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Subject: Jeremy Avery: "There's a tear in my beer" rss

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Jeremy Avery
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Since discovering Euro games several years ago, one of my favorite designers has been none other than Franz-Benno Delonge. True, he's only had a few games published so far, but I count three of his games, Hellas, Dos Rios, and Big City, amongst my favorites. So when I first came across of this business game with an Oktoberfest type theme, I thought this would be another personal favorite.


Image uploaded by Luke the Flaming

At first glance
If first impressions count for anything, this game has a lot going for it. The graphic design is second to none with a lush palette used to full effect depicting a small village setting with 6 pubs sharing a common patio area, with tables evenly spaced throughout, and four breweries sit on the outside corners of the board. The game comes with some cardboard chits and a pile of wooden bits, and has the parakeet in all of us chirping with joy. The only visual blight would be the rather drab paper money. (Nobody's perfect!)


Image uploaded by l10n0fjudah

The ruleset
My first hint that something was wrong, was when I tried to learn the game from the rules. And read them...and re-read them...then re- read them again. The rules are not all that complicated but they are rather poorly translated, with very poor wording, and will have even experienced game players like myself bewildered. (There are several errors in the rules that are clarified here on the Geek.) Nevertheless, I did eventually figure out how to play (though to this day, I am not sure if I have played all the rules correctly...)

In the beginning, each player is given some starting "stocks". These stocks are in either the pubs, or the breweries. Any time during the game that a player chooses to lay down a stock card, they are then able to place a cube onto that business denoting part ownership. But players can also hold the stocks in their hand to keep them secret, saving them for later on as a part of takeover strategy. One way or the other, players are trying to gain control of the valuable businesses on the board, helping to expand business for the businesses that they have the greatest control in.

Game play
As for actual gameplay itself, it is very simple, and somewhat similar to Basari, for those of you who have played that game. Each player holds a set of three identical cards in their hand, each one depicting a different action. Players secretly choose an action, then reveal it for all to see. The 3 possible actions are:


Image uploaded by margaretha

1. Expand a beer garden. If a player is the Manager of a pub, he may expand its seating area by one space. If a player is the only person to choose this action, he may expand two spaces. Since each table is worth another $4 (some tables are even worth $8), expanding each of the pubs is the way more money is brought into the game.

2. Take Control/Switch Suppliers. If a player is a Manager of a pub AND of any brewery, he may switch supplier, taking in beer from any one brewery that he is the Manager of, and supplying it to any one pub that he is the Manager of. Since breweries make more money by supplying bigger pubs, this is a hotly contested part of the game as well. If a player wants to gain control of Management at a business, he must be able to survive any challenges from the stockholders, basically any objections from the player/s who have the absolute majority of stock. If a player is the only person to choose this action, he may do it twice.

3. Buy Stock. Two stocks are always visible each round, and players may opt to take the visible stock, or from the top of the draw pile. This is done in turn order, so if 3 or 4 players choose this action, several of them may have to draw blindly. Not only can stocks be acquired for all the businesses, but players might also draw the Pretty Waitress card, or the Drunken Fool card. These 2 cards allow for the relocation of each of the figures, with the Waitress worth an extra $20 to a pub, and the Drunk levelling a $12 penalty on a pub. The fewer players who choose this action, the cheaper stock gets!


Image uploaded by dan4th

The game takes place over three "weeks" with each weeks divided into 7 "days". Each day, all the players choose an action, reveal it, resolve it. At the end of each week, money is paid out. At the end of 3 weeks, most money wins.

The problem
Pretty simply right? Hmmm....yes, I suppose it is. And that may be part of the problem. On one hand, this game would appear to be a neat game of stealing away leads, shoring up successful businesses and the like. But two problems were present in my first playing, and they reappeared in all subsequent playings as well. First off, with only 6 stocks available for each business, gaining and losing control can often come down to one stock card. If you can't get the card you need, either because of turn order or luck of the draw, you are in big trouble. This game may have been better with more stock available (see Union Pacific). Secondly (and very closely related to the "Firstly"), luck of the draw is HUGE in this game. Since one card can make or break ownership or management of a huge pub, the luck of the draw is that much more magnified.

The other side of my problems with the game have to do with mechanical cohesion (the way the parts of the game fit together). There are a lot of clever things going on here: simultaneous action selection, stock competition, business expansion, anticipating turn order, etc. The problem is that, despite how much I enjoy all of the above, they don't seem to cohere well together in this game. Upon reading the rules, you'd think there was some interesting decisions to make, but the short supply of stock and the luck of the draw make for an unhappy synthesis.


Image uploaded by CharlieWonka

Yeah or nay?
Goldbrau is a little too dry for casual gamers to enjoy (and the payouts are VERY fiddly), and likely much too chaotic for serious gamers to enjoy. Which seems a waste considering the interesting idea at the core of the game. Mr. Delonge rarely disappoints me, and I feel like with a couple small changes, this game might have been a very solid game, but sadly, as is, I simply don't get much enjoyment out of it, and most of the people who've played it fall into that category as well.
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Henrik Lantz
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Nice review. In case you didn't know, Mr. Delonge died in 2007. If I remember correctly it was due to cancer. He will be missed, such a great designer (even if Goldbraü wasn't perhaps his best and brightest moment).
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Jeremy Avery
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I did not know of Herr Delonge's passing. Sad news for the game world indeed. He designed some truly interesting and enjoyable games.
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Henrik Lantz
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I am enjoying Manila a lot myself. I can really recommend it as a lighter game which is a lot of fun and also really beautiful. I would love to try Dos Rios or Big City one day.
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Jeremy Avery
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I think that Manila is one of the most fun gambling-mechnic games I have ever played and it looks gorgeous. Choosing which jobs to take is a neat exercise in tough decisions.

Big City is eye candy, and does a great job of moxing a Sim City-ish experience with spacial sequencing (if that is the right term!)

Dos Rios is (in my opinion) sorely underappreciated. It is far from the best game ever, but is a very cool game with some neat ideas and cool meeple.
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John Rogers
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I believe that Franz is one of the most underrated game designers here on the geek. None of his games are in the top 200 and only two of his games (Container and Manila) have an average rating above a 7.

He made solid games that consistently walked the tight rope of length to depth ratio, a major problem among most other designers.

I own five of his games including Container, Big City, Manila, Goldbrau, and Dos Rios. With the exception of Container (which I give a 10) and Dos Rios (which I haven't played yet) I give each of his games at least a 7.





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Claudio
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I thumbed this review for being thoughtful, but I happen to hold a contrary opinion. I think this is a great light shareholding game and, with four, it beats Acquire. The luck is signficant, but this just gives it it's lightness. If you want no luck, go with something like Chicago Express for shareholding shennanigans.

And the luck can certainly be managed, particularly since to protect a boss you need a clear majority. This means that bosses are tough to defend, making the simultaneous action selection very meaningful in the end game - particularly when blind shares are crap since they're likely to end up as singletons.

Overall, there is a lot more control in this game than a lot of folks give it credit for. It is more about what actions are worth to different people. Opportunity costs can be huge. Owning shares is great, but paying too much for them is a really big problem. Being certain of boss control is great, but it is almost impossible - you need four shares in most cases, three if there is a singleton (poor guy). Having four shares means a) you have no partners to help you expand, b) you probably paid a lot for them, and c) you don't have control over other businesses, which you need to have boss control to change beer brands and have any sort of control over incomes in the last dividend.

I think one thing that people miss in this game is that shares aren't that great if you buy them at 8. And when you consider that players will likely have to pay 8 for a share if it is very desireable - well, what does a company need to be worth to pay back on that? For example, if you own two shares already in a beer garden that has two other shares out, that garden needs to have ten spaces just to pay back in the last dividend - or five to pay back in two. (Umbrellas count as two spaces.) So really, you're fighting for boss control. Or you can let someone else have it - maybe even someone who risks losing their investment by having a singleton whacked when the sixth one comes out.


As for fiddliness, it can be streamlined considerably. I would definitely recommend a) not playing with three (not that you did; just a general note), b) play with poker chips, c) have one person do the value count for each beer garden with another player splitting the money 'here and here', d) have the boss of each business determine the share value, pay out the shares of the opponents, then just keep the rest - boss issue solved, e) play with open money; it is just as fun, but players will know who they are gunning for - no big end-of-game surprises for the memory-deficient.
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Claudio
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John Rogers wrote:

I believe that Franz is one of the most underrated game designers here on the geek. None of his games are in the top 200 and only two of his games (Container and Manila) have an average rating above a 7.


100% concur. Container - favorite heavy game - super emergent. Manila - favorite 'gambling' game with a great shareholding twist. TransAmerica - favorite filler - much more subtle (and less about luck of the draw) than many gamers give it credit for. Golbrau - favorite light shareholding game. Can't wait to play Big City. Thinking about trading for Dos Rios without even playing it.
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Fraser
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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familygaming wrote:
... when I heard of a new business game with an Oktoberfest type theme
New???

Is shipping to Canada even slower than to Australia these days?

This game is five years old, so hardly new. I see the similarities to Basari, but much prefer Goldbräu. Basari uses a stick against people who choose the same thing, where as Goldbräu rewards the person who chose individually. This is why I would like to play Goldbräu again but could not say the same for Basari.

I certainly agree the money payout is fiddly!
 
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Jeremy Avery
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Karlsen wrote:
familygaming wrote:
... when I heard of a new business game with an Oktoberfest type theme
New???

Is shipping to Canada even slower than to Australia these days?

This game is five years old, so hardly new.


My first playing was about a month after it came out; I posted a review recently. No contradiction. (But I edited the wording just to make it less ambiguous.) Counter-
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