English language edition of Bohn Hansa
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The players take the roles of bean traders and are members of the famous Bohn Hansa, the union of northern European cities and merchants involved in the bean trade in the middle ages. The players travel from Hanse city to Hanse city in wagons filled with valuable beans to deliver bean orders and to buy more beans. When a player is in a city and has an order card and the necessary beans to fulfill the order, he may deliver the beans and collect the value of the order from the bank. When two or more players are together in a city, they may trade beans among themselves. Trading beans is important as it allows players to get rid of unwanted beans and acquire needed beans. In addition, a player will buy beans in the city, if they have the kind he wants. From time to time, the bean supplies will be replenished as described on new harvest cards. After eight new harvests, the game begins its last round. After this last round, the game ends and the player with the most bean thalers (money) is the winner.
Okay, so the jig is up: Bean Trader, despite the beans and the similar artwork and the same designer, is NOT like Bohnanza the card game. Your point? Did you really want to shell out a bunch of money to get the same game with a board? I am one of the people who happens to like both the card game and the board game -- but maybe that because I wasn't expecting the same game twice. And I was not disappointed. So erase any preconceptions of Bean Trader from your mind, and settle into your chair for what I will be an enjoyable review, and maybe even a decision on your part to purchase the game.
And Bean Trader looks great. The board and all components are well illustrated, with very much the same look as Bohnanza. There are 8 types of beans in the game, and my only real quibble with the artwork is that the name of the bean, and the color of the bean chips are often at odds with each other: the Green bean is on a Green background, but the soy bean is on a purple background. The solution to this would seem to be to ignore the names of the beans and just refer to them by their colors. (This is a very small quibble -- trust me, it won't matter once you start playing.)
Players have a wood cart that goes onto the board in one of the 10 cities depicted thereon. Players will be travelling around the board, buying beans in cities, then travelling to different cities in order to fulfill order cards that will be in their hand during the game. A player has a small player mat that represents the contents of the cart (where a player can hold up to 8 beans total), and also on the player mat is a VERY handy reference card.
That reference card will come in handy because though the game makes sense once you play it there are several parts to your turn that have to happen in a set order. With the reference card in front of each player, it only takes a few rounds for players to get comfortable with their turn. I have heard people complain about that the rules are TOO finicky, but that only reminds me of how tricky it was to figure out how to play Bohnanza the first time. Like many 'German' games, you need to read the rules a couple times, play the game, then re-read the rules to make sure you didn't miss/mess anything, then play again, and you should do fine.
So, is this game worth the trouble? I say it is. Bohnanza is both a 'hand management game' and a 'trading' game. Bean Trader adds new levels and mechanics, and never pretends to be exactly like Bohnanza -- a good thing in my opinion. This game belongs to a family of games known as 'pickup and deliver' games, but also includes some tight hand management and some of the trading in Bohnanza. Now delivery games have a tendency to be very brainy with lots of heavy planning. I like the idea of a delivery game, but trying to find one that other people will enjoy playing is a bit of a task. Happily, Bean Trader fills that niche very nicely -- being an accessible delivery game, as well as retaining some of the Bohnanza flavor.
The heart of the game is travel, and in Bean Trader, careful travel planning is represented by a hand of cards. The 'hand management' (how you plan to use the cards in your hand) is very tricky, and though it differs somewhat from Bohnanza, it bears some similarity to it, and, like Bohnanza, it is one of the most important parts of the game. Players have a hand of cards that are all identical, except for a Supply card and a Toll card. When a player wants to travel, he must play the front card in his hand. (The easiest way to think of the cards, is to picture each card as a block of time.) Once a card like this is played it goes to the back of the hand (time stops for no man!) In order to travel 2 cities away, you play your first 3 cards; 5 cities away requires your first 6 cards etc. The Supply card, when played from the front of the hand, causes 3 cities to stock beans back up (pushing prcies down in those cities -- prices go back up in the individual cites as beans are bought and supply gets lower). The Toll card, when played from the front of the hand, requires a payment of $20 from the player (think of it as a business license that comes up for renewal.)
Players will also acquire Order Cards during the game that also go into the hand, increasing their hand size and thereby giving player more 'time'. When a player gets an order card into the back of his hand, he has until it gets played from the front of his hand to try and fulfill it. He can fulfill it eariler if he wants to (no one complains about early delivery), but once a player travels and that card hits the table, if he can't fulfill the order by the end of his turn, he loses that contract.
As you can imagine, hand management in this game, much like Bohnanza, is very important. You may want to travel long distances to get the best bean prices, but long distances take more time (cards) which means your start running out of time (cards) before your order needs to come through.
Each city on the board specializes in either 2 or 3 different types of beans. Throughout the game, these cities will be producing new harvests and selling out of beans, which causes prices to fluctuate. Obviously if a Red Bean costs $16 in one city, but only $8 in a different city, players want to buy them cheaper. But what if the city with the cheaper beans is far away and will cost a lot to travel to? So already you see the groudwork being laid with a neat economic system that will have players carefully considering where they need to go.
And that is where trading comes in. You see, you can only trade with a player that is in the same city as you (makes sense) and to make the game 'click' and involve more trading and co-operation, the designer cleverly included Invitations into the game. On his turn a player is the only person who can buy beans, and he can also invite other players to come to the city he is in to trade beans with him. He cuts any deals he wants with the other players, then those players may come to that city. So if I need a brown bean, and 'Tabitha' can buy some on her turn, I will ask for an invitation and make a deal with her so that I can come on over and get the bean from her. Where the game gets even better is the 'shortcuts' in the game. See to travel 5 cities costs 6 cards, 3 cities costs 4 cards, etc. But when a player is INVITED to a city, he only plays ONE card REGARDLESS of distance. So if you are clear on the other side of the board and I need to get there, you better believe I will try and make a good deal for you so that I can save myself the travel cards (and therefore buy myself some more 'time' to fill other orders. The slower I go through my cards, the more orders I can get delivered!
Phew! Long review! But I think with all this you get a real sense of the heart of the game. And a good game it is. When a player draws an order card, it is random, and it is true that luck comes into play on the card draw, but many games have this 'problem' including the original Bohnanza! So the question then becomes: is Bean Trader fun to play. With non-gamers I can say, unreservedly, yes! This game requires planning, hand management, getting beans that will help other players, trades, co-operation, and competition. Gamers will no doubt be put off by the luck of the Order Card draws, but phooey on them. Not all games can be all things to all people. Bean Trader looks great, has a little learning curve, but plays great, and the only complaint I have heard so far about the game is that it is too short! (We play with 2 more Supply cards to extend the game by two 'rounds'.)
All I had heard about this game is 'The card game is better.' Well, the card game is different. Better depends on what you like in a game I guess. But Bean Trader is a heck of a lot of fun. In all my playings of it, I have yet to win (came with $1 and $4 of the leader so far), and still enjoy the game because all the planning and trading is so much fun. Everyone who has played it with me has enjoyed it tremendously. In fact, one player said: 'I like this better than the card game!' Not everyone will feel that way, but it is a testament to the quality of the design. Middleweight, with some planning, interaction, and a good dose of luck -- I think Bean Trader is a blast.
I was a little leery of the hordes of people screaming the praises of Bohnanza. It was, after all, a card game, and I invariably like board games more than card games. However, after playing the game, I became one of the converted, seeing just how fun of a negotiation game it was. Then, when I heard that a board game, Bean Trader (Rio Grande and Kosmos, 2003 Uwe Rosenberg), with the same theme and designer was being created, I was interested to the point of acquiring the game at the first opportunity. Upon getting the game, I was impressed with the beautiful bits, but was a little put off by the somewhat complex rules, so the game sat on the shelf for quite a while. Finally, we blew off the dust, and settled down to see what the game was like.
Sadly, I think the game will go back on the shelf for a while, only to be pulled out occasionally. I dont often use the word fiddly when describing games, but I dont know how else to explain the games. The game was really too complex for how simple it was. That sounds almost contradictory, but those who played the game agreed with me. The game play was not really that difficult, but there were just too many steps to a turn, and too much going on to excuse the amount of luck in the game. Also, the Bohnanza theme seemed a little tacked on, as Bean Trader holds almost no similarities to its parent game.
The theme of the game is (surprise!) about players acting as bean traders. Each player gets a set of seven cards, numbered from one to seven. They also receive a wooden piece that represents their bean wagon, and a player summary card that also shows the contents of their wagon. There are eight different types of beans, and each player puts one bean counter of each type in their wagon. A deck of order cards is shuffled, and three of them are dealt to each player, with the remainder of them forming a draw deck. A board is set up in the middle of the table, showing ten different cities, connected by various paths. Each city produces two to three different beans, and one of each of those beans is placed in the first of four slots in the city. A stack of ten bean harvest cards are shuffled, and eight of them form a draw deck on the board, with two being stuck under the board. Each player compares the three orders they have, and put the two orders that are worth the lowest at the back of their hands. They place in front of themselves the highest valued card. They remove from their wagons the amount of beans shown on the order, and receive the amount of money (called thaler in this game) from the bank. The players place their token in the city mentioned on the bean order, and the game is ready to begin. Whichever player received the lowest amount of money goes first, and then play continues clockwise around the table.
A players turn is broken up into three phases: the travel phase, the trader phase, and the final phase. Each player must keep the cards in their hand in order, and can never change the order of their cards. In the travel phase, the player can either stay where they are, or move to another city, by using the shortest route possible. The player must place cards from their hand down on the table, one plus the amount of spaces they move. (So if they dont move at all, they still must play one card. Most of the travel cards have no effect, but if they play the Toll card (#3), they must pay 20 thaler to the bank, and if they play the Supply card (different number in each deck), they must take the top New harvest card and place it face up in front of themselves. After moving, they place all these cards in the back of their hands, always putting the toll and supply cards first, if they played them.
During the trader phase, the active player may invite other players to come to the same city where they are to trade beans. If a player accepts this optional invitation, they move to the city, using one of their cards in their hand to travel just like the travel phase (except that they only use one card, and if they use a Toll card, they only pay 15 thaler). The players then trade beans from their wagons, using any kind of agreement they can come up with, as long as it only involves beans. After trading (if any), the player can purchase any available beans in the city. The price of the beans is noted on the square above the last bean, and the more beans there are in a city, the cheaper they become.
After the trader phase, players discard any orders that may have come up when they were traveling, and draw a new order card, placing it at the back of their hand or delivering it immediately. A player can actually deliver an order any time during their turn, as long as they are in the city on the order card and have the beans listed there. They then discard the order card and the beans, and receive the money. Players can get additional order cards by discarding one of their travel cards (not the toll or supply) and paying 5 thaler to the bank. At the beginning of future turns, if players have new harvest cards in front of them, they fulfill them, which involves adding an amount of beans into the indicated cities (on the cards). When the last of the eight harvest cards is drawn, the final round begins. (The other two harvest cards may possibly be used during this round). After the final round, all players sell any remaining beans they have left in their wagon for whatever price the beans bring (on the reference card). Each player then adds up all their money and the player with the most thaler is the winner!
Some comments on the game.
1.) Components: The components for this game are really nice, and rather striking. The game truly looks like Bohnanza in a big box. The money is thin, colorful paper, printer on both sides, in five denominations. The bean tokens are very colorful, and have different pictures of beans on them, to help color-blind folk. The large wooden wagon tokens are nice and easy to move around the board which itself is rather colorful and nicely illustrated. The cards both the order and the harvest cards, are typical playing card size and have nice illustrations on them, besides being very clean and easy to read. Everything comes in a yellow (not sure Ive ever seen one like this before) plastic insert that holds everything fantastically. This insert is then nestled in a bright yellow box that really stands out on the shelf one decorated with Bjorn Pertoffs humorous and terrific illustrations. All in all, the product sports some impressive components.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is 12 pages long, and is fully colored and has many full-blown illustrations and examples in it. Yet the rules for the game were in a somewhat strange order, and were fairly convoluted. I really had to sit down and concentrate on them until I understood them enough. It took a while to explain the game, also, and its one that really doesnt sink into peoples heads until after a round or so of playing. Thats certainly different than Bohnanza, which is a lot easier to explain and learn.
3.) Bohnanza: The game claims on the box that it is the Bohnanza board game. Of course, this means that the companies hope to sell this game to the (justly) rabid fans of the original card game. Yet, the differences are really quite a bit. Besides the bean theme and the order of the cards in a hand, there were not that many similarities. Yes, there is trading in the game, but the trading can be successfully ignored by most of the players if they so choose, as it really didnt make or break the game. Usually, players wanted to keep all of their beans, and it seems as if the games weve played that little trading occurs. So why didnt the company just re-theme the game, thus not disappointing loyal fans of Bohnanza, who I doubt would really enjoy this game? I think it was to cash in on the name of the Bohnanza game, but in this case, I think that was a mistake.
4.) Thaler: The money is basically a form of victory points as it is in many Eurogames that use money. The toll cards, the expensive beans, the low payout of the order cards (comparatively), really make for a tight money game. Now, that can be a good thing or a bad thing but when at the end of the game, everyone buys beans and sells them for an immediate profit earning over half of their total income of what point was the rest of the game? I guess one of the points the game is trying to make is that its not really profitable to be a bean trader. I, for one, have crossed that off my list of desired professions its just not feasible to support my family.
5.) Fun Factor: Once we got passed the different stages of the different phases, we started to have fun, but occasionally the fun got bogged down while waiting for another players turn. Supposedly the trading helps keep player interaction high, but the incentives for trading are somewhat low, and most of the player interaction in our games was to help the other players understand how the rules worked and help them catch things they missed doing or did out of turn. There was also a good amount of luck in the game perhaps too much for a game that seems to be seeking middle-weight game class stature, and probably too much for a game that takes this long (about ninety minutes).
6.) Strategy and Players: The game is for three to five players, but seems best with the maximum amount. The strategy seems to be pretty obvious, with each player getting the beans they need to fill their orders, and then trying to make a small profit while doing so. We found that less of our time was spent in strategy as much as it was keeping our money straight, making sure our cards were in order, and moving the beans up and down the spaces in each town correctly.
I come across fairly negative in this review, and its not because I dont like the game I actually enjoyed playing it. However, they should never have themed it with beans, because the inevitable comparisons with Bohnanza are going to occur and most players will probably end up disappointed in the difference. Also, the game had so much busy work for the players to keep track of that it basically detracted from the fun factor of the game. In a heavy strategy type game, this kind of fiddliness might be acceptable, but not a game that has strategy this light. People who played the game enjoyed it, but said that they would be content if we didnt play it for a while. If you are a Bohnanza nut, and must own all things Bohnanza, then pick this game up. If you are looking for a game that has some fun maneuvering, and dont mind the detailed work involved, then you also might like this one the components are rather nice. But if you are coming here from Bohnanza, seeking a similar game to that wonderful card game, then stay away, youll be dreadfully disappointed. This is an example of a game where theme actually detracts from the mechanics and its too bad, I so much wanted to love this game.
Uwe Rosenberg's entertaining card game Bohnanza is now available as a board game. Each of the 10 cities begins with two beans. Players start with one each of the eight kinds. Your initial hand consists of seven reusable Travel cards, and three random Order cards; one Order is discarded to determine your initial capital.
Each turn, use Travel cards (and, at times, Orders) to travel to another city, where you may purchase its beans at current prices, trade beans with opponents, and draw another Order. You may also earn money by filling an Order--that is, by discarding the specified beans at the indicated city.
When played, Travel cards are recycled, and Orders discarded. One Travel card requires the drawing of a Harvest card to add new beans to several cities and thus decrease prices. Play ends, and most money wins, after eight Harvests. Our kudos to Rosenberg for using his bean!
Franchise push out? Another new development in gaming? Where will the Bean game lead us to? The answer is that the [page scan/se=0027/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=10]Bean trade mark is following the [page scan/se=0041/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=10]Siedler franchise and moving beyond its initial boundary. When [page scan/se=1419/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=10]Bohnanza first popped its head out of the fertile mind of Uwe Rosenberg, we could little have imagined that five and a half years later there would be seven expansion sets and another, Bohnaparte, on the way. And now the germ has leaped species into a board game.Perhaps the best feature of the original game was the way your cards had to be kept in order. No shuffling, no sorting, just take them as they were dealt and then make the best of it. The main way that you improved your gaming situation was by trading and it is these two elements that have made their way into the boardgame version. The object of the game is to deliver sets of beans to specified cities. This involves travelling round the board - using the cards from the front of your hand as payment - and then acquiring new beans and trading in order to meet the demand requirements. The order cards are similar to those in [page scan/se=0197/sf=category/fi=stockin.asc/ml=10]Empire Builder -- you get beans (goods) from several cities and then travel somewhere where there is demand and hand in the card. The big differences between Bean Trader and Empire Builder games are that the routes are fixed in Bean Trader and that you can invite other players to trade with you. They will do so for two reasons: to get a better collection of beans (goods) and to get to areas on the board more quickly and possibly more cheaply. The large, attractive board displays ten cities connected by roadways. Each city is seeded with raw materials (different types of bean) with a pricing mechanism that means more beans equate to cheaper prices (not Heinz). Players receive near identical hands of cards, which they arrange in a predetermined sequence. Each set of cards consists of a toll card, a production card and five others of less importance. In addition each player's wagon is filled with one each of the eight bean types. The rotation of the cards is cleverly done - one card is handed in for each city on your route. If one of these is the toll card, you pay the duty (bad news), while play of a production card means that more beans become available in some of the cities. Which cities depends on the draw from a small deck of harvest cards and it is the depletion of these that will end the game, when cash in hand plus the value of the goods in your wagon will determine the winner. At the end of your turn the cards you have played in order to move are returned to the back of your hand. The rules for putting back the cards state that the toll and production cards are replaced first, which means that these will circulate faster. When you get to a city (often with more goods to buy) you can invite other players to trade with you. To do so, they play a single card and move to the same city. This is less than they would have to play to travel in their own turn, which has the effect of making travel cheaper, because it means that the toll card appears less often. The economics of the demand cards are such that the 2 or 3 beans required to meet the order card will yield a profit, providing you don't have to pay too highly for the beans. So generally you will try to satisfy as many order cards as possible. Bean Trader is an odd sort of game. You think it is something like Fische Fluppen Frikadellen (FFF), because of the fact that there are several modes of travel and the object is to deliver specific goods to demand areas. But FFF has some extra quality (not the multi board aspect), because of the range of options at each trading point. The other game it reminds me of is the Empire Rails series, but the crayon aspects make that one a more distant cousin. There isn't a great deal of planning involved in the game, but this is offset by the opportunities offered by other players' requests to trade, and this I have found is the secret of the game. You must trade, for only that way will you acquire the beans and move round the board fast enough to be able to deliver the number of contracts that you need if you are to have a chance of winning. In terms of number of rounds, the game is over surprisingly quickly and this can catch out the player who doesn't get involved in the deal making. The game is pleasant, rather than exciting; well put together rather than inspiring. It uses some of the mechanisms in the bean card games, but doesn't offer anything special.