Ok, so maybe not a dream game but a pretty decent worker-placement action-management game. I watched playthroughs of this some time ago and since I had #Heaven & Ale I never took the plunge on #Brew Crafters as I generally try not to have several of the same styles of game around.
Turns out that Brew Crafters is closer to being like Dinosaur Island than Heaven & Ale. @cbrady748 secreted this as a hosting gift after I tried to amaze him with craft beers here in Denton. He's a tough critic to excite, but I loved the challenge and honestly, not many folks give me that much of a challenge. So cheers to you @cbrady748 and now let's dive into this game...
This was a fairly heavy box and the pieces are quite nice and the cardboard is thick and there are lots of fiddly bits to fiddle with. After reading through the rules I devised a storage strategy to ease setup. I think this game could fit on a standard card table but it does have a little bit of spread to it. Not as much as #Dinosaur Island thought which I appreciate, though the setup is likely about equal. Perhaps a little lower for Brew Crafters.
As a beer brewer and taster, I immediately noted that they really went all out on the different styles of beer or at least on the variability of the different beers. There are three standard beers players use in every game and about 13-16 other beers of which 6 with be chosen to use in any given game. The player boards are a starting standard brewery with basic equipment that can be upgraded through game actions to increase brewing capacity, storage, augment actions, and other tidbits directly related to brewing. Theme-wise this game is spot on. 10/10 on the theme.
Rules are decent and to so degree a bit shorter than I think some games might accomplish. That being said there are some bits that could be explained better and it seems like a bit more play-testing would have resulted in slightly smoother gameplay. I have only played one full play-through (messing up at least one rule) but found a forum on which a significant rule change is in the works for the 2nd edition (and should be). I'd give the rules 7/10.
I played the first game with the "starter" rules and in the second game am pulling out all the stops. The first game was a little slow without the bells and whistles that make the action selection much more variable and fun.
The action selection for the first phase of the game is immense as worker placement games go. There are more actions than #Paladins of the West Kingdom and I'd say the selections are somewhat like #Agricola in that there are spaces that build up resources, only one meeple can take each actions space, and some spaces are easily more powerful than others. Midgame the space selection can depend on what direction a player goes and a couple of spaces contain a tad of luck (but not too much). The first phase is more about brewing ingredients.
The second phase is more action selection but you start the game with only one worker to take phase two actions and have to brew at least three batches of beer before hiring a second shift worker. The spaces are fewer but there is no blocking during this second phase either. The second phase actions upgrade your brewery and brew beer primarily (only three to four actions this phase).
The game is divided into three "years" and each year has four "seasons" or rounds. Essentially there are 12 rounds in the game to brew all the beer you can. You score points for the beer your brewed (harder recipes score more points) and for reputation points earned during the game through various staff and equipment upgrades. Players lose points at the end of the game for any "loans" they took out. At the end of each year, players have to pay for the overhead of their brewery. The base board and starting shift-worker add up to $5-6 at the end of the first year and if any equipment or skilled workers are added the cost goes up by $1-2.
The game wants players to brew beer and rewards doing that early and often. Players can't brew advanced recipes until they brew a basic recipe of that style. The upgrading of brewing equipment follows a natural process and while you find yourself wanting all the equipment it's not easy as there is a decision tree players can upgrade as well but doing both is challenging and if player upgrade early through loans and such they can make more beer later but will have a lot of negative points at the end of the game to account for.
During my first playthrough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkZd50ZbaCQ , I tried to steer away from loans but have ignored them during the second run to see how the points play out. I had scores of 53-48 on the first play. Sadly there is not solo in the box though I will look for a solo variant on forums and may even try to create one if I get creative.
The gameplay needs to be tried with some other players to see how it feels overall but I feel it is fairly solid with one or two rule adjustments. The first player token is taken by a spot on the board but the same spot allows a player to take a local collaboration partner card and technically both local partner cards. I changed this to simply rotating turns and giving a bonus ingredient in a 4 and 5 player game as the 4th and 5th players get one less turn.
For now, I'm rating this game 8.75/10. I can see myself upgrading the ingredient cubes (the cubes are fine but it would be fun) and the first player token to a fancy beer token.
Have you played #Brew Crafters?
What do you think of this game and how the gameplay fits with the theme?
What is the best-themed game you've come across? #Firefly: The Game might be my first choice of a game that blends theme very well with the gameplay.