Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Discovering Bohnanza

On business travel, I had the opportunity to visit long-time friend Stephen Craig and his wife Shelly.  Stephen had recently brought his prototypes of "Off to College" and "Staples" to UnPub2 and come back with a number of suggestions and ideas to work on.  But after a nice spaghetti dinner, the game that Stephen and Shelly really wanted to bring to the table was a card game I'd read many good things about but never played - Bohnanza (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Bjorn Pertoft, publisher Rio Grande).

I'm a big fan of Uwe R. because of Agricola, and I look forward to trying Le Havre sometime soon when I have the opportunity.  Bohnanza is in a completely different category, though, and I was surprised to see that Uwe R. had designed it.  At first glance, I was reminded more of Empyrean Inc. than anything else, but even that comparison is weak.  I'd read a number of reviews of Bohnanza, and while they were largely enthusiastic, none was particularly positive on it as a two-player game, so I hadn't really given it much thought.

Based on our session this evening, though, I've bumped it up on my wish list.  Bohnanza is a clever little game of shifting relative values among cards and tight decision constraints.  A lot of the fun is in the wheeling and dealing to trade off unwanted bean types for better prospects.  Whereas we tended to play a semi-cooperative, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" approach, I can see how this game could be very cut-throat in a competitive environment (like a tournament).  As a social gamer, I appreciated the "benevolent negotiator" approach that we took at the table this evening.

I would imagine that a lot of the fun elements would be muted in a two-player game, which has no trading, but Stephen and Shelly insist that they have a lot of fun just playing the two of them.  Their copy of the game is "well-loved," which shows that it has had a lot of play.  So I think Kathy and I will have to give this a look.  Many thanks for Stephen and Shelly for turning us on to this new discovery!

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