English language edition
List Price: $37.95
Regular Price: $30.35
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Seehausen am See. For many years, more and more people visit this idyllic village during the annual summer fest.
In these three weeks, the breweries and beer gardens in the village make more money than during the rest of the year. So, you and your opponents become hardened businessmen, who rush to Seehausen am See to invest in the businesses there with an eye toward the large profits that come during the festival.
During these three weeks each will invest in the businesses and try to get his people in management positions in the breweries and beer gardens where he owns stock. The players also work to increase the size of their favorite beer gardens so that they can earn more money.
In the end, it is not the size of the beer gardens or who is in charge, but the amount of money in the players' pockets ...
We play four player and the game is quite enjoyable. Very nice components and board. The rules have a few problems and are a little long-winded. Don't be discouraged though because the rules are really quite simple after you boil them down.
The game is divided into three weeks of a German beerfest. You maneuver and scheme to get the most payoff at the end of each week. You get paid off from shares owned in the Beer Halls and the shares owned in the breweries that supply them.
You are competing with the other players to get shares in the breweries and the Beer Halls and you are also trying to make sure that the Beer Halls buy from the brewery you own the most shares in. You could own all the shares in a brewery, but if it doesn't sell to any of the Beer Halls then you get nothing.
Players are also trying to (sometimes cooperatively) expand the Beer Halls where they own shares at the expense of the others.
There is also a pretty waitress and an obnoxious drunk. You try to get the pretty waitress in your Beer Hall and try to kick the obnoxious drunk to the other guys Beer Hall. Both of these affect income of the Beer Hall they are in greatly.
One thing you have to accept is that other players will mess with what you have going on and sometimes you can't stop it, you have to be creative in how you deal with it.
For instance, another player made a nice push into my main brewery and I couldn't come up with the shares to stop him. So I had to alter my strategy to take over control over the Beer Halls and switch them from that brewery to another brewery that I still had majority in. Yes he took over my brewery, but I switched the contracts out from under him.
You also can't let another player sit on a lead, if they come out ahead in Week One, the rest of you will have to cooperate to cut him back down to size and make sure he doesn't win Week Two. Be careful not to let someone get complete control of the largest Beer Hall and the brewery that supplies it.
All in all a good fun game I recommend.
Since discovering "German" games several years ago, one of my favorite designers has been none other than Franz-Benno Delonge. True, he's only had a few games published so far, but I count three of his games, Hellas, Dos Rios, and Big City, amongst my favorites. So when I heard of a new business game with an Oktoberfest type theme, I thought this would be another personal favorite.
If first impressions count for anything, this game has a lot going for it. The graphic design is second to none with a lush pallette used to full effect depicting a small village setting with 6 pubs sharing a common patio area, with tables evenly spaced throughout, and four breweries sit on the outside corners of the board. The game comes with some cardboard chits and a pile of wooden bits, and has the parakeet in all of us chirping with joy. The only visual blight would be the rather drab paper money. (Nobody's perfect!)
My first hint that something was wrong, was when I tried to learn the game from the rules. And read them...and re-read them...then re- read them again. The rules are not all that complicated but they are rather poorly translated, with very poor wording, and will have even experienced game players like myself bewildered. (There are several errors in the rules that are clarified on BoardGameGeek.com.) Nevertheless, I did eventually figure out how to play (though to this day, I am not sure if I have played all the rules correctly...)
In the beginning, each player is given some starting "stocks". These stocks are in either the pubs, or the breweries. Any time during the game that a player chooses to lay down a stock card, they are then able to place a cube onto that business denoting part ownership. But players can also hold the stocks in their hand to keep them secret, saving them for later on as a part of takeover strategy. One way or the other, players are trying to gain control of the valuable businesses on the board, helping to expand business for the businesses that they have the greatest control in.
As for actual gameplay itself, it is very simple, and somewhat similar to Basari, for those of you who have played that game. Each player holds a set of three identical cards in their hand, each one depicting a different action. Players secretly choose an action, then reveal it for all to see. The 3 possible actions are:
1. Expand a beer garden. If a player is the Manager of a pub, he may expand its seating area by one space. If a player is the only person to choose this action, he may expand two spaces. Since each table is worth another $4 (some tables are even worth $8), expanding each of the pubs is the way more money is brought into the game.
2. Take Control/Switch Suppliers. If a player is a Manager of a pub AND of any brewery, he may switch supplier, taking in beer from any one brewery that he is the Manager of, and supplying it to any one pub that he is the Manager of. Since breweries make more money by supplying bigger pubs, this is a hotly contested part of the game as well. If a player wants to gain control of Management at a business, he must be able to survive any challenges from the stockholders, basically any objections from the player/s who have the absolute majority of stock. If a player is the only person to choose this action, he may do it twice.
3. Buy Stock. Two stocks are always visible each round, and players may opt to take the visible stock, or from the top of the draw pile. This is done in turn order, so if 3 or 4 players choose this action, several of them may have to draw blindly. Not only can stocks be acquired for all the businesses, but players might also draw the Pretty Waitress card, or the Drunken Fool card. These 2 cards allow for the relocation of each of the figures, with the Waitress worth an extra $20 to a pub, and the Drunk levelling a $12 penalty on a pub. The fewer players who choose this action, the cheaper stock gets!
The game takes place over three "weeks" with each weeks divided into 7 "days". Each day, all the players choose an action, reveal it, resolve it. At the end of each week, money is paid out. At the end of 3 weeks, most money wins.
Pretty simply right? Hmmm....yes, I suppose it is. And that may be part of the problem. On one hand, this game would appear to be a neat game of stealing away leads, shoring up successful businesses and the like. But two problems were present in my first playing, and they reappeared in all subsequent playings as well. First off, with only 6 stocks available for each business, gaining and losing control can often come down to one stock card. If you can't get the card you need, either because of turn order or luck of the draw, you are in big trouble. This game may have been better with more stock available (a la Union Pacific). Secondly (and very closely related to the "Firstly"), luck of the draw is HUGE in this game. Since one card can make or break ownership or management of a huge pub, the luck of the draw is that much more magnified.
The other side of my problems with the game have to do with mechanical cohesion (the way the parts of the game fit together). There are a lot of clever things going on here: simultaneous action selection, stock competition, business expansion, anticipating turn order, etc. The problem is that, despite how much I enjoy all of the above, they don't seem to cohere well together in this game. Upon reading the rules, you'd think there was some interesting decisions to make, but the short supply of stock and the luck of the draw make for an unhappy synthesis.
Goldbrau is a little too dry for casual gamers to enjoy (and the payouts are VERY fiddly), and likely much too chaotic for serious gamers to enjoy. Which seems a waste considering the interesting idea at the core of the game. Mr. Delonge rarely disappoints me, and I feel like with a couple small changes, this game might have been a very solid game, but sadly, as is, I simply don't get much enjoyment out of it, and most of the people who've played it fall into that category as well.