll be pulled in multiple directions even within these options, as all research tracks are amazing and all brewery upgrades can be as well.
6. Replay value is so high it makes my head spin!
Replay value in Brew Crafters lies in both the depth and breadth of the decision points you face. As I mentioned above, you have a large selection of skilled workers and only a subset of these is used in any given game. These can drastically alter the strategy you pursue by making certain paths more lucrative or easier than others.
The variable display of beer recipes affect how you play the game. Though the differences between recipes may seem nothing more than superficial fluff that wouldn't alter the decisions you make, in reality, the different point payouts and ingredient requirements of these recipes can encourage different strategies. In a game with a set of ales that all have relatively low ingredient requirements, you may want to consider adopting a hop infuser strategy in order to pump out easy ales. In a game with lots of fruit requirements, you may want to build yourself a farm to ease fruit procurement. In a game with lots of cheap beers, you may want to diversify and race to the first to produce all the advanced recipes and top that off with a Tasting Room for extra points. You get the idea. The scarcity of resources demands that you consider the resource demands and point payouts of the various recipes prior to commiting to a strategy.
Oh! And it'll take a game or two to even start forming effective strategies thanks to the breadth of options the game presents for upgrading your brewing operations, worker pool, and research abilities.
7. Game grows with you
Brew Crafters is cleverly crafted () to grow with you. The box comes with a basic version of the game that features symmetrical research labs, basic market/brewery actions, and a basic set of skilled workers. You can expand the game by including a random set of more advanced and basic skilled workers, advanced research labs with different effects across players, and a number of advanced action options. These all increase the number of options you have in the game. The advanced actions are particularly interesting, as they allow you to gain additional actions, ways to convert resources, ways to use unused recipes, and ways to gain additional resources.
1. A huge number of chits makes this game a nightmare to set up and tear down without some form of plasticized organization
Don't attempt to punch and bag this game. Just don't. There is a different type of chit for each type of beer and each type of factory upgrade and there are many, many different types of beer and types of factory upgrades. And then there are a bunch more chits...
2. The theme doesn't appeal to me, but the game still does
I don't drink alcohol and despise beer, so one of the aspects that tends to draw people towards Brew Crafters (i.e. its theme) actually repels me away from the game. And I still love it! Why? How? Because the game looks pretty and colorful and makes the process of beer making accessible and fun! Even I'm drawn to the dessert-like names of the beers and feel fulfilled when I produce one of the most advanced recipes! This is a game about making beer that (I assume) realistically replicates many of the aspects of the process but does so in a way that will appeal even to people who dislike beer due both to its appearance and the sense of building a tangible "engine." Good stuff!
3. The number of effects you have to keep track of can get out of hand late in the game
After a few games, you'll find you are able to hire multiple skilled workers, build many brewery and research upgrades, all of which will have many passive effects each time you perform a specific action or will give you to ability to perform extra actions in winter. It can become very difficult to keep track of everything late in the game. If you are someone who gets easily overwhelmed by such things, beware...
4. One element is missing when playing with only two players, but it isn't too significant
When playing with only two players, you don't play with the Collaboration action. Having played with both two and four players, I can say that I don't think missing out on that action alters the game in any dramatically significant way. You do have one less option when taking brewery actions, but with 3 other options and multiple sub-options within those options, I think you'd be hard pressed to say that there is an insufficient number of options in that phase of the game when playing with two.
Do you need to love beer to enjoy Beer Crafters? Nope. But you do need to love getting drunk off a gushing river of options and decision points when playing games. Beer Crafters presents you with such an extensive menu of options for developing your beer brewing operations that you'll find yourself pulled in different, equally delicius directions. ALL THE TIME! If you love having a million and a half options on each turn and a huge amount of game-to-game variety and you get a great sense of satisfaction from building your own little systems in games, Brew Crafters may be for you. I think it spiked my drink with a little something, because it has me drunk in love!
MINA'S LOVE METER LOTS OF LOVE All the beersAll the stuff
Mina's Love Meter
- I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale) Dislike
- I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale) Some like
- I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale) Like
- I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale) Some love
- I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale) Lots of love
- I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale) All love all the time
- I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)
I agree about the tokens. I traded for a copy and the copy came with all of the tokens bagged - but I had to upgrade to a plano rack. I was lucky to find one that had the exact number of openings and just thick enough to fit all of the tokens and not mess with the box lid closing.
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Thank you for the awesome review, and I'm so glad you love Brew Crafters this much!
I bought Brewcrafters a while back, because hey, it's a WP game about making beer, and I live in Portland Oregon: Microbrew Capital of the West. Unfortunately, it wasn't a hit for my wife and I. We found the round phases to be overly complex and awkward, especially compared to a Stegmaier or a Rosenberg. It felt like the game needed another cycle of development and streamlining before release. Also, the game doesn't have a solo variant, which is a big negative for me, since I like solo gaming, but more importantly I'm the game teacher and I need to play a solo game or two of a game of this complexity before teaching it to my wife or our gaming group.
Love me some Brew Crafters. Replaced Caverna for us, and technically I've played a lot more Brew Crafters than Agricola recently. It finds of great balance of tightness and openness that just hasn't been present in other similar designs...
This is a great review... and I'm not saying that only because I love this game. I steered away from Agricola due to its complexity/theme combo, but Brew Crafters doesn't seem as complex as Agricola (I guess enjoying the brewing theme helps with this perception)! It's one of the few Euros that I really enjoy and your review explains why!
As far as the fiddlyness of all the components, I highly recommend the Game Trayz for this game. Here are some pix and a link (I'm not affiliated with them at all, BTW):
I just picked this up at Granite Games Summit. Can't wait to play it!