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Subject: Family Focus Reviews: Bohnanza rss

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Ryan Metzler
United States
Round Lake Beach
Illinois
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Hello all. The purpose of this series will be to provide a review of varying games from a family gaming perspective. No...this series will NOT examine the intricacies of Monopoly or Risk, Scrabble or Yahtzee. Instead we will look at popular BGG games, and how these games work in the context of a typical family (2 parents, a teenage or older child, perhaps additional relatives).

For my tenth review, we will be taking a look at the set collection/hand management card game Bohnanza:

Bohnanza is one of those games that caught my attention shortly after being introduced to the wonderful world of BGG several months ago. Something about the theme, however, was just not immediately appealing. For this reason, the game got pushed off to the side and didn't get purchased until just recently. Enough about that though, what is Bohnanza you ask? Simply put, Bohnanza is a game in which you attempt to collect sets of beans to plant in your two (or three) imaginary fields. The more beans of one type you manage to plant in a field, the more money you will be able to sell your beans for later! The catch is that you are not allowed to rearrange the order of your cards in your hand, and are required each turn to plant at least the first card from the front of your hand. This, combined with the fact that you are limited to three fields, each of which may only contain only ONE type of bean, creates a situation in which carful hand management and planning are required. You manage and acquire these beans through careful trading (and manipulation) of your cards with your fellow game partners. By careful trading, planting, donation and manipulation of your hand, one can successfully create a situation in which you have ONLY the beans that you want. Enough about the rules and play though. How does this game stack up as a family game you ask? Lets take a look at my standard 6 categories:

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1) Ease of Play: This one is pretty easy. As card games go, there really aren't too many rules. The key thing to remember is that you CANNOT reorganize your hand. Other than that the gameplay proceeds as follows:

1 Plant the first card from your hand in a field with a matching bean (or an empty field)

2 (OPTIONAL) Plant the second card from your hand in a field with a matching bean (or an empty field)

3 Flip the top two cards of the draw deck up. Plant/Trade/Donate these cards as you see fit. Other cards from your hand may be traded in this phase as well

4 Plant all cards traded/donated in phase 3

5 Draw 3 cards (one at a time) and place them at the back of your hand

That is pretty much the flow of play. Special circumstances, such as harvesting beans, come in to play when you decide or are forced to harvest sets of beans in order to plant new sets. Harvesting allows for the acquisition of coins (or victory points) based on how rare a bean is, and how many you have acquired in your set. Harvesting beans is required to plant new types of beans if all of your fields are full. All in all, the game play is very simple. After a few rounds of play, everyone in my family easily picked it up and went about their way plotting out their fields and planning their trades. Simple enough for even young kids to pick up, I have to give a good rating to Bohnanza for ease of play.

Ease of Play Rating: /

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2) Clarity of Rules: Atrocious. Really just horrible in my eyes. My first encounter with this game was at the Gaming Hoopla 2009. As my last game of the day, I sat down and was hoping for a quick easy skim of the rules and some fun game play. Forget about it...the rule book of this game is just NOT easy to understand if you have no experience with the game previously. Understanding the flow of game play, the concept of how you manage your hand, and just how the game works in general is not something easily learned from reading. This is a game that REQUIRES someone knowledgeable of the game, if only for 5 minutes to explain how it goes. Once you have a quick, easy explanation, its all cake from there. Seriously...if you want to learn this one (which I suggest you do), find a friend who has played at least once and get them to teach you...

Clarity of Rules Rating: /

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3) Visual Appeal: Another aspect of Bohnanza that I would classify as "far from great". There really just isn't much to the game period. There aren't a lot of fancy parts to look at, or bright colors, or anything of that manner. The artwork on the cards is mildly amusing, with some sight gags based on the names of the beans. The backs of the cards are marked with a gold coin, which also serve as markers as to how much money you have made throughout the game. This constitutes the ENTIRE visual component of the game. I must say, however, that visual appeal is not what makes the game. Never-the-less, Bohnanza gets a strikingly low score for visual appeal. No-one in the family was enthralled by the artwork, or the components...just very little to say here...

Visual Appeal Rating: /

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4) Quality of production: The production value of the game is...well...fine I guess. I would have to venture that its hard to have a horribly produced, yet popular, card game. The cards are printed on a good stock, with a nice finish so that they seem durable and are easy to shuffle. The box is made of a good quality cardboard which seems like it will easily stand up to the test of time, and the insert in the box is sturdy and keeps the cards in place. Really, I just don't see how they could possibly go wrong here.

Quality of Production Rating: /

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5) Fun Factor: And now we come to the rating that really matters in family game play, Fun Factor. Despite its lack of visual appeal and its horrific rules, the fun offered by Bohnanza totally makes it a worthwhile play. My family instantly took to this game, enjoying the player interaction offered by negotiating trades and bargaining to get rid of cards they didn't want. Although we routinely go over the suggested play time, boredom is never a factor and everyone enjoys the full amount of time spent playing. As a matter of fact, it has become common that THEY suggest we play this game. Often times, it even stays for a second play!!! Great times will be had with this game for a long time to come. Oh, and did I mention it plays 7 people? Crazy good times to be had there...

Fun Factor Rating: /

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6) Strategy: Another strong point for Bohnanza! The strategy involved in trading the appropriate beans, planting the beans, harvesting your beans, whether or not a certain trade is good...well it just provides for a lot of choices. Should you try and trade for a bean JUST to prevent another player from getting it? Which plot of beans should you harvest in order to plant your rare cocoa bean!? Who benefits the most from your currently proposed trade? That, plus convincing others to perform sub-optimal trades, can make a game of Bohnanza highly strategic. The best part? It is a kind of strategy that almost everyone can grasp!! The whole family will be able to understand how to benefit themselves while minimizing benefit to others. This nearly universal understanding of the strategies will put almost everyone on the same playing field, providing a fun and fair strategic game enjoyable by all.

Strategy Rating: /

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Summary: Bohnanza is a wonderful family game that has provided my family with hours of entertainment. With simple game play and easy to understand strategy, Bohnanza will provide a light and fun gaming experience which will be enjoyed by all. Although the game is not beautiful, and the rule book is atrocious, I still must suggest that any family which enjoys banter and interaction pick up a copy of Bohnanza. The magnificent game play will more than make up for the game's few flaws...

Overall Family Focus Rating: /

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Thank you much for reading my review. Stay tuned to my review geeklist for more reviews oriented at gaming within a family environment. The geeklist can be found at:

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/46140

NOTE: I have just entered the gaming community and begun gaming with my family. Reviews posted here are based only on games played in a family setting. This series will continue to offer reviews of games which have been played in this setting, both good and bad. I hope that these reviews may serve the BGG community, and perhaps lead others to games which they too may enjoy in a family setting. Donations are not expected, or required, but are always appreciated.


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Trent Hamm
United States
Huxley
Iowa
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See this text? It's a gratuitous waste of GeekGold.
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The game itself isn't important. Spending time intellectually jousting with likeminded folks is the real reason to game.
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You've posted enough of these that the note at the bottom is now at best redundant.
 
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Steven
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Great review. I agree with you that the artwork is less than ideal. The publisher should ditch the current artwork and adopt this kickass redesign by carthaginian!
 
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Ryan Metzler
United States
Round Lake Beach
Illinois
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"Wuhhh... I think so, Brain, but if a ham can operate a radio, why can't a pig set a VCR?"
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trenttsd wrote:
You've posted enough of these that the note at the bottom is now at best redundant.


Ummm....ok. Thanks for the feedback?
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Scott Johnson
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Cloquet
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trenttsd wrote:
You've posted enough of these that the note at the bottom is now at best redundant.


I don't agree. this is the first of his reviews i have read, and i also game in a family setting, so these types of reviews are perfect for me.

I also agree the rules are bad, and i have never played this game yet because i cannot understand the rules. ninja
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David C
United States
Aurora
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trenttsd wrote:
You've posted enough of these that the note at the bottom is now at best redundant.


I hope he keeps up with the note at the bottom just to make you feel the need to keep posting redundant notes about being redundant. That would make my day.



The rulebook is a little meandering, but the best thing to do is the standard walkthrough by yourself and a stuffed teddy bear. Don't laugh, I bet lots of guys (and gals) do it.
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Ryan Metzler
United States
Round Lake Beach
Illinois
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"Are you pondering what I'm pondering Pinky?"
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"Wuhhh... I think so, Brain, but if a ham can operate a radio, why can't a pig set a VCR?"
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bippi wrote:
trenttsd wrote:
You've posted enough of these that the note at the bottom is now at best redundant.


I hope he keeps up with the note at the bottom just to make you feel the need to keep posting redundant notes about being redundant. That would make my day.

Oh no worries, already planned on it...
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David C
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My favorite thing about this game is it's one you can play blastedly drunk, or you can put your back into it and try to win. Either way:

a) You're probably going to have fun.
b) You're going to contribute something to the game.

A friend of mine referred to it as "Go Fish on Crack"
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