I have a library full of games. At its height it contained almost 500 different ones, these days I brought it back to 225 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 another travel sized game:
Microbrew is a medium-weight worker placement and puzzle game. Before you start playing this game, beware: The way the theme is pasted on this game is a bit confusing, better to lock away all your brewing and beer knowledge before you even start to read the rulebook. That said, the combination of a puzzle and a bit of worker placement, a bit of time management and a bit of an economic game is intriguing. And it’s also nice that it’s such a portable game. You could even play it on an airplane.
Microbrew is a game for 1 to 2 players, up to 4 when you have two games, and it takes about an hour to play. You are leader of your brewing team and try to gain as much loyal customers as you can. You do this by brewing and selling them just that beer they love and want.
Normally in a worker placement, spaces get blocked out when your opponent gets there first. This game uses the Charterstone approach: You only have two workers and you have to skip a turn to get them back once you used them. But when an opponent wants to use a space your worker is on, then you get that worker back without skipping that turn. In the worker placement part of this game you can mash, flush, brew, bottle, manage, advertise, serve or take a break.
The brewing is the puzzle part of the game. You have to change the spaces of your malts and hops in such a way that a column has exactly the ingredients you need for your next beer to bottle. If it doesn’t match, you can still bottle, but your beer gets contaminated. In this game, ALL hops contaminate your beers, so that’s why you need to flush them out once in a while.
Bottled beers ferment at the end of every and everyones turn. A beer take four turns to ferment, by taking of an ingredient every turn. A non-matching token goes to the contaminant area, but that area can only have one token.
You gain money by selling the beers. If the beer is perfect for a customer you gain that customer as a loyal customer, otherwise you only get their money, which is handy as well as you need it for advertising and management.
There’s also a brewmaster in the brewery, but most of the time he’s basically just in your way.
What I really like about this game that it has a puzzle in it, that feels a bit like a 7th guest puzzle: the brewing. The malts kan only move a certain way and you may only move one malt in one brewing action. Since they switch places, you really need to think ahead, not only for the next beer, but for the beer after that as well. I also like the Charterstone approach of a worker placement, which gives benefits to your opponents instead of locking you out of already scarce opportunities.
I’m a bit confused though by the hops being contaminants, the fermenting on bottle only process, the master brewer being a nuisance and some of the really weird recipe/beer style combinations, but it works for the game.
What I also really like is the portability of the game. It’s designed in a tin games contest (games that fit in a mint tin) and they kickstarted it afterwards. The downside of the kickstarter is that it came with so many extras, that it didn’t really fit into the tin anymore, so now I have a big with overfluent components. That said, the beer mats are a nice touch as is the use of the tin during the game as well.
Would I recommend this game? As a game yes, as a travel game, certainly, as a beer game, not that sure. I’m normally not in the that’s-just-a-pasted-on-theme-camp when the game is good in itself, but I do feel that games like Brew Crafters work particularly well, because your actions are logical within the theme. And here it’s sometimes contra-intuitive, and that irks me.
Would you still play a game, with a theme that has been stretched to fit the gameplay?