…that is one of my many impersonations. A vat of brewing beer.
…the fermenting hops, malt, barley, biro lids, toe nail clippings and whatever else one imagines goes in to a vat, or copper as they are called, to ferment into the most excellent of craft beers. Water is also said to be so vital to a great beer and amongst the greats, the Trent is said to be one of Britain’s best rivers for sourcing water for beer…but having grown up near Stoke-on-Trent and seen the shite that gets discarded into the waterway, by the time the river reaches Burton, you wouldn’t dare take a sip…but I digress…Today, after taking a quick brewery tour of a local brewery, I think I have absorbed sufficient knowledge to have a go at brewing my own. I mean, how hard can it be?
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“The brewmaster of the Tiny tin brewery has challenged YOU*- the leaders of their two newest brewing crews to a brew-off. Who will creat the tastiest beers and win the most loyal customers?
Only one way to find out.
Ready? Set! Brew!”
*(and by that I assume they mean us)
What’s All The Fuss About?
I was super chuffed when visiting the OFE stand at this year’s UKGE to be handed a small tin with a post it not on it…labled for meeeeee.
..now, before I get carried away, I had expressed an interest in the upcoming project from Nigel and Sarah but had not given it another thought until the expo. It is always nice to be remembered and to receive preview/prototype copies is also a good feeling but this is not a forgone conclusion that an endorsement is to follow. I like to play a game and then report on how that experience was for me.
Micro Brew is, succinctly, a puzzle solving worker placement game set in a Micro brewery…something on the currently on the increase in the UK, where many pubs now brew and retail their own drinks. There is a slight surprise in this game…namely, although at the lighter end of worker placement games spectrum, and comes in the tiniest of packages, it punches well above its weight. The entire game fits into a mint tin. THIS is not a minimal component, nano card game (as you will no doubt discover as I am sure to repeat myself again and again about how many components come with this game…but more later)
Immersion or Subversion:
The way the game is set up, how it works and the way in which it plays provides a player with the opportunity to firstly place small brewers throughout the brewery, brew beer, bottle and mature it and then right through to consumers. Although the backstory is one of internal competition, we still get the feeling we are in full control of the process right from raw materials through to point of sale. If this doesn’t immerse us into the world of brewing on a tabletop, I am not sure what will. Aesthetically we are not looking at bespoke, hand carved hops or malt…and we don’t have giant 3D copper vat models but none of these superficial game-bling components are needed to become immersed in the brewing game.
There are a surprising number of particularly interesting aspects to this game. Now, admittedly my experience of brewing games runs to Viticulture/Tuscany, and not in the same field…as it were, so I uldn’t like to comment on how unique the mechanics are. However I will comment on the particular elements that caught my attention.
I won’t bore you with all the tedious ins and outs of the game’s day to day running but will touch upon the elements that make his the game that it is.
- A day at the brewery
Worker placement is the seat of the game allowing us to send our little helpers to various parts of the brewery. As our team and our opponents team are competing in the same facility, it is understandable we will get under each others feet. To mirror this nicely and a departure from many placement games, once a player occupies a location in Micro Brew, that place is not exempt to others. Opponent workers may be placed at our worker’s location. How unfair, you yell…but not so. As a payoff, our worker is returned to us and effectively we have another worker to place for yet another action. In this way we have to decide if we have done enough or want to risk giving opponents another action to enable us to complete a further action.this is where the cat and mouse tit-for-tat comes in. The brewmaster blocks certain spaces but players never block each other so we will always be able to progress through the game without the tedium of lull turns.
- Coppers & pots
The Copper is where the biggest puzzle element lies. Moving our Worts about in order to match as best we can with the bottles available to us. There is a cunning movement hierarchy and, in particular, here lies our true puzzle. Dark move down, light move up…multiple moves can be achieved, if conditions are right…but to help and hinder, the Malting can also go either way but are, ultimately, a contaminant and will not be of huge use to use when bottling..let us push about our discs!!!!
- Gottles of gear (as the ventriloquist once said)
Once we are done manipulating the Wort discs around our Copper, we can pull columns of these circles of tastiness from the card and locate them on our chosen bottle. Action by action we can remove a disc as the bottle matures. An interesting point of not is we don’t actually need to match the coloured discs with the coloured icons on the bottle card…well, we do if we want to earn the big bucks, but as is often the case, we can find ourselves in a right pickle, so using imperfect ingredients means that contaminants remain and reduce the quality. Sad for revenue as such, customers will not pay op whack for it but what it does mean is that we will never be stuck with wasted turns with nothing to do. We could cut our losses and make an impure beer just for a bit of quick cash (as some fools will buy and drink anything) or do we try to hold out for that perfect brew. Divergent strategies, me thinks.
- Brahms & List
A fickle bunch, the drinkers of Little Tin beers. Some will drink absolutely anything thrust before them while others are pickier than a team of students in the hop garden harvest. Again, we can sell pretty much anything to anyone and, if they are drunk enough, will knock it back but only the finicky tasters (not quaffers), demanding the highest quality will pay for such treasures.
WoodChits and Cardboard Bits:
What can I say? Just sooooooo much inside this tin. I know these are prototype components,
but even so, the wooden components are well coloured and have a high finish. The cards are printed well and of good stock…and, although many cards are using placeholder artwork, it is possible to see how the project s going to look when finished…
oh, and of course there is the compulsory one free elephant. I don’t know (at the time of writing) how much the game will retail for, but compared to other mint tin sized projects, this really does pack a phenomenal amount into a tiny space.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Nigel & Sarah Kennington
- Prototype Art: The Noun Project & Nigel kennington
- Game Publisher: One Free Elephant
- Playtime (or recess for those of the US persuasion) : 60mins
- Gangs of One: 2 (currently no solo option)
- Age of Consent: 13+
- DOB: 2018
Solitarianism: As it stands it is a head to head two player game but I hold out hope that Nigel may yet work similar wonders to those he conjured up for the Carcosa Solo mode.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As this is a head to head, someone is going to win…and the journey there is not particularly difficult from a gameplay point of view. How we maximise our resources, select the right drink to brew and match it to customers to optimum effect is entirely up to our skills as a Brew Master and pushes our decision-making to the full.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rules pamphlet is less than an A4 sized sheet (printed double-sided) but even then, this accommodates numerous illustrations and examples of play. The language is user-friendly and makes light of explaining what is required of us. I had to re-read several points to clear them up in my mind but I didn’t encounter any ambiguity or conflicts hat further reading could’t resolve, which suggests the rules, although not finalised, are very close to the definitive article.
- Lucky Buggers: Other than the move of an opponent and the ‘luck of the draw’ regarding customers and beers, this is not a game that is remotely luck orientated. What we as brew crafters do with our hops, malt barley and what not, is entirely our affair. The age-old adage ‘reap what you sow’ or something to that effect, is quite fitting. There is always something to be done to mitigate misfortune…except getting drunk, riotous customers on a Friday night.
- Highs and Lows: This is a light (but in-depth) worker placement with a pleasant illustrative feel and, obviously, a great theme for many (I am alcohol intolerant so perhaps not so for me, but brewing still interests me). The mechanics mean that there is a small amount of ‘take-that’ in the form of pinching places to allocate workers, but this is nicely balanced with the ability to double up spaces…although this comes with a price of giving back an opponent’s worker. There is a lot of entertaining to-ing and fro-ing…but all within a pleasant feel-good game…unless you are on to an opponent’s devius strategy, that is…realising a special brew is under “construction” for a special customer…then you can unscrupulously steal that customer away with some inferior drink with a fruit salad and umbrella in it. Customers are not as discerning as they would have us believe.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The footprint, for a mint tin game, is ridiculously large. By that I mean comparatively…as the game will comfortably fit on to a dinner tray…well, an area of 50cm x 40cm will more than accommodate the components.
- Build it Up Just to tear It All Down Again: Considering there is the smallest of tins, there is a ridiculous quantity of components and as such there is some setup required. This mostly comprises random population of the malting on the player brew cards, allocating meeples and separating the decks into their respective piles then revealing 3/4 cards as an offer. Realistically this isn’t much more than a ten minute exercise once familiar with the components but as the tin is very well packed (from a space point of view), there is no opportunity to bag up cards and wooden components into separate bags. This in its self is not an issue but fitting the jigsaw of components back into the tin will set you back more time than setting up…but they do all fit in….I have timed myself and have managed to pack away in 1min 37secs…now that I have sussed where to wedge everything in to the tin.
Me, Myself and I:
This turned out to be surprisingly cunning in many ways. First, most obviously, cunning in how much can be crammed into a small tin. Cunning in how big a game can be achieved from a relatively small component count (in comparison to bigger, heavier WP games) and cunning in how clever the actual game plays. Ahead of us there is a lot of careful planning required…trying to get the copper to ferment a brew that not only corresponds to an available bottle but to potential customers, keeping a sly eye on the opponent to try to pre-empt their potential clients and all the while working around the Brewmaster who can be the most awkward bugger going, especially on a Monday. I enjoyed this much more than I anticipated and, as WP games go, there really isn’t any down time… In addition we find a lot more interaction/reaction than many worker placement games (which, to me, often feel like a multiple solo race to a very distant finishline) Everything we do here can and does have an impact, for better or worse, on our opponents, so we do need to be mindful. I like the intimacy and interaction offered here, which, to be fair, is quite remarkable from such a small game.
Yay or Nay?
Not my norm (multiplayer worker placement) it has to be said, but Micro Brew has grown on me to become an intriguing and engaging little chap. I cannot award it the normal BSoMT 1d8 die roll as it is not a solo game (at the moment..but I can but hope). I would highly recommend this to anyone that likes the lighter Euro/worker placement style of game and fancies an engaging, fun game that fits in your pocket. I will likely misquote here but I think at least twelve micro Brew tins fit in an Arkham Horror card game box…but not a single Arkham horror box will fit into a Micro Brew tin. Value for money and no wasted packaging.
I have seen some shots of the proposed artwork and it is now starting to look even better than the test copy I was kindly given. I suggest deffinately checking out the Kickstarter campaign when it goes live (link below)
RIGHT! Dink up now…drink up…Ain’t you got no ‘omes to be goin’ to?
All week miraculously brewing nutty brown, frothy mixtures for this drunken heap of layabouts to swig without it even touching the sides. What is the point in my CAMERA awards? Completely wasted on this lot…most of whom will recycle my brew against the fence outside…heathens!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Kickstarter goes live 1st September 2018
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Micro Brew on BGG: