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VivaJava: The Coffee Game» Forums » Sessions

Subject: RalphTheSquirrel's VivaJava Demo At GenCon! rss

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Ed P Marriott
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I had the opportunity at GenCon to demo the upcoming game VivaJava from Dice Hate Me games. This session is my review of the game. Enjoy!



##### VivaJava: The Coffee Game - 8/17/12 #####

Details:
- 6 player demo
- Taught directly by Chris from Dice Hate Me... Thanks Chris!

Let the Playing begin!:

We had six players during this demo. Three of them were attending GenCon with me and the other two were just excited to demo VivaJava. The game can play up to 8 players, which is totally awesome. I have a board game group where we regularly have 6-8 people during our BGN+ (board game nights where the plus stands for beer, cheese, and peanut butter M&Ms). So a game that can handle 8 means we won't have to play so much Robo Rally!

Game Overview:

In VivaJava players are working for the same company trying to develop the best coffee blends. However, players are working also for themselves trying to blend the best coffee to become the best employee. You win by earning points and you earn points by blending the best coffee or investing in the best coffee.

Each player has a player mat on which they can improve their capabilities via research. These capabilities allow them to harvest more beans, earn investment tokens that they can use to invest in other blends, and other things. These capabilities play a considerable role in the game. When you see other players taking extra beans you get a feeling that you are falling behind. Okay... how do you upgrade your capabilities? You do so by choosing the "Research" option when you are deciding whether to blend or research.

Okay, what about the board? VivaJava comes with two main boards. One board acts as a best-sellers list of the current 5 best blends as well as a scoreboard. The other board represents the countries where beans can be obtained. This second board also holds the upcoming coffee slates that are available for blending. On the second board there is a map and certain tokens that either provide a positive or negative benefit are located on 9 different spots across the map. Beans are also placed on those spots based on the coffee slate above that region of the map. There is a lot of strategy going on here. Players will want certain beans. But players must deal with the positive or negative effect of the token in the spot where their desired bean is located. I love this part of the game. There is such a perfect feel for trying to get the best bean versus avoiding the negative effects of the tokens.

How to Play:

The game is played until players reach a game-end trigger. One trigger is when someone gets to 21 points. Another is when there are not enough coffee slates to fill out the map board. In a round players will place their pawn on the map board in turn order and gather a bean. Beans are placed into a sack, which is referred to as your "roaster." Once all players have placed their pawns, then things really get exciting. You have to decide with the other players who placed in your region whether you want to blend or research. Let me explain...

If Player A and Player B are in the same region, then collectively they can decide to blend the coffee slate above that region or they can decide to research. If players decide to research then they get three research points and move their indicators up on their player mats. If players choose to blend, then they will pull beans out of their roasters and put them onto the coffee slate. The goal here is to be able to blend the best coffee in sort of a poker hand style. The best blend would be 5 of a kind (i.e., 5 black beans). The next best would be a blend with four of a kind. Each blend requires 5 beans, so players can discuss how best to pull beans from their roasters before starting to blend. Each player in that region must contribute at least 1 bean. This is such a great mechanic where you are playing semi-cooperatively throughout the game, but you are doing so with different players throughout the game. There is a great balance of cooperativeness to try and get the best blend as a two or three person team and the competitiveness of trying to be the one player who can be part of the most high-scoring blends.

Once all the teams have blended, then the new blends are placed along the first game board in order of their poker hand type ranking. The best blend on the board will yield 3 points to each player involved with that blend. The second and third best blends will yield 2 points, and the 4th and 5th best will yield 1 point. Those points are earned at the end of every round during which that blend stays out there. Now, here's the kicker... after each round all blends will decay (not sure decay is the right word here). Decaying means each blend will lose its worst bean. So if a blend was 5-of-a-kind, then after it loses a bean it will drop to being a 4-of-a-kind. So each round those blends are getting slightly worse until they are just no good and they drop out of the scoring.

What I liked:

Artwork - The artwork is truly awesome for this game. It really makes you feel like drinking a coffee while you play (in fact, two of the guys in my group who were demoing got coffee just for the demo!). The artwork fits amazingly well with the theme. Everything from an artwork perspective made sense and added to the playing experience. Just take a look!



Semi-Cooperative - The fact that you are playing for yourself overall in the game while having to play cooperatively in each round of the game makes VivaJava totally awesome. I am typically not a fan of cooperative games (because I like to be competitive with other players and often coop games are one person deciding everything for the team. blah.). However, this semi-coop mechanic was fantastic. There are times when you will specifically try to work with someone because you know they have good beans. And there are times you will try to avoid working with someone because they have a crappy mix of beans. There is so much strategy here.

Strategy - speaking of strategy... I think this game is very deep without playing like a deep, AP-inducing game. So much strategic thought has to go into decisions like choosing where to place your pawn, choosing whom to work with, choosing what category to research, choosing how to pull the beans from the roasters, and on and on. This level of strategy was absolutely perfect. (Can you get the feeling that I approve of this game?)

What I Didn't Like:

I usually include something in this category for the sake of fairness, but all I could think of that I didn't like was that this game was not available for purchase at GenCon. It was available for pre-ordering, but that doesn't give that sense of fulfillment you get from walking away from a booth with a new game. We ordered a copy as a group and I personally cannot wait for it to arrive!

Overall Rating:

This game was fantastic and I know that it will make the table many times. It plays quickly for the number of players. The gameplay flows really well. It is simple enough that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to teach it or understand it. Yet, the strategy is deep enough for a rocket scientist to enjoy it! Congrats to the designer (T.C. Petty III) and to Chris from Dice Hate Me Games for publishing. You guys really knocked it out of the park. I am going to rate this game at 9 out of 10 (but definitely closer to a 10 than an 8). This game is great and I recommend it highly! Thanks for reading.



~ Ralph
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Dice Hate Me
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Fantastic overview, Ed - thanks for sharing your experience! The game you guys played was great, and a heckuva lot of fun. Thanks for the support, and hopefully we can get VivaJava out to you really soon!

Cheers,
Chris
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David Valadez
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What booth was this in? This was one of the games I wanted to try, but I never found the booth.
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Dice Hate Me
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sputang wrote:
What booth was this in? This was one of the games I wanted to try, but I never found the booth.


David,

Unfortunately, there was not enough room in the Game Salute booth for open demos of VivaJava so we had to stick to the scheduled event demos in Event Hall E. We ran about 7 throughout GenCon. I'm sorry you missed it!

Cheers,
Chris
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Jeremy Van Maanen
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I was also a part of this session and wanted to throw in my two cents about what I liked and didn't like.

The Good:
Choices - I love the choices you have in this game and none of them seem paralyzing.
- When sending your worker out into the world - which bean type do you want, what is the effect of the token, and who else is in that region and would you want to blend with them.
- When blending, how many of your beans do you want to use and how many should you force your parter(s) to use.
- If you have one of the tokens that allows you to join someone elses blend for free when should you use it?
- If you are creating a blend and someone plays a mooch token on your blend should you make a bad blend on purpose?
- One thing not mentioned above is that you can use points to research. So is it worth taking a hit on points to research a new ability? Maybe it's worth spending some points to move down in player order.
Interaction - Once the game gets going and roasters are filling and people are blending there is a lot of talking and proposals flying around the table. I'd also like to point out that this game isn't necessarily semi-cooperative either. It's up to you if you want to cooperate or mess with your partners. devil
Replay-ability - Because of the choices and interaction mentioned above and the random placement of tokens and order the blends come out it would be difficult to play a game the same way if you tried.
Artwork - As mentioned above, this is top notch. Clear icons, understandable boards, and plenty of flavor - no pun intended.

The Other:
Scalability - As mentioned, one of the highlights of this game is the interaction so I'm not sure it would play as well with fewer people. I'd be interested to hear others' opinion on this. However, I have no shortage of games that play well with fewer players so this doesn't bother me at all if it turns out to be the case.
Player aid - There are a series of steps that you go through each round and when learning the game it was difficult to remember if we had forgotten something (we forgot to degrade the existing blends a couple of times). Chris said he had plans to create something for this that I think will be available online. He also said the rules had the sequence (which we didn't have on the table) so I don't think this is a real issue either.

All in all it looks like a great game that will compete with 7 Wonders for table time given the relatively short play time and supporting a large number of players. I'm really looking forward to getting my copy in the mail.

Thanks for the demo Chris!

Jeremy
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Jeremy,

Thanks so much for the great points on play - I'm really glad you guys enjoyed the game! It was a really fun demo, and certainly one of the best of the con.

After lots of demos and requests, I am definitely going to create a smallish sequence of play aid for people to download from dicehatemegames.com. I'll also be sure to upload it to the files section here on BGG for easy reference.

Cheers,
Chris
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Doug Snyder
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My wife and I also played a session taught by Dan Yarris. Chris watched over the game and gave pointers as we played. We later ran into Chris at the Game Salute booth and Chris was kind enough to give me some tips on how to get a game I am working on adequate play testing.

Both Chris and Dan were great and we loved Viva Java - our overall favorite at GenCon. Can't wait for it to be available in the stores and if you don't add this one to your collection you are missing out.

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Dan Patriss
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I had a great time with all the players we got to demo with. Everyone truly seemed to love all the interaction and,everyone grasped it extremely quickly and no one seemed to get super upset when their beans got stolen. (A tactic a certain someone used just about every turn in one game we played! I didn't even know someone could get that space so much!)

It was an honor to help out both Chris and Game Salute and even bigger honor to meet/spend some time with/talk to such great players/people.

Hope to see everyone again next year.

--Dan

(Doug it's Patriss, but I won't hold it against you, I'm not as memorable as the samba momma brew!)
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TC Petty III
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Thanks for demoing, Dan. I was confused when I saw Yarris, but I figured maybe it was some other Dan stepping in. Everybody's so awesome and helpful it's crazy, so to all Dans in the world, thanks.

I'm just glad all the demos seemed to go so well and really bummed that I missed out!
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Doug Snyder
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Sorry Dan - but at least I get credit for having 5 letters of your last name correct. modest I still stand by my memory of the session - you did a great job and the game is thoroughly enjoyable.
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