|Chris Kirkman (left) fermenting a concoction in|
"Brewmasters" by Ben Rosset (right)
The format is a worker-placement game that shows the heavy influence of Agricola, one of my very favorite games and something of a gold-standard for worker placement. Ben has deliberately taken some of the gameplay elements of Agricola that tend to depart from the theme and modified them to make a more fluid, logically flowing game experience. The feel of running a brewery is strong, but the game tension is also palpable. Although I could see mistakes that I'd made in the early game, I also had plenty of opportunity over the twelve seasons that the game turns represent to redirect my strategy and land on my feet.
|Chris Kirkman (left), Ben Rosset (top), and myself|
in a birds-eye-view of "Brewmasters"
Overhead reconnaissance photo by T.C. Petty III
I'm also fond of the "pipeline" mechanic of the brewing operation that Ben has put together. If a player is careless, he can create a production bottleneck that chokes down his capacity to the weakest part of his line. In my case, my need for a wide variety of goods (plus my productive hops and fruit farms) exceeded the capacity of my warehouse, and in at least one case I had to dump ingredients for which I had no room. The factory dynamic requires some planning and strategizing without creating an annoying level of overhead.
|Ben Rosset's "Brewmasters" prototype reveals considerable thought and detail in its components.|
Chris and I had only one recommendation to Ben having to do with the end-game, which in our session coasted into all players spending most of their brewery actions on research because there was little motivation to do anything else. I don't know whether that was a glitch with our particular run-through or a typical way that the game plays out, but I think Ben felt that the observation was sound and that the game needs a little adjustment. Overall, I think that Ben has a really solid game here. With that end-game tightened up, I am convinced that "Brewmasters" stands to outshine Agricola in the worker-placement genre.
|Image (c) Rio Grande Games|
Our Game Table, whom I've seen at practically every convention I've attended. OGT is actually local to the UnPub venue, since their brick-and-mortar operation is in Dover, Delaware. Their price of admission at UnPub was simply that they agree to handle sales of published games that registered designers and publishers brought. So besides their own inventory, they had a table with stacks of Carnival and Viva Java for sale.
|Image (c) Clever Mojo Games|
While I was there, I also bought a copy of Viva Java, because I'd always wanted it, and here was an opportunity to get it without having to have it shipped. I had T.C. Petty III autograph the cover as the designer, and I had Chris K. autograph both SC and VJ as the artist. (I'm such a fanboy.)
Final Observations on UnPub
I don't think I rolled a single die the entire weekend. That might say something about the type of games I was attracted to, but it might say just as much if not more about the state of the art of game design. Although there is something of a sub-genre of dice-driven mechanics like dice building and dice placement - and although UnPub had some innovative dice games ("Knot Dice" and "Throne Dice" come immediately to mind) - there were many dice-free prototypes in evidence at UnPub this year.
On the topic of convention logistics, John Moller had tried to schedule all the games at UnPub, and the consensus on Saturday was that it didn't work very well. So on Sunday, he dropped the schedule in favor of a "self-scheduling" method in which designers posted signs on their tables saying, "Next game at 2:00" or the like. That seemed to work, but I think there's an option for a happy "semi-organized" medium position that I will discuss with John to consider for UnPub 4.
So, my bottom line on UnPub is that it was everything I'd hoped it would be. I got three terrific playtests done on "East India Company" and came away feeling that it is close and that I know what to do to get it even closer to publication. I also got to play several games, offer feedback, get excited about new things coming out, make new contacts, buy a couple of games, ... and end up wishing I had time to play more.
Tot ludos, ita paulo tempus.
|Image (c) Dice Hate Me Games|
Did I mention that this was Darrell Louder's first game design?