A game about a micro brewery, Microbrew is also packaged as a micro game but there’s a lot of game in this tiny ‘mint’ tin box.
Shown here is the prototype version of Microbrew, designed by Sarah Kennington and Nigel Kennington and published by One Free Elephant. The game is due to launch on Kickstarter in September, by which time there are likely to be enhancements to the artwork and components. It’s a two-player game which you should be able to expand to four players if you buy two copies. Players are each competing to brew, bottle and serve beers to thirsty customers. They are seeking not just to make money but, ultimately more important, to turn those thirsty customers into loyal customers.
This is first and foremost a worker placement game: players place out their workers on unoccupied spaces in the brewery and then take the indicated action. Places occupied by your opponent or by the ‘brewmaster’ token (which progresses around the brewery) are not barred but if you go to one of these locations it gives your opponent an extra action.
Players each have their own boards representing the copper in which they are brewing their beer. This is populated with yellow, orange and brown ‘wort’ tokens. A brew action entitles a player to move these tokens. You’ll want to move them so that they line up in a column making as close a match as you can manage to the recipe on a beer card. You’ll earn more the closer you can get to matching the recipe. At the end of each turn, beers ferment (tokens are removed from bottled beer cards) and fully fermented beers can subsequently be served to a customer. Again, you’ll earn more the closer the recipe matches the customer’s specific preferences. A poor match will still quench the customer’s thirst and earn a small amount but only a perfect beer (complete match) will turn that customer into a loyal customer, which is what will count in determining the winner when the game ends.
The brew action of moving the various wort tokens on your individual board introduces a novel puzzle element into the game which greatly adds to Microbrew's appeal. There’s scope for much strategy in this game too. You can see which customers your opponent may be hoping to please and it can be an effective tactic to rush out a rough beer that merely quenches that customer’s thirst in order to deny your opponent the chance to recruit them as a loyal customer with the perfect beer that you can see them concocting. Going for perfection is not the only route to collecting loyal customers, however: you can, in effect, buy loyalty by choosing the advertise action, though you’ll have to have previously bottled enough beer to pay the high cost of buying loyalty in this way.
One Free Elephant have to be congratulated for fitting so much into this tiny box. It makes this game an excellent choice to pack for your holidays. The game is quick to learn and takes about an hour to play, yet there's enough in this tiny tin to keep even hardened euro gamers entertained. The only element of Microbrew that is less than satisfactory is the way in which player’s earnings and expenditure are tracked by using marker cubes at the bottom of each player’s copper. These are too readily prone to being jogged. It would be better to have coins to record income and expenditure. I don’t know whether or not the incorporation of cardboard coins would be a practical proposition (it’s yet more to have to cram into that tiny tin box) but at Board’s Eye View we managed to solve the problem simply by using the loose change in our pockets as the game’s currency.
Microbrew is a game you’ll want to look out for, so we’ll be sure to add a note on Board’s Eye View to let you know when the game’s Kickstarter goes live.