I have a library full of games. At it height it contained almost 500 different ones, these days I brought it back to 225 games according to board game geek, although that’s probably including a lot of expansions. Naturally I have several games about beer and once in a post I’d like to tell more about one of them. Today I want to tell you about the most complex one:
Brew crafters is a so-called euro game for 2 to 5 players, developed in 2013 by Dice Hate Me Games. I’m not going to digress into the discussion of Ameritrash versus Euro Games, but lets just say the former is more about dice and luck, the latter more thinky. In Brew Crafters you manage a craft beer brewery start-up and over the course of three years you try to build a solid reputation by brewing (different) beers, development of new technics and expansion of your brewery. There are several ways to build that reputation, but you get the best results by dividing your focus a bit, not neglect one or more of the aspects too much and try to optimize your bottling empire. The game has several playing difficulty levels: you can expand the market with new options (like interns), use the expert laboratory, use more difficult beer recipes and more. But let’s just stick to the base game for now.
In a turn you go to the market first. There you can buy raw materials, hire crew (specialty workers and brewery workers/shifts) and start a collaboration with local farms. Be sure to be there first though, or else other players might have bought it all already. Second you commence your work in the brewery. You have one shift at the start of the game, so you have to choose between brewing a beer, expanding your brewery or working (advance) in the lab.
- Brewing a beer consists of three phases: brewing, bottling, selling. When you have a brewpub, you can skip the bottling phase. These phases all happen at once, but there can be only one batch of beer at a time at a certain phase. To brew a beer you have to pay the ingredients. These are divided in basic ingredients (malt, hops, yeast) and advanced ingredients (fruit, spices, coffee). When you play with 3 or more players you can also collaborate with other players
- You can expand your brewery with an extra storehouse, a mash tun, an oak barrelhouse, a yeast lab, a hop infuser, a tour & tasting room, a brew pub, a farm and a double processing system. You can’t have them all though. You don’t have enough time.
- In the lab you can advance your skills and knowledge in the base game on basic ingredients, operations, brewing and advanced ingredients. This gives you some bonuses throughout the game
At the end of the year you have to pay the costs of your workers and your brewery. When you can’t, you get a loan which you can’t get rid off and is worth -2 reputation points.
You earn reputation points by selling a batch (you also get 2 dollars per batch), building certain expansions to your brewery, hiring certain specialty workers, reaching game end research in the laboratory and collaborations with other breweries. You get bonus reputation points when you are the first to brew a certain advanced beer recipe. You have to start with the basic recipes first though.
The game is a really thinky one. It gets a complexity rating of 3.56 on a scale of 5 on Board Game Geek. People tend to compare it to Agricola. I think the game is less harsh and tight than Agricola though, and it feels more logical to me, but maybe that’s because of the theme (Agricola is about building and expanding your farm and family). Brew crafters is a strategic, economic worker placement game in which you have to make hard choices all the time and you never have time enough. Am I going to spend my precious time on expanding my brewery, on brewing a beer or on lab research? And what should I do first? Is it still useful to start a farm in year two or should I have done that in the first round of the first year? Is it a waste of time to still build that barrelhouse in year three. I also have to brew and quickly so I can hire more workers an build my reputation. You can choose to neglect some aspects. It won’t set you back at the end of the game, like Agricola does, but it does slow down the building of a reputation.
As a brewer or beer geek you might find some weird kinks in the process, but all in all I think the game tells the story of a brewery start-up pretty well within the gamy confines. All steps have their place in the game ánd in the theme and the theme doesn’t feel pasted on. I like the artwork. The player boards might have been a bit bigger, although you already need a big table to play this game. You can upgrade the resources, but the cubes fit nicely in the storage rooms, so I will not do that for this game. I might upgrade the workers and shifts some time though.
It’s not a game for everyone. If you are not a gamer or don’t know anything about games beyond Monopoly and Risk, I cannot recommend this game. I can recommend its little brother, the card game (Which I wanted to write about first, but I forgot that I left it at Maurus’ place), which is easier, but still has the same feel. If you like Risk, Arkham Horror, Perudo or Dungeon Crawlers, you might find this game a bit dry. If you are looking for a step up from Catan and Carcassonne, you might want to try Puerto Rico and Power grid first and then try Brew Crafters. If you like Dungeon Lords,Terra Mystica, Through the Ages (ok, ok, and Agricola and Caverna) and are looking for a similarily complex game with a beery theme, this is your game!
Out of the beery games I have, I like this one the most. It doesn’t get a lot of playtime though, because it’s hard to find opponents for this game. Are you interested to play this game with me? Let me know!
Which beery game do you like?