Earlier this year, I set out on a quest to acquire and play Dice Hate Me Games' Brew Crafters. I love craft beers, and I love board games, and I figured that a marriage of the two would be right up my alley. Foiled in my attempts to get my hands on the game, I settled on a smaller, travel-sized version of the game that I enjoyed, but it still didn't quite scratch the itch that I had developed in my search for a copy of the game. After playing and enjoying, the smaller, set collection version of the game, my wife surprised me by locating and purchasing a copy of the game for me. Much to our delight, Brew Crafters was worth the wait.
What is Brew Crafters?
Brew Crafters gives each player control of their own brewery and pits them against each other in an attempt to gain the highest Reputation in three years; while the goal is the same for each player, there are numerous approaches that players can take in their attempt to become the most reputable brewer in the land.
Reputation is earned most directly by, not surprisingly, brewing beers. The game always presents the same three basic beer recipes for players to brew but has 21 advanced recipes, each with different Ingredient costs and point values, that can be randomized from game to game. Additionally, the first player to actually sell a batch of an advanced recipe claims the Gold Label for that beer, which provides additional points. Chasing the allure of the Gold Labels can be tempting but can also be costly if players aren't careful and mindful of what their opponents are doing.
True Euro-Game, Made By Americans
There isn't any direct conflict in Brew Crafters, but players do compete for options in the game's Market phase. The Market phase sees players assigning their Market workers to various spots to claim Ingredients, form partnerships with local Spices Importers and Coffee Roasters, hire Skilled Workers with special powers, pick up some extra cash, etc. The Market phase is the phase of the game that has the most player interaction, because each Market action can only be taken by one player per round. Players generally pursue the Market actions that most directly benefit themselves, but observant players can attempt to subvert their opponents' plans by claiming spaces that they think their opponents may want or need.
The Brewery phase is where players get down to the nitty-gritty of brewing beers using the ingredients gathered by their workers during the Market phase, but isn't as simple and straightforward as it seems. The Brewery phase is also where players can perform Lab Research, possibly collaborate with each other on a communal recipe, or expand their Brewery by installing new Buildings or Equipment into their Brewery.
Unlike the Market phase, players cannot block each others' actions during the Brewery phase, but there are almost always multiple appealing options to take, meaning that players will almost always be faced with difficult decisions during the Brewery phase. Players begin the game with only one Brewery Shift worker and, while others can be hired that allow players to take multiple Brewery phase actions, it is an expensive process to do so.
A Few Notes on Brew Crafters
Making the most out of the options available in Brew Crafters is challenging and rewarding as players watch their Breweries grow, and their plans come to fruition. Claiming a Gold Label for a particular beer is satisfying, especially when you can snatch it just before your opponent has the chance to. It is extremely satisfying to set a plan in motion early in the game and have it play out just as you planned it. It can be equally heartbreaking when the game ends, and you realize that your opponent managed to formulate an even more successful strategy and snatch victory from the palms of your hands.
A note on setup time
Brew Crafters has a huge number of components, not all of which are used in each game. Since each game only generally sees nine beer recipes used, the players need to sort the matching cardboard chits or rifle through an enormous pile of them during gameplay, slowing the game down exponentially. With 215 Beer Batch Tokens and 21 Gold Label tokens split across 24 different recipes, players should be prepared to spend a good chunk of time, about 20 minutes on average, setting the game up.
A note on modularity and replayability
Brew Crafters has a great system in place to keep the game fresh across multiple plays. The Research Lab tech trees are double-sided, providing the option to play with more advanced, asymmetric tech trees. Brew Crafters also includes some advanced action spaces that can be added to the Market and Brewery boards to give players more and more complex actions. Finally, Since only 9 of the 24 beer recipes are used in each game, it can take quite a few plays before players have seen each type of beer.
A note on “chrome.”
The components in Brew Crafters are mostly high quality and durable. The card stock is thick, and the majority of the cardboard chits are nice and sturdy. The only real exception is the Brewery Shift pieces. These components have some sharp corners that have begun to de-laminate slightly in my copy after snagging on other components and player fingers.
Should I Spend my Money on Brew Crafters?
Brew Crafters is a great worker placement game with a splash of engine building thrown in. The mechanics and the theme mesh well, and formulating strategies, such as focusing on barrel-aged beers, or rushing to get as many Gold Label beers as possible, is fun. There are many paths to take toward potential victory, and they are all fun to explore. The theme may turn some players off, and the setup time can be excruciatingly long, but for players who enjoy craft beer and worker placement games, there is a lot to love about Brew Crafters.
The copy of Brew Crafters used for this review was received as a gift from the reviewer's lovely and wonderful wife. This article was originally published on 08-09-2015.