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Self-contained, 2-player variation on one of our most popular German games of all time, Bohnanza. The popular bean market has been discovered by the Mafia. They want a piece of everything the players sell. As it is impossible to negotiate with them, you have to rely on your cunning and speed. Al Cabohne and Don Corlebohne control a single bean field each, and if you happen to collect the same type of beans you'd better sell fast before the Mafia comes to collect "Protection Beans". The game can be played with two players, or with just one: "alone against the Mob".
Solitaire is mechanical by its very nature. The player is trying to beat a system, and must make choices that have the best chance of beating that system. Sometimes the choices are obvious, sometimes not.
Al Cabohne excels as a solitaire game. The player faces tough choices at almost every turn, and good choices will usually result in a win. For this reason, I think it is worthy of 4 stars.
As a 2 player game, it suffers by comparison to the myriad games that have hit the market in this category. It is definitely not on a par with Lost Cities, Hera & Zeus, or Caesar & Cleopatra. While it maintains many of the finer points of its illustrious ancestor, Bohnanza, it does not offer the same range of possibility and strategy that these other games present. The rules are a bit muddy on several points, and I am not entirely satisfied that the translator is correct on all rules. For this reason, I can only give it 3 stars as a 2-player game.
Still, if you want a solitaire game that isn't just more of the same build-up-to-Kings nonsense, definitely give it a try.
This is one great solitaire game. I was trounced by the mafia the first few games, but now I am learning how to hold my own. Sure beats Klondike. Rosenberg is a true genius with cards. The 2 player game lacks the trading element but keeps all the other challenging decisions and adds the interaction with the mafia players for lots of fun.
Bohnanza was one of the gaming highlights of 1997. Clever, original and great fun, it quickly established itself as a mini-classic and, in Mike Clifford's words, "one of the best card games of the 90s''. There have been much deeper card games, but few that have been so entertaining or so universally liked. In its original form it was for 3-5 players, but by Essen of that year it had acquired an expansion set containing extra cards and a few rule modifications that extended the range to 3-7.
So far, so good, but one of the problems when you have had such a hit is that there is a strong temptation to try and repeat it, not with something new, but with more of the same. Hollywood does it all the time and, while it may work financially, it is rare for it to do so artistically. In this case, Essen '98 produced La Isla Bohnita and Essen '99 Space Beans. Neither is worth your attention. The first sought to add some extra tactical complications, but all it really succeeded in doing was doubling the length of the game. The second introduced new mechanics to the basic plot line but at the same time got rid of the trading that had been one of the main reasons for the popularity of the original, leaving you with a game that involved little other than hoping that the cards would be kind. I never got further with it than reading the rules, but the comments I saw from those who did made it fairly clear that I was wise to stop at that point. "Far too much luck and not a patch on Bohnanza'' was the near universal verdict.
However, the follow-ups must have sold reasonably well, for here we are again with Bohnanza IV and I am pleased to be able to say that the trend has been reversed. It is not up to the standard of Bohnanza I, but it is good fun and it does succeed in doing something that its parent didn't: it plays well with two. In fact it is designed to be played that way and can even be played solo.
The way it works is to provide a dummy third player in the form of "The Bean Mafia'' and the clever part of the design is that the "autopilot'' strategy that the Mafia follows not only makes them competitive with the real players but is a source of tactical interaction. Each player will try to use the Mafia both to further their own plans and to make difficulties for their opponent, but they do so knowing that if they push it too far, the Mafia will win.
The basic structure of Bohnanza remains. Each player has a hand of bean cards, whose order they may not change. At the start of your turn, you plant one or two beans in your fields and then you turn up cards from the deck. After you have dealt with these, you add new cards to your hand. Where the games differ is in the absence of trading--something that wouldn't really work with just two of you--and with the activities of the Mafia.
The Mafia have two bean fields, one run by Al Cabohne and one by Don Corlebohne. Each is planted with one bean type and both gangsters follow a set strategy for harvesting: Al harvests as soon as his crop is worth 3 coins; the Don as soon as his is worth 2.
At the start of your turn it is possible that there will be bean cards left over from your opponent's turn. If there are, your first action is to transfer the ones you want to your fields and to put the others on to the discard pile. Now the Mafia come sniffing round and if any of your fields contain bean types that they are collecting, they will take one from each. Protection money. Those are phases one and two. Phase three has you planting one or two beans from your hand and phase four sees you turning over cards from the deck. After each card you check to see if it is one of the bean types that the Mafia are collecting or if it matches the top card of the discard pile. In the first case it is handed over to the Mafia. In the second it is placed on the table and the matching card (or cards) from the top of the discard pile are added to it. This supplementary drawing of cards from the discard pile continues until its top card matches neither the Mafia cards nor any of those in the centre of the table. This process continues until you have in the centre of the table three cards or piles of cards. At that point phase four is over and you can start doing things with them.
Your options in phase five are to plant beans from the centre of the table, to hand them over to the Mafia or to leave them for the start of your opponent's next turn. During this phase you may also give cards from your hand to the Mafia, something you might want to do in order to get rid of what to you are useless cards or to get them collecting the same beans as your opponent. A Mafia Boss will only accept cards if they are of the type he is collecting or if a recent harvesting has left him with an empty field. At the end of all this you must give a card from your hand to any Mafia Boss with an empty field. You then finish your turn by drawing two new cards from the deck and adding them to the back of your hand.
Harvesting is something you can do at any time other than in phase 4. Phase 3 is often a good choice, because it puts a set of cards of the same type together at the top of the discard pile, thereby creating the chance of recycling them should another of this type be turned up in phase 4--which observation also serves to explain why you aren't allowed to harvest then. The other basic tactic is the purchasing of a third field. In Bohnanza this is sometimes a good idea and sometimes not; here it is something you do as soon as you have the money, because you need the extra flexibility that a third field brings.
In the solo version you begin with three fields and there is a third Mafia Boss in the form of Joe Bohnano. He harvests a crop as soon as it is worth one coin. Phase two obviously disappears, as there is no opponent to leave you cards, and, since there is no one for you to leave cards to, another consequence is that in what was phase 5 (and has now become phase 4) you have to plant or give to the Mafia all the cards you have turned up. Apart from that the play is the same.
Al Cabohne is not a game of any strategic depth, and the loss of the trading that you get in Bohnanza isn't quite compensated for by the tactical opportunities created by the Bean Mafia, but it is a good little game for all that and a thoroughly entertaining way of passing an hour.