Reviewed by Herb Levy
(Hanser/Rio Grande Games; 3-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $37.95)
The festive atmosphere of Oktoberfest, of beer gardens and pretty waitresses, has combined with the business side of breweries in Goldbräu, the brainchild of Franz-Benno Delonge, best known for his Transamerica (featured in the Summer 2002 GA REPORT).
Goldbräu comes with a mounted gameboard, 70 cards consisting of 24 brewery shares (four for each brewery), 36 beer garden shares (six for each), 5 “drunken bum” and 5 “pretty waitress” cards, 48 fences, 2 chips (“drunken bum” and “pretty waitress”), 12 brewery signs (three for each of the four breweries), play money (in thalers) and sets of boss figures, share markers and action cards in blue, yellow, green and red.
The board presents the town of Seehausen am See, the relevant areas being six beer gardens (Zum Krug, Zur Eiche, Aum Bären, Zur Post, Zum Hirschen and Zum Adler) surrounded by four breweries (Mayerbräu, Steinbräu, Kramerbräu, and Schmidlbräu). The beer garden’s boundaries are marked by three fences. Your goal: to acquire shares in both the breweries and beer gardens and earn the most money after three weeks of festivities.
Starting with a bankroll of 25 thalers and a set of share markers, boss figures and three action cards in their chosen color, players set out to meet their objective. The brewery signs are shuffled and one randomly placed on each of the six beer gardens. The pretty waitress chip is placed at Zum Bären (marked by a picture of a bear) while the drunken bum chip begins at Zum Adler (marked by an eagle). The 60 share cards are shuffled and six cards dealt to each player. Then, the pretty waitress and drunken bum cards are mixed into the deck. Now, each player chooses four of his six shares, reveals them and places one of his share markers on the matching gardens or breweries on the board. Those cards are now discarded. The two remaining cards become that player’s starting hand. Finally, each player puts 2 of his boss figures on ANY garden or brewery on the board. (Having a share in an enterprise is NOT a requirement for placing the boss there at this time.)
The starting player (the “thirstiest” is suggested by the rules but any way you choose works fine) takes the starting player figure while the player sitting two places away (in clockwise order) gets the payday figure. Each game round represents a day in the week. After seven rounds, a week is concluded and income is registered and distributed.
Each round begins with 2 cards drawn from the deck and placed face up on the table. Then, each player chooses one of his three action cards, placing the chosen card face down. The cards are revealed simultaneously and the resulting actions resolved.
There are three types of action cards (resolved in this order): beer garden expansion, name boss/beer contract and acquire share.
Beer garden expansion allows the player to expand one beer garden in which he has a boss by one space, horizontally or vertically. (Diagonal expansion is not permitted.) Fences are moved and adjusted accordingly. Some spaces on the board (indicated by an umbrella on a table) are worth double in computing the value of a garden. Expansion into regular or “double spaces” is free. (If a player is the boss of two adjacent beer gardens, he may expand into his other controlled garden.) Should only one player choose this action in a round, he may expand TWICE!
The boss/beer contract card allows the player to do one of two things: place a boss figure or make a new beer contract.
A player may place one of his boss figures in any area in which he already has a share. To become the boss, it is necessary that the player have MORE shares in that particular business than ALL the other players there. As part of his action, he may play a share card of the business and place a share marker down (discarding the card) to make it happen. However, should another player have a boss there already, that player may try to defend against this takeover by playing a share card from HIS hand, placing a share marker down and discarding his played card. If blocked, the active player may try again (and again, if so desired) until he is successful or gives up!
Alternatively, he can make a new beer contract between a beer garden where he is the boss and a brewery where he is the boss. This is done by removing the current brewery sign from the beer garden, replacing it with a sign from the new brewery.
As with expansion, if only one player chooses this action in a round, that player may take the action TWICE!
Finally, players may acquire shares. Each player may buy exactly one share with the cost dependent on the number of players selecting this action. If only one player is buying, the cost is 2 thalers. With two players, each share costs 5. If three or four buy, the cost is 8. A player may buy either of the two face up share cards (placing a marker on the matching business immediately) or draw the top card from the draw deck, sight unseen. When drawing, the card may be used immediately or taken into his hand for later use.
As soon as all six shares in a business are claimed, noted by six markers on a business, any player with only a single share LOSES that share! His marker is returned to his supply. (Each player has only 16 share markers in the game so each is limited to 16 shares. Use your shares wisely!)
Drunken bum and pretty waitress cards are purchased like share cards. When playing a bum or waitress card, the player may choose to move the matching chip to an adjacent beer garden or to one 2 gardens away from the chip’s current location. He can also, if he chooses, leave the chip where it is. Both chips may NOT be in the same garden at the same time. Should a bum or waitress card be drawn blind from the deck, it must be played immediately. (These cards are never kept in a player’s hand.)
Once all players have resolved their actions, the starting player figure moves clockwise, any cards remaining of the two face up share cards are placed at the bottom of the deck and two new cards drawn to replace them. Now, the next round begins.
This continues until the seventh round is completed and now, players are poised to collect money. However, just before income is determined, players, in turn order starting with the start player, may play share cards and add to their business holdings. These played cards are discarded. When all players have played or passed, players collect income.
Beginning with the Zum Adler garden and continuing around the board, the incomes of each of the beer gardens are determined. Beer garden income is based on size. Each fenced in space is worth 4 thalers. Enclosed spaces with “umbrellas” count double and are worth 8 thalers. However, income is modified by the presence of the drunken bum (reducing the income by 12 thalers!) and the pretty waitress (who increases the income by a considerable 20 thalers!)
HALF of a beer garden’s income goes to the brewery supplying the beer. The other half is divided among the share holders of the garden. Each share gets an equal amount of money. The more shares you have, the more money you earn. If the money cannot be divided equally, the remainder goes to the player who is the boss.
After all the garden income is divided, the brewery income is divided in the same manner as the gardens. With the money distributed, the next “week” begins, the starting player marker shifts and we do the whole procedure over again. After the third payday, totals are calculated. The player with the most money wins!
The interaction between beer garden expansion and brewery contracts is the crux of the game and this interplay works well. Since the larger a beer garden, the more income it generates, the trick here is to have other players do the “heavy lifting” and expand gardens in which you have a significant stake. For this to happen, though, it’s best to mislead the opposition into thinking they have control of a garden when, in actuality, you are poised to take control by holding back a share or two. Timing is important. As important as the beer gardens are, during our play sessions, brewery contracts seemed to be the “make or break” ingredient in the mix as breweries, unlike beer gardens, have the potential of being able to generate significantly larger incomes as they can draw revenue from several different gardens.
The three options offered each turn allow players room for maneuvering and this concept, seen in other games, is well utilized here. Predicting and outguessing your opponents, of figuring out what they will do so you can zig when they zag, is key as correct choices give you powerful advantages. Unfortunately, in the end game, this device is undermined as expansion tends to become a less viable choice as possibilities for expansion lessen and, in some cases, become non-existent. More room for expansion (and there is plenty of unused space on the board which could have been used to allow for larger beer gardens) would have been a good idea.
In the scheme of things, Goldbräu will probably never replace rollicking times in a beer garden surrounded by pretty waitresses. But I doubt if that was the designer’s intent. Still, when all is said and done, Goldbräu is an intoxicating and tasty brew.- – Herb Levy
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Winter 2005 GA Report Articles