Review: Würfel Bohnanza

In the world of board games, few designers are as prolific and well known as Uwe Rosenberg. Most gamers have played at least one Rosenberg title, and many count him among the most talented designers in history. To me, one of the greatest testaments to the quality of his work is that you can ask a dozen gamers what their favorite Rosenberg title is…and you’ll get a dozen different answers.

I’m one of those annoying people that won’t be able to answer that question – some days I’ll tell you that my favorite Rosenberg is Le Havre, other days I will answer Ora & Labora. God, those are good. But, no matter what title is currently at the top of my list, one that is never far behind (and sometimes tops the list), is Bohnanza. It’s a game that I’ve played more than most in my collection, and I’ll still bring it out during game nights.

When I heard that there was a dice version of Bohnanza in the works, I was…well…disinterested. In my experience, when a dice version of a game is made, it’s not that great. So when it was released overseas and wasn’t brought to the US, I wasn’t heartbroken. I figured it would make its way over here at some point…but that was four years ago and still? Nothing.

Fast forward to Origins 2016 – one afternoon, Patrick Hillier of the What Did You Play This Week Podcast Thing, pulled this game out of his Quiver (an amazing game carrying case) and I joined the group to check it out.

Würfel Bohnanza is a game for 2-5 players from Uwe Rosenberg that is comprised of 66 cards, 7 dice, and one bean field card. Play time on this game will vary between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the number of players.

wb01There are two groups within the dice – one set of four white dice and one set of three “beige” dice. Each set of dice, white and beige, have their own die faces with different colored beans on them. The white dice have orange, green, blue, and purple while the beige dice have orange, yellow, red, blue, and brown.

Much like the original Bohnanza, the Harvest cards serve two purposes: on the front side are 6 bean orders. These are the orders that the players will work towards fulfilling, some showing a number and color of beans required, others showing general orders (three different pairs of dice, six with no orange, etc.). On the back side are the thalers, which are the coins you need to win.

To begin the game, each player is given two Harvest cards and chooses one to work on first, placing the second card below the first, using it to cover the orders which are completed. Set the rest aside as a draw pile. During a player’s turn, they will roll the dice, and keep at least one, placing it in the bean field. They will continue to roll until they choose to stop or are out of dice. At that point, they complete the orders they can using the dice on the bean field and the turn moves to the next player clockwise. Each die can be used more than once, so completing multiple orders is possible.

wb02While the active player is taking her turn, the other players are able to complete orders as well, using only the dice that have just been rolled. Once dice are planted into the bean field, only the active player may use them to complete orders. For instance, if the order I’m currently working on is for two reds and a blue, and the active player rolls that, I can complete that order immediately. Because of this, it is important for the active player to make sure that everyone has had a chance to look at their cards before locking one of the dice.

Once at least three orders have been completed on a Harvest card, it can be turned in for coins. This can be done at any time, even if it is not your turn. The number of coins you’ll receive will increase with the number of orders you’ve completed – three orders can be turned in for 1 coin (simply flip the card into your scoring pile), whereas six orders can be turned in for 4 coins (flip the Harvest card and take three more facedown from the draw pile). This makes the card you were using as a “cover card” your current Harvest card.

After this, draw a new Harvest card, which becomes your second card to cover the orders on the card you’ve retained. It’s important to note that when you make this switch, especially if it is your turn, there’s a chance that you’ll be able to auto-complete orders on the new card. So if the last order on your first card was for two reds and two blue, and the first order on your new card was for two blue? Well, you’ve already got that!

Play continues until someone winds up with 13 coins after cashing in. Play stops and that person is the winner!

So was my disinterest well placed? Was this another “dice version dud”? Not in the least. There’s a lot to like about Würfel Bohnanza and, admittedly, a couple of really sizable downsides. Let’s take a look!

  • Würfel Bohnanza is easy to teach, and doesn’t take long to play. In fact, as you can fulfill orders on another player’s turn, we’ve found that adding more players has almost no effect on the playtime.
  • The Bohnanza theme is there, but this doesn’t attempt to pawn itself off as a dice version – this game stands alone just fine.
  • Each bean order has a little number on the right side. This is the percent chance that you will complete this order on your first roll. Two oranges? 33% chance. Two reds and a green? 6% chance. Knowing this can be important because…
  • The game allows you to bail out on orders that are tough to complete. That two red and a green? That’s a tough one, even with seven rolls. Once you’ve completed your third order, it’s time to evaluate and move on if the rest on the card are getting too hard to complete.
  • As you are able to complete orders when it isn’t your turn, players are always engaged in the game. In fact, there’s often (at least in my groups) a craps-like feel to the cheering. “C’mon now…roll me two orange, two orange…” It’s a lot of fun.

With all of that going for it, this game is a slam dunk. But, as I mentioned, there are a couple of pretty hefty negatives here as well. First off is availability. For whatever reason, this game just never made it out of Europe. I’m not sure if AMIGO Spiele couldn’t find a U.S. distribution partner, didn’t want to bother with translation, or what the story was…but it’s just not here.

wb03Thankfully, we have the internet. You can occasionally find this at an online game store, but it usually requires a special order. My suggestion would be to look on Amazon. There are several sellers from Germany that have this priced low with affordable shipping to the States. I’ve ordered from two different sellers with no issue.

Secondly, there’s an issue with the dice. The dice come in two different colors, white and beige. Unfortunately, the beige dice are a lightly colored beige. Very lightly. So light, in fact, that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two dice…especially under low light conditions. This can be important – if you’re trying to roll a green colored bean, you need to keep rolling the beige dice and not the white.

This problem can be remedied in a couple ways: if you consult the summary cards that come with the game, it’s easy to tell which die you are looking at as they both have colors which are unique. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can take a marker to the beige dice. A simple dot on each corner will mark them as different.

The issue with the dice most people will be able to get around, one way or another. The availability issue will be a little more difficult, depending on stock levels from third party sellers. But I think you should make the effort, for this game is worth the hassle.

It’s not going to be a centerpiece to your game night – it doesn’t really have enough meat for that. But this game makes one hell of a good closer. You will find all the players engaged, you’ll get a new take on the Bohnanza world, and you’ll be able to teach it in under 10 minutes. To me, that’s worth the extra effort.

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