“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin
Beer is defined as “an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt flavoured with hops,” but to those who enjoy the beverage, it is so much more. The multitudes of flavours, aromas, and characteristics that beer can employ serve to endear it to its loyal followers as well as make it one of the most popular drinks around the world. I come from a Scottish heritage and have married into a German background, so beer has been a staple in both of my cultures for as long as I can remember.
Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game, is a game for 2-4 players that involves becoming a brewery owner and trying to gain the most reputation in the wide world of beer brewing. If you enjoy card games and beer, then this is one you need to take a look at!
How to Play
The object of Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game, is to build a brewery and brew your beer. You need to be the one who scores the most reputation (victory points) in order to win.
The game is played out in a series of turns, and each of these turns contains two steps. Step one involves drawing two cards. They may be from the five face up cards or from the top of the deck. Step two is playing one of the cards from your hand, brewing a beer, or passing your turn. Playing a card from your hand to your brewery causes that card’s brewing effect to take place. Now whenever you brew a beer or take a certain action, the effect on that card comes into play. Some effects only come into effect at the end of the game during the scoring round. Brewing a beer involves playing the correct ingredients in order to brew one of the five types of beer available. This action will garner you reputation points.
The first player to 21 points will start the final round. This is where all the other players will finish up a last turn, ending with the player who triggered the round. Victory points are then tallied and additional points awarded for any end of game bonuses. The player with the most reputation wins!
Beguiling Brew Or Falling Flat?
When I first opened up and read the rules for this game, I was reminded of Ticket to Ride. It has a lot of the same elements, but eliminates the board aspect. You get the choose two cards from either the face up ones or from the deck and then make a choice of what you are going to play. Although the rules are fairly simplistic, the game has layers of strategy.
Which beer recipes you focus on can change your style of play. You can try for lots of the cheaper recipes that may be enhanced by who you hire or what equipment you build for your brewery. Or you can go for the more expensive beers that garner you a lot of victory points immediately. Both my opponent and I have employed one of these strategies, and depending on how the cards were played, they both were sound ways of defeating each other. I went for quantity and not quality, trying to brew as many cheaper beers as possible, while he went for the higher point-value beers. We each had equipment and workers that gained us additional points for the certain types of beers we were brewing. Luck did play into our strategies since the draw of the cards either helped or hindered us. Keeping that in mind, you may start off by following one strategy, but then you might have to adapt a new one if you aren’t getting the cards drawn that you needed.
Another strategy is to focus on the building of equipment and the hiring of workers. Focusing on your brewery is a viable strategy as long as you can get the certain cards that give you end game points depending on how many pieces you build and workers you hire. You won’t be forcing the end of the game with this strategy, but you may come out ahead when all the points are tallied up.
Obviously you can also choose to do a combination of the two. Working on beers that your hired workers can help you with allows you to gain advantages from your equipment. However, with this strategy, you also must be aware of what resources you are using up in your builds/hires. There are only four coffee beans and fruits in the game, and if you happen to use one of them as a building or worker instead of a resource, then that special reserve you may have been saving up for will be lost to you.
This balancing act that you are constantly in with your strategic choices gives this game a lot of depth. You are kept on your toes by your opponents’ choices, and you have to plan for the future while also being flexible enough to change those choices in order to be competitive. For such a simple and quick game, there is a surprising amount of thinking and planning involved.
The mixture of the quick play time and the interesting choices that can be made is what makes this game fun. It is easy to set up and get going right out of the box. It is the perfect beer and pretzels game (pardon the pun). You can easily play it at the pub while finishing off a nice cold pint. I would even venture as far to put it in the same category as Love Letter, but there is definitely more strategy and intrigue going on with Brew Crafters than with that game.
Thematically, this game comes up a bit short. My opponent and I are big fans of beer and home brewing, so this seemed right up both of our alleys. However, I didn’t feel as though I was playing as the owner of a brewery and in charge of monitoring its operation. I enjoyed the different equipment choices (which were thematic), as well as the workers you can hire (also thematic), but it wasn’t enough to immerse me in the game’s theme. Although the strategy is great fun, I felt as though it could have been pretty much any theme slapped on it and it wouldn’t have changed how I played. The fact that you can either use equipment or workers or their resources made sense, but not thematically. I felt weird using a brew master for yeast. It was hard to look at the card and say, “That is not a person; it is a resource.” I understand how and why it was designed that way, but it just took me out of the moment theme wise.
I always love when a game includes a personal reference card. I usually know how the game works and what the rules are, but having that card next you allows you to not have to remember everything. I am sure I would go nuts if I had to just know which ingredients make which beers. It also gives you a breakdown of how many of each ingredient is in the deck. Since planning out your strategy may be dependent on how many fruit cards you own, it is good to know that there are only four out there so you can avoid building that Oak Barrelhouse and instead use it for your brew.
The game’s compactness is fantastic. It is one I can throw in my purse and have on me whenever I go out, just in case a chance for a game comes up. It also has a very small footprint on the table, which is advantageous. The cards themselves are sturdy enough and they don’t feel like they will bend easily. They shuffle well but are a bit on the shiny side. If you have a direct light on them, they will be difficult to see. Overall the artwork on the cards is a bit bland. It is a picture either of the person or of the piece of equipment and then a small picture of the resource in the corner. Use of the space on the card is well executed though, and I could always read all of the text and see what I needed to easily.
Tiny poker chips are the only other physical components that come in the box. You use them to track your reputation points. Even though I like the chips themselves, I found them a bit large for that particular job. They are also opaque, so you cannot see the number underneath them. I felt as though clear plastic disks would have been a better option. The chips don’t offer anything to the game thematically, so the substitute would have been an easy one.
Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game is excellent. It is extremely entertaining and has a wonderful depth of strategy for its amount of play time. You can play it over and over again without getting bored, and the quick gameplay also means that back-to-back games won’t take all night long. The only downsides I found were that the theme was a bit lacking and I would have changed the reputation points markers. But these are relatively minor complaints. The sheer amount of strategy you get more than outweighs any shortfalls. My opponent and I had such a blast with this game, and I can see it making its way into our regular rotation easily. Playing this game has also made me want to try out its big brother, Brew Crafters.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Dice Hate Me Games for providing a review copy of Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game.