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Subject: A social game where you pretend to be a farmer rss

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Dylan Birtolo
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General Information
Number of Players: 3 - 7
Game Length: 30 - 60 minutes
Difficulty of Game:
Strategic Depth:
Fun Factor: (very group dependent)
Popularity at local game night:

DISCLAIMER: This review is written on the original German version of the game which I have. I have not played the English version, but the rules and idea behind the game are the same; the only thing that has changed (to my knowledge) is the cards themselves.

Overview
Haven't you always wanted to be a bean farmer? Admit it, deep down, you wanted to make money by growing different kinds of beans and trading away the seeds of the beans you didn't want to get more seeds that will help you achieve your goals. Okay, so that might be stretching it a bit - but the premise behind the bean game is just that: you are a bean farmer and you are attempting to make the most profitable bean farm you can. The only problem is, all of the beans in each of your fields needs to be the same. You will need to depend on the good will of others and usually, bribery.

Game Materials
The entire game is one deck of cards. Each card has a gold coin counter on the back and the picture of a bean on the front. Overall - this deck of cards has stood up a little bit better than other standard decks of cards. The cards themselves seem to be made of more durable material and have less fraying, warping, or fading than a normal deck of cards with about the same amount of wear. The artwork on the cards is mildly amusing the first time you go through the deck, but after a while the pictures become meaningless. It's good artwork, but as with most games, it tends to get glossed over once you played through the game once or twice.

Play Summary
Each farmer starts the game with two or three bean fields, depending on the number of players. If you start the game with only two, you will have the opportunity to buy a third bean field at any point in the game, provided you have the coins for it. The objective of the game is to make money. The way that you make money is by growing beans. Each bean has a pile of coins and some numbers at the bottom of the card. This describes the payout for that number of beans. Here is one example:

Brechbohne: 1 coin: 3; 2 coins: 5; 3 coins:6; 4 coins: 7

This means that if you have a bean field with three Brechbohne cards, you will get one coin when you sell the field. If you have four, you will still only get one coin. But, if you have 5, you get two coins. In general most beans get better returns the more of them you have. In other words, the difference between three and four coins is usually much less than the difference between zero and one coin. Also, in general, the more rare a card is (determined by the number in the illustration), the fewer of them you need to get coins. However, since they come up rarely, this could lead to some trouble as you will see later.

When you sell a field, you determine how many coins you will receive. You flip that many cards over to the "coin" side (face down) and put them in your treasury. All of the other cards in your field that are not converted to coins are put in the discard pile.

Now it is important to note that each bean field can only support one type of bean. So if you have two types of beans out there, and need to plant a third type, you will either need to sell one of your fields or buy a third field. You can sell you fields at any time, even as soon as the game ends. The only caveat is that if you have a field with more than one bean in it, you cannot sell a field with only one bean in it. If all of your fields have zero or one bean, you can sell any field you want.

Each player also starts with a hand of cards. It is important not to change the order of the cards in your hand. On your turn you plant the first card in your hand. This is a requirement, even if it forces you to sell a field. You may plant the second card in your hand if you so wish, but it is not required. Then you flip over two cards from the deck face up in front of your bean fields. Now you enter the trading phase.

You can trade with any other player and you can trade any cards in your hand or either of the two cards in front of you. The trades do not need to be equal (you can trade two cards for one) and you can even give beans away (if the other player agrees to take it). Any cards you trade for must be planted at the end of your trading phase. The same goes for the cards you trade to other players - they must plan those cards at the end of your trading phase. If you do not trade away both of the cards you flipped over, you must plant them.

Then you draw some cards, put them at the back of your hand and play continues to the next player. When the deck runs out, you reshuffle all of the discards and make a new deck. The game ends when you are on the third time through the deck and a player goes to draw a card and there are no cards. At that point the game ends IMMEDIATELY. The only thing you are allowed to do at that point is sell your bean fields. So, if you are supposed to flip over two cards, and there is only one you do not get your trading phase.

Play Experience
Trade, trade, trade - that is the name of the game. In most cases, you are doing really well in the game (provided you are not making poor trades) if you have only enough cards to plant when your turn comes around. If you manage to trade away all of the beans that you don't want for things that you do want, then you are doing well. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to win this game without trading with the other players.

As a result, the enjoyment of this game is very dependent upon the people who are playing it. With players who are either too quiet or too loud, this game can be less enjoyable. The reality is that almost all of the strategy and play is dependent on player interaction. So, make sure you take that into consideration if you are thinking about getting this game. I have not ever found it to be too much of a problem, but I can vouch that there are people who don't enjoy this game when certain others are playing.

It can also be very helpful in this game to make some trades that don't make sense at first glance. One example of this is giving away a bean. If you know someone wants a certain bean and has nothing you want in exchange, it can work to your advantage to give the bean away. If the bean is at the front of your hand or is one of the two you flipped over, you will be forced to plant it if you can't trade it. Of course, a mean player might refuse a bean even for free if it forces you to plant and sell a bean field. That is a very valid strategy.

Another trade that doesn't make sense on the surface is trading for the same type of bean. However, if I trade you a Brechbohne for a Brechbohne, we both will get to plant one, regardless of where it is in our hands. If I have a large hand, and the Brechbohne is at the back of it, this is very advantageous. Or, if I have three of them I want to plant, I will only be able to plant two on my turn so this enables me to plant a third one right away.

It is helpful to be collecting beans that nobody else is, because competition drives up the bargaining power. If you are the only one who is collecting a certain type of bean, no one else will be outbidding you and you may even be able to get some charity. On the flipside, when you are looking to get into a new type of bean, collecting the same type as everyone else is usually not a good plan.

Notable Praise
This game is light and travels well. If you have read any of my other reviews, you will notice that is something that I regard as a very good trait. It is hard to find enjoyable games that travel well and are easy to explain. This is one of those games where you can be playing within a matter of minutes of pulling it out, not an hour later.

The player interaction is a wonderful thing about this game - provided you enjoy that. There is not a lot of time spent thinking and analyzing (unless you are playing with seven people and weighing various options back and forth in your head and trying to maximize your potential when you have five trades on the table. The game goes quickly and does not require TOO much thought.

Because it is light on the strategy, even people who are not hardcore gamers enjoy this one. It serves as a great introductory game or a game for "the family that doesn't understand the appeal of those five hour long games you play".

Notable Gripes
While this game is light on strategy and requires player interaction, that is all the game is. As a result, I personally cannot play multiple rounds of it in a row without becoming incredibly bored. It is the type of game where playing it once in a while is good, but for me, even once a week I find boring - the mind starts to wander and I would rather play other games with more strategy involved.

There is not much to decide in this game. True, you make trades and decide what type of beans you are going to plant, but I find that those choices are somewhat limiting. I will not say that there aren't consequences and that there's not strategy involved; it's just that the strategy is very light compared to something like Power Grid or Samurai. That's not a bad thing for everyone, but I prefer to have some more strategic meat on the bones.

Summary
This game is a very social game; light on strategy and heavy on player interaction. When you combine that with the fact that it travels well and is easy to explain, I think it is a good game to have in my collection. However, as I said in the previous section, I could not play this game more than a couple of times in a night (or even a week) without becoming bored of it. I would much rather delve into something else that requires more thought and decision-making. It serves wonderfully as a family-friendly game or a game for people who don't want to spend long periods of time calculating the most favorable move and consequences therein. It does work well as an introductory game to the world of gaming.
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Blorb Plorbst
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Bloomington
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I think we're all bozos on this bus.
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An excellent review of a game that doesn't seem to suited to your tastes.

I find Bohnanza to be full of strategy, but I consider relationship building, diplomacy, bluffing, haggling and negotiations to be strategic elements.

I love those elements -- they are truly the heart and soul of the game. It can be dead boring when people treat it as a social game and try to "be nice" and make sure everyone "has fun". Get a table full of cutthroats however and it can be a very tense game with great rewards for savvy play.
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Dylan Birtolo
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Thanks for the compliment, and I think you are right - it isn't the best game for me. I still think it is a great game for what it is, but not everyone is going to like every game. I do enjoy having it around, but it takes a very specific group of people to enjoy it. When you have people trying to "be nice", I find it very frustrating.
 
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tom moughan
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ahh....I love the smell of a stack of sketchily placed animals in the morning!
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I have told people time and time again: There is no friends in gaming. There is no wife/husband in gaming.

For everything to hold true in terms of game experience, people must refrain from "being nice", unless its a coop game.

just my two cents. This holds true for many games including bohnanza to work.

 
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Dylan Birtolo
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lengthtoavoid wrote:
For everything to hold true in terms of game experience, people must refrain from "being nice", unless its a coop game.


Heh - the last time I played this game, we had one player who on the VERY last turn (looking at the deck we knew her trading phase was the last turn), she wanted to give a bean away to someone for free because it would give the other player a gold. Four of the people at the table jumped on her "Why would you do that?! That makes no sense." etc. Eventually she decided she still wanted to do it just because it got a reaction out of people. But, the person she was trying to give it to is a die hard gamer and wouldn't accept it because it didn't make any sense.

I've told people many times - I may dislike you during a game and hate some of the things you do and try to sabotage you - but it's in the game. Alliances are temporary at best, and need to be reset every game.
 
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Aaron
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EyesOfWolf wrote:
Fun Factor: (very group dependent)


Very true. Ive had some groups that would make this game 10 stars and others that make me want to throw it out. lol
 
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