Fancy yourself as a master blender? Or maybe a cup of instant is more your thing? Well, with Coffee Roaster, you get to try your hand with brewing that perfect cup of coffee.
Designed by Saashi and originally released in 2015, DLP and Stronghold have now given this solo bag builder the full makeover for a new 2019 release, and they've put a lot of love and attention into this new version. In each game, you'll go through three challenges, and the complexity is determined by how well you perform in the first round, so you need to earn your stripes here. For each challenge, you select a coffee blend from those available in the matching difficulty level, add the tokens listed to your bag, and then draw the number of tokens required by the current round (dictated by the ‘temperature’).
The tokens drawn can be beans of a value between 0 and 4, hard beans which turn into beans of value 0, flavour tokens, smoke, bad beans, burned beans and moisture. Those beans can then be manipulated by using the flavour beans, and then aged by roasting where each bean increases in value by 1 or 2 depending on the temperature. Everything, other than moisture or tokens placed on the board, goes back in the bag; you increase the temperature and repeat until you are ready to test that cup of coffee. If you decide to test the coffee, then you draw tokens out and either drop them on a tray (if you have space) or place them in the cup. Add up the bean value in the cup, and score for both that and flavour less any defective beans, and then this determines what coffee level you’ll be blending in the next round. After three rounds you have your score.
The game is tense, and each decision feels quite critical. The flavour beans allow you to make beans stronger or weaker and also give you access to effects that have an impact on the final cup testing. There is not always a clear path, and choices need to be made that may or may not work out in the long term: aiming for cup effects doesn’t always pay off, and when to use a discard to clear out defective beans can again be a critical judgement call. The three challenges can be played through relatively quickly, and the temptation will be to go brew yourself a real coffee before sitting down and playing the game again. And again. And again... The challenge is to achieve a high score and be declared a Master Roaster, and this isn’t an easy goal to achieve. You’ll get better with practice but the randomness of the draw is always there to make the game impossible to predict completely. This isn’t a frustration though and is something you’ll need to work with throughout.
Art is by Andrea Boekhoff and Takato Takarai, and the components are exceptional: most notably the token tray which makes setting up and playing so much simpler – other publishers take note! The tokens are good quality stock and are bean shaped for added ‘flavour’. The boards are all solidly made and the cup slots nicely into the main board. The printing is clear and the text is easy to read and distinguishable. The rules convey the game well, and the complexity is relatively low, with the difficulty right where it should be: in the decision making. The theme is conveyed smoothly, and blends in well. Overall Coffee Roaster is an excellent solo challenge and is well worth the time to play. And it is also available as an app if want to be able to play on the go.
(Review by Steve Berger)