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.
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 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
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
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
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
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