Board Game: Homebrewers

I have a library full of games. At its height it contained almost 500 different ones, these days I brought it back to 217 games according to board game geek. Naturally I have several games about beer and once in a post I’d like to tell more about one of them. This time it’s time for:

Homebrewers.

According to the box, Homebrewers is an engine-building and dice-trading game. Your dice represent the actions you can take, such as buying ingredients, participating in monthly events, adding flavors to your recipes, and of course, brewing beer! It is a game for 2 to 5 players and should be playable within an hour. The game is designed for 3 to 5 players, so when you play with 2, you need to adjust a bit with the help of Charlie. The adjustment are very minimal though. It is moderately complex, about the same category as The Taverns of Tiefenthal. It is designed by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset. Ben Rosset also designed Brew Crafters. This game is moderately heavy, not due to the amount of rules, but because it is a very strategic game.

Homebrewers comes in a heavy and well filled box full of all kinds of very fun and interesting looking game pieces. The most remarkable pieces are the playing pieces in the shape of beer glasses and the custom dice. All the pieces are sturdy and well done and the artwork is pretty nice. The most important pieces for the game are the 54 flavour cards that come in three categories: dessert, fruity and savory. The game has a basic version, where everyone has the same garage, and an advanced version, where everyone is a specific brewer with their own equipment. I will take the base game to talk about.

The first thing that pops out to me is that this game is the first beer board game I encountered that pays attention to the most important part of brewing: The cleaning! I played several games about the brewing process and never once did they mention cleaning. Ok, it is still a small part in this game, but it is relative to the rest of the gameplay, so it fits perfectly storywise.

The story of this game is that you just started as a homebrewer and joined a homebrewers club. The club is all about the friendly competition, so once in a while you all compare and score your beers. Every month for eight months you try to brew the highest quality beers and in june and october you will compare. In october a jury will also judge your beers on flavours. The preferences of the jury will be revealed at the beginning of the game, so you know what to work towards to. You will brew four different beers, which you can adjust everytime a bit and brew over and over if you want to. The four types are an ale, porter, stout and IPA, and you can make them your own by adding the abovementioned flavour cards. You will get reputation points for the quality of your beer and from the judges for the right flavour combinations. The player with the highest reputation, wins the game.

Every one of the eight rounds has two phases: The club meeting and the weekend activities. The club meeting is the trading phase, the weekend activities is the action phase. The whole game is about the five actions you can find on the dice and two other actions you can do. The five dice actions are:

  • Cleaning;
  • Performing the event of the month action;
  • Taking grains (which is synonym to all the ingredients you need for the beer);
  • Doing an action with a flavour card;
  • Brewing a beer.

The other actions you can do is buying another action and gain money.

At the beginning of the game, every player received three dice. Before the first phase, the club meeting, everyone rolls their dice. Then at the club meeting you can exchange dice with each other until you have the three actions you want to use in the next phase. If you have money, you can also pay to change a face of a die. If you have three the same dice faces, you may reroll all your dice, even if you gained the same faces after exchanging with other players first.

In the second phase you start the brewing and you do the activities on your dice. You can do them in any order you want. if you choose to not use a die, you get two dollars instead. For three dollars you can buy an extra fourth action, and you definitely want to do that as much as possible. If you have rolled the flavour card action, you have to choose on of three actions: take a new flavour card from the deck or flavour display, discard a flavour for the special action (which is mostly a stronger version of the abovementioned actions) or add a flavour to one of your beers. Once you have added a flavour to a beer, it stays in that beer. Flavours in the beer give you bonuses when you brew a beer. When you brew a beer you go up on the quality track of that beer and some spaces on that track give you bonuses as well.

At the end of the june round you compete on the quality of each of your beers. The first and second place gain reputation points. In october you gain these points as well and extra points from the judges for your combinations of flavour cards. The player with the most points, wins the game.

If you want to make the game more interesting, you can add the characters and their unique breweries and hygiene regimes.

Thanks to the limited amount of actions the game is pretty easy to learn, but due to the strategic nature of the game it can become quite complex to play. Homebrewers is strategic, because even though there are dice involved and there is some randomness with the flavour cards, you can pretty much decide how you want to play beforehand and the luck in the game is limited because of the trade phase. The amount of actions you have is limited as well, so you really want to have enough money to buy that fourth action every month.

I am more of a tactic than strategic player normally, easier to adapt during the game, then to think of a plan beforehand, but I really like this game. You can work towards a clear goal and all the actions work pretty well storywise. That said, this game is not for everyone. The limited amount of actions combined with everything you want to do, can make you feel rushed and it can be disappointing if you cannot succesfully finish your plans. And it is a thinker where you try to optimise your play. Like chess. It is still very accessible for beginning players because of the clear and easy rules. It also helps that it really plays within an hour, so you can easily play again the same night if you want to.

If you were looking for adventure or story-telling though, then this is not the game for you, but the theme comes out really well. The mechanisms fit the theme as well as the rush and timing. If you think you are going to brew a lot of beers, think again. You don’t have the time, you need to clean and shop for new ingredients as well. So really concentrate on what you really want to do and brew. That said, you can really experiment with the flavour combinations. Although, I don’t think I want to ever taste my raspberry, clove and milk ale.

What is the weirdest beer you ever brew?

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