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Subject: Session Report rss

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Stephen Smith
United States
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My wife and I have slowly been indoctrinating our families into German Style games. For the most part, we have been quite successful. Since most of them live nearby, we've instituted a Monday gaming night for family and friends.

The players: Stephen (Myself), Christine, (longsuffering wife), Maria (my sister), Matt (brother-in-law), Dwight (old friend), Robert (from school), and Katie (Robert's SO)

First Game: Bohnanza

Due to how Monday falls on the calendar, this was to be our last meeting for the year. Also, since it was Christmas break, we were going to be joined by a couple of friends from school. Originally, there were going to be 8 of us playing, so I kicked around the idea of playing Category 5 or Epic Duels. Since brother Mike was late, we went ahead and started a game of Bohnanza. Now, it has been a long time since I've played this game and not from disliking it. I simply have been picking up a lot of games in the last 18 months or so, which has relegated some to not be played so often. I was happy for the chance to revisit this recent modern "classic".

In Bohnanze, each player has a hand of cards representing the beans he must plant in his two fields. The idea is to then harvest your crop for gold coins. He who has the most gold after going through the draw deck three times is the winner. The catch is that the cards in your hand must be planted exactly in the order they are held. Since you generally need multiples of beans to make any money and each field can contain only one type of bean, it should be readily apparent that without an extremely lucky draw, something must be done. This something is trading. On your turn, you must plant the first bean in your hand and can plant the second if you so choose. You then draw two beans and place these face up. The trading now begins. Any player can trade any card in their hand for either one or both of the face up cards or something in the current player's hand. You may also give cards away for free. As in Settlers of Catan, all trades must be made to the active player. In addition, once a card has been traded, it may not be traded again. The catch for the trading round is that all beans involved in this round must be planted at the end of the round. Since you only have two fields, this will often cause conflict. To make matters more difficult, you cannot harvest a field containing a single bean card if there is another field that contains multiple cards. The only way to ameliorate this problem is the purchase of a third field for three gold. This does not necessarily make for easier decisions. Interestingly, you can harvest at any time -- taking all of the bean cards from your field and placing them in the discard pile, except for those turned into gold. Each type of bean shows the number of cards in the deck, and the number of cards required to earn from 1 to 4 gold. When you sell beans, you turn some of the cards over to represent this gold. This represents a reduction in the number of each bean available for future production.

It did not take too terribly long to explain the rules to everyone. While it was easy to convince people that beans had to be planted in exactly the same order as in their hand, it was difficult to convince them that they could trade out of their hand in any order they so chose. But again, this was something that was picked up on rather quickly once we started playing. In this first game, I was fortunate to have a fair number of green beans and chili beans to start with, and was also able to trade for some before my turn came up (I was last). Unfortunately, Dwight, Matt, and Christine all thought chili beans would be a nice crop to start with. Maria dropped out quickly, but Matt and Dwight decided to hang around. Dwight also was the fortunate early holder of some garden beans. Maria ended up with many, many coffee going through her hand, hitting the max of 12 at least twice before the game finished. After cashing in my first two crops, I then continued to make money in both red beans and black-eyed peas (Yummy!). Nothing like good old black-eye-purple-hulls. Christine managed to get her hands into all four of the cocoa beans pretty quickly. Matt and Christine both went to town on the blue beans. For a very long while, the soybeans did not show much. After making it through the deck once, there were not a lot of cards available as they were in hands and fields. I did pay enough attention to know that the red beans and black-eyed peas I needed were coming up, though. I was able to max both of them out, which was pretty much it for me. Towards the end, Katie purchased a third field, which helped her get in some crops she might not have otherwise. Due to his garden beans, I figured Dwight had the game all wrapped up. I was quite surprised when I squeezed out a win.

Final Result:

Stephen -- 14
Dwight -- 13
Maria -- 12
Matt -- 10
Katie -- 10
Christine -- 9
Robert -- 8

This game was a lot of fun, with a good time being had by all. I suppose this is at least somewhat apparent given that we played again immediately after I did notice that there was a lot of trading in this game. Robert played antagonist for a while, but it eventually cost him, as he ended up hurting himself the most. The game also seemed somewhat lower scoring than I remember. Then again, I've never played with seven before either. Total playing time was 90 minutes, including instructions.

Second Game: Bohnanza

Mike called during the last game to tell us he would be wrapping Christmas presents. Maria and Matt also both had to head on home to prepare for work in the real world tomorrow. When I asked those that remained, there was a resounding call for another game of Bohnanza. After rediscovering just how fun this game could be, I certainly was not going to argue. This time around Katie started us out. Things pretty much followed the same as last game. However, this time around, Robert dropped the antagonistic approach and became much more helpful. If anything, everyone was more free-wheeling in their trading. Surprising, I know. I had a much more difficult time putting together profitable crops. I eventually got a really nice black-eye pea thing going, but it was really too little, too late. Robert, however, managed to get garden beans and two different crops of red beans before we made it through the deck once. This gave him an early lead that he would continue to build on. For some reason, Dwight entered spoiler mode in this game. Basically, he makes ridiculous trades for no clear reasons -- certainly not to help himself -- as well as making weird hints about things in the game that no one is ever sure how to interpret. Not surprisingly, he lost. I was surprised at how much money I had but was then even more surprised by the amount that others had. Oh, well.

Final Result:

Robert -- 23
Christine -- 19
Katie -- 18
Stephen -- 17
Dwight -- 13

Again, I was pleasantly surprised by this game. I remember enjoying it when I last played it, and I am happy that it is just as fun as I remember it. Oddly, the scores this time around seem to be much smaller than I remember. I'm thinking this may be due to an extremely large amount of trading which was primarily due to no one purchasing a third field. I am guessing that the purchase of a third field will result in a lesser desire to trade. Perhaps we were just trying to get large crops, which also resulted in many trades. In fact, many of these trades probably helped opponents more than we thought. Since it has been requested for the holidays, perhaps we can attempt to answer some of these questions. At any rate, we had a very good group for the game, all of whom enjoyed it. Since this was the first visit by Robert and Katie, I suppose it is a good thing that they were so impressed with such a different game. Total playing time was about 75 minutes.
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