A Gnome's Ponderings

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Bean Yahtzee - our first experiences with Wurfel Bohnanza

Lowell Kempf
United States
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I definitely have a fondness for dice games. Not every dice game is going to be a good one but dice games are often portable, easy to teach and often don’t take up that much time. Dice games also compliment my love for abstracts. Sometimes you want perfect information and total control. Sometimes, you want to weigh the odds and throw the dice.

The industry seems to go through periodic waves of publishing dice adaptations of titles. Hasbro had their express line, of which I enjoyed Monopoly Express the most. (Although that turned out to be a reprint of an earlier dice adaption ) In the past year, we have had dice adaptations of Keltis, Zooloretto and Bohnanaza.

Now, just because the original game is good does not mean that the adaptation is going to be good. I honestly found the Settlers Dice game to be disappointing, since it really was yahtzee with different symbols and a couple wild options. The advanced versions probably offered more options but I had gotten rid of the game by the time they came around.

Let us be honest. Many, many dice adaptations (and many dice games in general) can be described as either farkle with a twist or yahtzee with a twist. (Not too many Liar’s Dice with a twist, though) There are exceptions to that rule. Wurfel Zooloretto genuinely felt like a Coloretto family member that just used dice instead of cards and High Score/Wurfel Bingo is clearly Take It Easy with dice. And both are pretty fun games that stand on their own merits.

Wurful Bohnanza, on the other hand, really can be described as a yahtzee variant. Indeed, by the second place, people were just calling it Bean Yahtzee. The real question was, was the twist enough to make the game stand on its own? When all was said and done, did we have fun when it hit the table and is it a game that we will want to play again?

Wurfel Bohnanza consists of a deck of cards and seven dice, four white dice and three beige dice. The different colors have a different assortment of bean icons and there are handy player aides showing you the faces of the two different types of dice.

Each card shows six ‘orders’ of beans. These orders can be specific numbers of beans (like two blue beans and one garden bean) or two triples or three pairs or even six different types of beans. I understand each group of three can theoretically be fulfilled with the right grouping of all seven dice. Each order also comes with a handy percentage chance of being rolled.

The active player starts by rolling all seven dice and can reroll up to six times but they have to lock a die in the bean field (a separate little mat) after every roll. After they choose to stop rolling, they use the dice in the field to fulfill as many orders as they can, using another card to cover up their completed orders. Each order is judged separately so you can use the dice you used in the last order.

So far, you’re nodding your head and saying “Yup, sounds like yahtzee to me.”

But, ah, here is the clever bit. Before the active player places dice on the bean field, the other players get to look at the roll and can apply those dice to their own card! Some people apparently play this as a speed game but we let people see the dice before placing them on the field. Dice on the field are only for the active player but, before those beans are planted, it’s an open market!

After you can completed at least three orders, cards can be harvested for one to four coins, depending on how many orders have been completed. As you might expect, seeing as how this is a Bohnanza game, the backs of the cards double as coins and if you need more than one coin, you draw them from draw pile. First player to thirteen wins.

Okay, so, was it any fun and were we better off playing Wurfel Bohnanza rather than just dusting off Yahtzee? The answer to that questions was yes and yes.

The kicker was, of course, the fact that you could use other folks’ die rolls. That meant that everyone was participating on every turn and that meant that the game was more than just a multi-player solitaire. Wurfel Bohnanza kept us all engaged and in the game.

Yes, there is an awful lot of luck in the game. While the active player, with the help of the player aide, can make reasoned choices about what dice to plant in the bean field, everyone else is just hoping that the dice will go their way. However, the game plays fast enough that I don’t think anyone is going to complain about this being more of a luck-based game than a strategy game.

Wurfel Bohnanza is not going to be the next big thing. Nor will it take the place of regular Bohnanza, although the dice sharing did give it a bit of the feel of the trading and giving from Bohnanza. However, it is on its way to becoming what we reach for when we want a quick dice game.
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