Bohnanza Card Game Review

Game Overview

Bohnanza is not a new game. It’s been originally published in 1997 and throughout the years many expansions have been keeping up the interest in it. I only recently had the chance to play it so here is my review:

Bohnanza is designed by Uwe Rosenberg, well-known for many other successful games, such as Agricola, Le Havre and the more recent Ora et Labora. It is actually the game with which he became famous in the board gaming world.The name “Bohnanza” is a pun on the words “bonanza” and “Bohne” (German for “bean”). It is essentially a card game, its only components being cards depicting beans. Players take the role of bean farmers, their sole purpose being to successfully plant, harvest and sell beans. Each player starts out with 2 bean fields in which they can grow any variety of bean, with the restriction that they may plant beans of one variety in each field. The more the players wait for the beans to grow, that is the more beans of the same variety they plant in each field the more coins they can get for harvesting and selling them. But sometimes they may be forced to give up a specific crop of beans before even having the chance to sell them for profit.

Each player starts with 5 bean cards in their hand and the rest of the cards becomes the draw deck. And here is the most important and unique rule of the game which may seem a bit awkward at first: You are never allowed to change the order of the cards in your hand! This is a pretty unusual rule and difficult to follow at first as in most card games you can do whatever you want with your cards (and many times will find yourself pretty much playing nervously with the cards in your hand changing their order continuously). After a while though you will get accustomed to this rule, which plays a great role in the game because you must plant beans in the order you received them. Whenever you draw new cards you must draw them one at a time and place them behind the last card in your hand. On your turn you must do the following actions:

Plant beans. You must plant the first bean in your hand in one of your fields. If you want, you can plant the second as well.

Draw, trade and donate cards. You draw the 2 topmost cards from the draw deck and put them face up on the table. You may keep any of these cards, setting them aside to be planted in the next step, and trade the others along with any cards from your hand. Other players may offer any number of cards in their hands in order to buy a specific card from the active player. They will also have to plant immediately the cards they will gain from trading. If no one is interested in buying you offer, you may donate them to any other player. You might want to do that because you might not have an empty field to plant them and will be forced to sell some planted beans for less profit than you would like or maybe for none at all. You may continue to trade/donate cards from your hand after the 2 faceup cards have been set aside, traded/donated. The player who is the recipient of a donation is not obliged to accept it. In such an occasion you will be forced to plant the cards nobody else wants.

Plant traded / donated beans. During this step all cards set aside, traded or donated must be planted. Players may (and may need to) harvest and sell beans from a bean field in order to plant the new beans.

Draw new bean cards. You draw 3 cards from the draw deck, one at a time and put them at the back of your hand.
When the draw deck is exhausted, the discarded cards are shuffled and placed on the table, becoming the new draw deck. The game ends when the draw deck is exhausted for the third time. Players then harvest and sell beans in their bean fields. The player with the most gold coins wins the game.

The most recent edition of the game by Rio Grande includes the first edition of the first German expansion as well as rules for up to seven players but also two player rules. The two player game, described as “bean duel” has some significant modifications that change the feeling of the game drastically. That could really be expected though as there can’t be any trading with only two players in the game. The most important changes in this version are:

A player can only sell beans on their own turn

The game ends when the draw deck is exhausted for the first time

During the initial step of each turn a player must plant or discard cards donated to him last turn.

The player draws three (instead of two) cards from the draw deck and puts them face up on the table. If the topmost card on the discard pile matches the cards revealed this way, the player adds it to them and continues to do so until the topmost card of the discard pile don’t match any of the cards drawn. Then he/she can keep any of these cards and donate the rest to his/her opponent.
Impressions

When I was proposed to try this game, I must admit I was a bit reluctant about it cause I thought that it would be a somewhat silly game(I guess that the title didn’t help a lot towards that). Looking at the bean cards was a pleasant surprise, as I saw beans depicted in a way I would never expect to. And what strange beans that were! Stink beans (yuck!) and beans with blackened eyes from a box fight and wax beans polishing the floor. Hey, this is fun! I admit I had a bit of trouble at first having to remember not to mess with my cards’ order probably because I play a lot of Magic the Gathering, hehe! In the course of the game I found myself trying to think of the best strategy to gain more coins and make profitable trades and there were a lot of laughs and player interaction to never get me bored. The end of the first game found me pretty excited and eager to start a new game (and to get my sweet revenge). Since then I’ve played a lot of games of Bohnanza, so, let’s get down to our little analysis of the core aspects of the game:

Components:

Components of the game are plain and simple cards but with much attention to detail. Cards are made of hard, quality card stock, glossy and very resistant to wear. I have rarely seen a card game with cards of such quality. 9/10

Gameplay:

Bohnanza is a game that I think I will never be bored to play. Turns are fast and interesting for all players. The trading mechanic is the key factor for that. Many would say that this game is pretty much straight forward with not much strategy involved but I think that there is much food for thought here. Players are required to make profitable trades trying to benefit from the trade more than they will help their opponents and also have to decide when is the best time to harvest their crops. Many important questions will require wise decisions. Should I harvest now and sell for less than maximum profit in order to be able to plant a new crop or should I wait a little longer to gain maximum profit? Should I buy a 3rd bean field? A very positive aspect of the game is its flexibility to the number of players. Referring to the latest edition by Rio Grande, there are modified rules adjusted to 6-7, 4-5, 3 or even two players. These rules guarantee that the game will remain playable and fun enough regardless the number of players which something that in general isn’t given attention and must be praised. Overall, simplicity in the mechanics and enough intrigue is the key of success in Bohnanza! 8/10

Learning Curve:

Rules of the game are pretty simple. During the first few games you may find yourself a bit forgetful and mess up with the order of cards in your hand. The best way to deal with that is never remove a card from your hand until a trade or donation has been accepted by the other player. Other than that you don’t have to remember any complicated rules. The value of each bean crop is depicted on the cards, on the “beanometer” as well as it’s rarity so you basically only have to remember the sequence of actions during your turn. 8/10

Theme:

The game’s theme is pretty simple. You are a bean farmer!! You are constantly reminded of that cause all you see on the table is bean cards and on your fields you see beans of the same kind planted one under the other which is close how your real farm would be. All beans don’t have the same rarity and don’t have the same market value, meaning that some are rarer than others, like cocoa beans that can be found only 4 times in the deck and therefore are very valuable (selling only 4 of them yields 4 coins). That also relate to real market conditions. What may spoil a bit the immersion in the theme is the strangeness of the beans you plant! Some are really ridiculous but that’s part of the fun, so definitely no complaints here. 7/10

Replayability:

As I said before Bohnanza is a game I will never be bored to play. It’s simple and fast and each game can never be the same with any other. You will want to play numerous games in order to polish your strategy and test your ideas but it all really comes down to one factor: it’s fun, I want to play again! 9/10

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The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Review

Game Overview

Many games have emerged during the last decade with the words “Lord of the Rings” in their name from traditional board games to Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition and Risk: The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LGG). In Living Card Games, a system invented by Fantasy Flight Games, all cards of the game become available in packets, that contain all the cards published in the set in contrast to Trading Card Games in which expansions become available in small packages, called “booster packs” that contain some random cards from the set. That means that with TCGs one has to buy countless boosters in order to find specific cards and thus spend much money whereas on LCGs you just have to buy the appropriate expansions that contain the cards and that’s all. This system has proven to be quite successful taking into account the economic difficulties many countries have run to the last few years. This review is about the core set of the game which contains four 30-card starter decks and components for two players. Expansions of the game, called “adventure packs” come out every month and so far two cycles of expansions have been published, “Shadows of Mirkwood” and “Dwarrowdelf”, along with a deluxe expansion called “Khazad-dûm”. Adventure packs contain 60 cards that include a new scenario, a new hero, three copies of nine new player cards from all spheres and new encounter cards. But what are heroes, player decks, encounter decks and spheres?

The Lord of the Rings: The Card game is a cooperative game based on the renowned trilogy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. One to four players travel through the lands of Middle-Earth trying to complete dangerous quests and defeat the ancient evil Dark Lord, Sauron. Each player controls 1-3 heroes that become available from the start of the game and each has a deck of cards, that can be played by spending resources that belong to a specific sphere. There are four spheres: “Lore” which emphasizes the potential of the hero’s mind, “Tactics” which emphasizes a hero’s martial prowess, “Spirit” which emphasizes the strength of a hero’s will and “Leadership” which emphasizes the charismatic and inspirational influence of a hero. Each sphere provides a unique style of play and you can include in your deck cards belonging to more than one sphere, providing that you use appropriate heroes as well as they are the source of resources. The player decks comprise of Allies that come to aid your heroes, events influencing the course of the adventure, and attachment cards.

At the beginning of the game you decide which of the three scenarios included in the game you are going to play. Each scenario has different difficulty and is represented by quest cards that provide the storyline of the scenario. Each scenario consists of a sequential deck of quest cards and goes along with specific threats (unexplored locations, enemies, treachery and objectives) represented by specific encounter sets. Each scenario requires two or three encounter sets that are shuffled to form the encounter deck.

The game starts by setting the threat level of each player (depends on the heroes used) and by shuffling the player and encounter decks. In the course of the game the threat level will eventually rise and when it reaches level 50, the player is eliminated. The rest of the players continue the adventure and if at least one survives till the end of the quest, the whole group of players is considered to have accomplished the quest. The first quest card is revealed and each player draws 6 cards. Then the game continues in rounds, consisting of the following phases:

Resources are gathered from heroes and one card is drawn from the player deck.
Planning. Each player can use resources and play cards such as Allies and Attachments.
Quest. Each player decides which characters (heroes or Allies) they will send to the quest. Then cards equal to the number of players are revealed from the encounter deck and positioned on the staging area. Total willpower of the heroes is compared to the total threat strength of cards in the staging area and if willpower is greater, players have successfully quested and some progress tokens are placed on the quest card. A specific number of tokens are required in each quest for it to be completed.
Travel. Players may travel as a group to a location on the staging area, making it an active location and no longer contributing with its threat level upon questing. Progress tokens are placed there first after successfully questing until the location is fully explored.
Encounter. Players may engage enemy creatures on the staging area and then engagement checks are made to see if any enemies engage the players. Engaged enemies are moved from the staging area and placed in front of the engaging player.
Combat. Enemies then attack the players first and then players attack enemies. Characters may either commit to a quest, defend or attack enemies. Each of these actions require the character to exhaust (turn sideways). Characters may also exhaust when using an ability that requires them to do so.
Refresh. All exhausted characters become ready (moved to their normal upright position). Each player increases his threat by 1, and the first player passes the first player token to the next player clockwise on his left. That player becomes the new first player. Play then proceeds to the resource phase of the next round.
But enough with gameplay aspects. Now is the moment of truth. Does the game hold up to our expectations?

First Impressions

Upon opening the game box, I realized that it was simply too big for what it contained. Actual contents require only the middle one-third of the box, while the two other thirds are covered with cardboard pieces. Overcoming the initial frustration I began opening the small packages containing cards and the cardboard sheets with tokens and the threat counters. Upon observing the components I realized how much attention to detail was given during design. Fantasy Flight has proven in the course of years that where looks matter, it can make the difference and this game is no exception. All cards are exquisitely beautiful and detailed.

And then comes the rulebook. I have to admit that it seemed pretty intimidating to read through the 32 page manual but taking into account that many pages are example illustrations, things have been a bit easier than anticipated. But let’s go through our usual rating categories:

Components:

As mentioned earlier, cards couldn’t be better designed. Images of all cards are awesome, tokens are sturdy and the threat trackers are just superb. The only complain I had is about the number of players that can play the game. While four 30-card decks are included in the box, allowing four players to play, only 2 threat counters are included. I think that it would be appropriate to give full components for four players as only two threat counters would be required. Of course one can easily track threat in a piece of paper but it still seems a bit awkward. Fantasy Flight preferred profit over efficiency stating in the rulebook that “a one to two player game can be played using only the contents of this core set. (Up to four players can play the game cooperatively with a second copy of the core set.)” 9/10

Gameplay:

Gameplay is well thought of. The game has a lot of depth and allows many different strategies giving players the privilege of adjusting their decks as they please even combining different spheres in them and play according to their style. The game provides absolute immersion, through the beautiful artwork and interesting text on cards, not only quest cards that describe the mission of the party of adventurers but character and enemy cards too. Players are constantly faced with important decisions such as: Which characters should I use to commit to quests, which to defend or attack? Maybe I could use the character’s special ability instead. I was really impressed by the duration of the first few games until all players felt comfortably regarding the rules. The game box states a playing time of 60 minutes but be prepared to play a lot longer in the first games. Everyone who is not intimidated by complex rules and long gameplay and is a fan of the book will simply love this game and never be bored to play it. 8/10

Learning Curve:

All that is required to learn the game is go once through the rules and play the game once. That could take a while though. It is recommended that one of the players who likes to read rules should just do that and then explain the game to the others while playing the first (easier scenario). Merely stating the game rules will be intimidating and won’t serve much as the rules are pretty extensive and will be soon forgotten without the in-game experience. The sequence of phases is shown in the last pages of the rulebook along with the timing when players can take actions which will prove quite useful. 6/10

Theme:

The game quests take place during a timespan of 17 years: from when Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday (and Frodo’s 33rd) to days just prior to Frodo’s leaving the Shire. However the scenarios are not retelling the story of the books but instead they describe new adventures throughout Middle-Earth history. That may be seen as a positive or negative point to players and is clearly a matter of character. I personally find this idea refreshing and more intriguing. Game artwork along with detailed texting and the appearance of well-known heroes such as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli makes the theme of the game always present in every action players make. 9/10

Replayability:

Replayability is another strong point of this game. While new adventure packs are released each month, keeping up the interest in the game, even the core set with it’s 3 scenarios is pretty interesting as you will always want to replay scenarios to achieve better scores (lower scores are better!) and accomplish quests in fewer rounds. So replayability is at its best here. 9/10

Fun:

The game is much fun, though not in a way that will amuse you or make you laugh. Most times you will be struggling to make the right decisions about what actions to take or talk to your fellow mates about the right strategy to advance in the game. I think most fun comes out of the fact that this is a cooperative game. This is accomplished with an intuitive way though, allowing enough space for player cooperation and allowing players to make their own decisions too. I had a lot of fun playing this game 8/10

Pros:

Beautiful artwork and high quality material
Each game is different as encounter and player decks are shuffled
Theme is implemented most efficiently
Full deck customization
All cards become available in adventure packs (LCG system)
Cons:

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Great Single Player Card Games

Card games are a great way to pass the time with a group of friends, but they can also be great fun just by yourself.

First of all I will address what makes single player card games so enjoyable. Single player card games have been around for hundreds of years and are a core part of western society. People enjoy them for a number of reasons, the more basic games, such as Klondike and clock solitaire are simple and accessible for most people, this is what makes them so fun, all you need is yourself, a little time and a deck of cards.

Some people enjoy the challenge placed by the more complex card games, some find playing single player card games relaxing on a cool summers day. The choices are endless and this is what makes them such a good hobby – once you’ve learnt a couple of single player card games they can amuse you for hundreds of hours, simply because each game is always different, no game of solitaire is the same, and with the number of varieties that are out there, single player card games are one of the best hobbies around.

Card games have evolved over the years, today when most people think of solitaire games today, many people would immediately think of the digital versions for computers, and this is a natural occurrence and overall a good thing for single player card games, as times change they need to stay current, however, there are still millions of people who play the “old-fashion way” with a standard deck of cards.

When can I play single player card games? Some single player card games are short (10-15 minutes) while others can range from 30-45 minutes. Once you’ve learnt a number of both complex and simple games, you can choose which to play depending on your time frame.

For example if your on holiday and you’ve got a few minutes before your going to the beach, a quick game of Klondike can be the perfect time killer. Whereas if your on the boat on your way to your holiday, a nice long game of La Belle Lucie may be more suited.

Now I will attach a brief guide of how to play Beehive Solitaire, which a fun, interesting variant of solitaire:

Shuffle the pack. Then, holding the cards face down, count off 10 cards and put them in a pile face up on the table, with only the top card showing. This is the beehive.

Deal off the next 6 cards, placing them in 2 horizontal rows of 3 cards each. This is the flower garden into which you try to get the bees, or cards in the beehive, as well as all the other cards. Hold the remainder of the pack in your hand, face down.

The object is to combine all the 52 cards in sets of 4 of a kind, such as 4 Threes, 4 Jacks, and so on, by grouping them in sets of 4 in the flower garden, and removing each set when it is completed.

Play: With the cards laid out as described, begin to send bees to the garden. If the top card of the beehive is the same in value as any car in the garden, place it on that card. Then the next card in the hive being uncovered may be used if it has the same value as any card in the garden.

No card is ever place on the beehive, since the object is to use up all its cards as quickly as possible. Cards are placed only on the 6 garden cards.

If 2 cards in the garden have the same value, place one on top of the other, and fill the vacant space with the top card of the beehive. When all the cards of the same value, among the cards on the table, have been combined, deal off 3 cards from the pack in your hand, placing them in a pile face up, with only the top card (the third card from the top of the pack) showing.

This will begin a working pile. If the top card has the same value as any card in the garden, place it on the garden card, and use the card it uncovers in the working pile if it, too, has the same value as any in the garden. When you complete a set of 4 cards of the same value in the garden, such as 4 threes, remove it, put it to one side, and fill the vacant space with the top card of the beehive.

When there are no more cards in the beehive, fill a vacant space with the top card of the working pile. Go through the pack 3 cards at a time, placing them face up on the working pile and using as many as you can on cards in the garden, building sets of 4. Then turn over the working pile and go through it again, 3 cards at a time.

To win the game: If you combine all the cards in sets of 4, you win. Then turn over the working pile and go through it again, 3 cards at a time. However, if you have gone through the working pile without being able to use a single card, you lose the game.

Overall single player card games are one of the best hobbies still around today, they stimulate your brain, are exc

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