Brewing Board Games
As summer turns to fall, there’s one thing as reliable as leaves changing, and that’s the drinking of frosty Oktoberfest beers. As ever, we like to pair our favorite activities together, and that means taking a look at how you can take beer from the fridge and put it on the board, where it belongs, beer board games.
Metaphorically speaking. Don’t spill drinks on your games, people.
Good for a laugh
Treat this one, if you will, like an Old Style sign outside a small-town tavern. If there’s a Monopoly version for every theme, then Brew-Opoly at least gets points for its total conversion. As a brewing board game, you’ll be doing less brewing and more buying up various microbrews, with all the chuckle-worthy tidbits you’d
expect from familiar fare like this. Yet, as easy as it might be to dismiss, Brew-Opoly has a price point guaranteeing you room in the wallet for some of those beers, and as everyone already knows the rules, you can get to cracking cans and cursing those dice in short order.
A Tasting for Two
Beer & Bread pits you and a pal against one another in a competition as old as time: who brews the better beer?
Over six alternating years, you’ll be balancing cooking up good food, better ales, harvesting, and sprucing up your village. Every year sees you compete for points earned by your baked bread or brewed beer, with better quality getting the higher reward. Your ultimate score comes from which one earned you the least, be it drinks or delectables, so skimping on one for the other’s going to leave you with a loss.
During the game you’ll use a hand of multi-use cards, each with several options. On top are the possible spoils from a good harvest, though what’s on offer changes if the year is a bumper crop or dry as a desert. The middle option lets you make some frothy goodness or bake your whole wheat loaf by burning some of those precious crops, while the bottom tempts you with an upgrade for your wholesome town.
This isn’t a solitaire brewing board game either, with the alternating years seeing players exchange cards after every play or compete for a shared central row. Resources, too, are capped based on your capacity to hold them, and telling Farmer John to harvest more wheat than you can keep means offering your extras to your opponent, adding a bit more honey to the decision mead. The take-that isn’t as direct as pouring a beverage on your buddy, but you won’t be drinking alone either.
Beer & Bread offers a sub-60 minute playtime, snappy setup, and clean rules great for two-player weeknight fare, perfect for a happy hour or nightcap.
Let’s leave the villages behind and put on our cloaks, heading for the monastery and a chance to craft those Trappist brews. In Heaven & Ale, you and up to three of your cloistered friends have the chance to grow your brewing garden, enlisting monks to aid in your efforts, and timing your harvest to score the maximum points with the abbey’s brewmaster.
Heaven & Ale asks you to do more than Beer & Bread, giving you a tile-placing puzzle to go along with moving your monk along the board. Solving your setup as you enter the sunny or shady side gets you points and cash, while trying to decide whether an opponent might take a space you need before you want to.
That stealing comes by the game’s central track, on which you’ll all move around (albeit not continuously, you’ll wait at the finish like Tokaido and its regrouping inns). The first one to a spot gets the action, the rest get nothing. Whether that action is worth skipping ahead on the track to nab is a central question, answered by the tiles you’ve bought and the monks available to score those tiles.
If you’re a fan of tighter, euro-style games that push players to scrap over scarcity, while rewarding clever play and long-term strategy, Heaven & Ale is worth taking for a walk.
Serving Up the Sours
You can brew the beer, sure, but it’s more fun manning the bar, right?
In Taverns of Tiefenthal, the bar is all yours, but getting any business means you’ll have to run it right. Taverns, a modular game that grows with you to build in additional toys over subsequent plays, asks you to use a growing deck to populate your bar, then draft dice with the other players to make some sweet, sweet profit.
At the start of every round, you’ll flip cards off your deck to fill spots in your bar. Once it’s full, you’re done flipping, and now it’s time to draft some dice. Getting the right dice is the only way your cards activate, as if that magical cube is all we need to achieve our dreams (isn’t it, though?). Nabbing the right rolls lets you snag points-scoring noblemen, beer-brewing, err, brewers, and all the other fine folk you might see at an average 18th century pub.
What gives Taverns verve is the plentiful strategies on tap. Unlike some pure deck builders, like Dominion, your points-scoring nobles don’t clog your deck, meaning there’s no reason to hold off getting their patronage. Multiple routes to get those fancy pants abound, too, from brewing quality beers to getting support from the local abbey to making your bar the best place in town. Then, once you and your brew crew have the game down, introducing modules like the reputation track or signature-scoring guests spread out the strategies to keep everyone sipping right along.
I can’t emphasize how nice the graduated modules are for a game like this one. If you’re trying to up your gaming crew from cases to craft brews, Taverns works so well as a lead-in to more complicated fare, though it’s no slouch in that department with all its tricks thrown in. If you want a thematic title sure to fit the saison, then Taverns of Tiefenthal is worth a sample.
The Bourbon Blend
But who needs beer anyway, when we’ve got bourbon around? Distilled is here for you, my sipping friend, and ready to task you with making the most compelling cocktails around.
Distilled hits you first with a unique crafter for every player, giving you a signature recipe, starting resources, some cash, and a special ability. You’ll be using that cash to bulk up your item supply, aiming to make something more compelling than cheap moonshine. Once everyone’s done shopping, you blend up the ingredients to make your spirits, shuffling the stack for each recipe and ditching the top and bottom cards. This little trick gives Distilled a push-your-luck mechanic, encouraging you to add in more copies of essential ingredients to ensure they aren’t lost in the distilling process. If the wrong cards get tossed in that top-and-bottom torching, then your spirit won’t have the kick it deserves.
Whether that’s worth spending the extra ingredients is up to you: are you going for rail or regal?
Extra elements blend on the edges too, like aging certain spirits in casks and barrels or unlocking additional recipes to aim for. Cashing out on that aged anejo only to roll the profits into a wicked whiskey, stuffed with so much goodness you’ll want to open your best bottle is a great way to go into winter’s early months.
Distilled doesn’t demand too much of its players, setting itself squarely in the middle-weight category, perfect for an evening with a good scotch and better friends. Given the game’s lack of take-that interaction—you might tussle over premium ingredients, but otherwise the competition happens on the scoreboard and little else—you’ll all be able to remain friends after the last bottle runs dry.
Don’t let summer’s end sour your mood. Instead, say hello to changing colors with some brewing board games, cheering the coming season with tight two-player competition or a table of Taverns tossing dice. If you’re looking for your ale’s perfect pair, set up one of these next to your frosty mug and have a good time.