You are a mystic of the forest. The enchanted land is in chaos, the seasons are out of control and times is broken. In Brew, you are foraging for ingredients to use in the brewing of potions. Searching the forest, you find wild woodland creatures which can be trained. The creatures have different abilities to aid you in your quest to save the forest. Utilising fire, water and wind to gather ingredients or assist in taking control of a forest. The village can provide various options to help you. Beware, at night your dice placement options change.
I was so excited when Brew arrived but did it live up to expectations...
Normally I don’t take much notice of the picture on the front of the box, but it is beautiful. The potion and creature cards are lovely too. There are several different potions you can Brew. These vary in colour and are stored in a variety of shaped bottles. It is the small details like the different corks that stand out.
There are only 6 woodland creatures. Their appearance differs depending on the season and surrounding nature. All 36 creatures have different abilities although quite often they are slight variations. The dice are colourful and the die symbols clearly represent nature’s elements. The Village and Character board are the same high standard of design. The ingredient and VP tokens aren't outstanding. Although the ingredient artwork is nice.
The rulebook is easy to follow, colourful and has plenty of pictures. The rules are easy to understand and the reference cards are a great help. A summary of end game scoring would have been useful. The way Brew is explained gives the impression it is a family-friendly game or is it...
Preparation To Save The Forest
The setup of Brew is quick, no more than 10 minutes and has a very short reset time. The forest cards need sorting depending on the number of players. The creature cards are split into 4 decks depending on the season. All 6 decks are shuffled including the potions deck. The Village Board is set to the daytime side.
The player count decides the number of Forest cards placed face-up above the village board. Display 4 potion cards to the left of the board. On the right, turn over each creature deck to display the bottom card face up to form 4 decks for each season. Resources and victory point (VP) tokens are placed around the board. Each player chooses a character and their board, 4 forage dice of their colour and 2 white elemental dice. Finally, will you use the mystics' powers or not and who will be the first player token?
How Do I Save The Enchanted Land?
Each Mystic rolls its 6 dice. For each turn, you must place a die on a forest or village space. Also, you can choose to brew a potion using ingredients you have gathered and/or drink a potion for a one turn ability.
In the forest, a forage die must be placed on an empty space in the forest with the same symbol. This enables the mystic to collect an ingredient or train a creature. An elemental die used in the forest has special powers. Water doubles the ingredient collected. Wind allows replacement with your forage die to gain an extra turn. Fire can be placed on top of any forage die, altering the control of the forest.
The village options change depending on the time of day. Using any die gives a mystic the option to collect an ingredient, train a creature or reserve a potion. An elemental die enhances the options available. Although Fire gives two new options affecting a forest. Scorching all empty spaces making them unavailable or removing all Elemental dice. This option can be significant when fighting for forest control.
What Do You Mean By Control Of The Forest?
Controlling a forest gives VP and allows 1 creature to be released into that forest. At the end of each round, control of the forest is determined by the highest number of die on each forest. An elemental die is not allocated to a mystic when placed in the forest. Placing an elemental die in a forest could change who controls it or not. For each forest, whoever has the highest number of dice at the end of the round takes control. If the elemental die is the highest or there is no die, no one has control.
Wild Forest Creatures And Brewing Potions
Wild creatures can be trained giving ongoing abilities during your turn. You can train up to 3 creatures and any excess becomes reserved. A mystic loses access to their creature’s ability once reserved. Trained/reserved creatures give you VP at the end of the game. Gain more points if you release them into your controlled forest. Brewing Potions will give you VP as well as a one-time ability.
Why Gain Abilities?
Creature and potion abilities can increase your turn options. From manipulation die; gain ingredients; altering forest control to gain VP tokens. Brew requires planning and tactile moves. In the beginning, your die gives you limited choices, abilities open up your options.
Round End And Scoring
After all, mystics have placed their dice and forest control decided. The end of round abilities are activated. The next group of forests are revealed and the village board is turned over.
The first player token moves to the next player, roll the dice and start again.
After 4 rounds, release 1 creature into each of your controlled forest to increase your VP. All potion, creature, forest and VP tokens points are added up. Gain extra VP for every 3 ingredients in your possession. The mystic with the most victory points wins.
Brew can be played with or without the mystic permanent ongoing power. Each power is different. From forest control to potion brewing to training creatures to ingredient enhancement. The powers appear to be unbalanced whereas forest control powers appear to be the weakest.
The Up Side
Brew is easy to teach and learn, but hiding inside you need to find planning and tactics.
Don’t be put off by this, it is not complicated and deep thought is not necessary. Brew is different because it doesn’t have one strong game mechanic. The game has 4 main game mechanics which
are well balanced. The mechanics are dice rolling, area control, card drafting and worker placement (dice).
You won’t get bored waiting for your turn as you need to watch your opponent’s next move. Checking their dice placement and keeping an eye on their ongoing abilities. Also knowing the potions, they have available will help as well. Your mind will be thinking ahead and working out your possible next move. Each player’s turn is not long which keeps the game moving at a good pace.
At 45 to 60 minutes, the game time is good. Brew has a small table presence and everything can be moved around for convenience. The game has a very short setup time for replay. Brew gets better with every time it be played.
The Down Side
Deep down inside, everyone has a bit of meanness, you just have to find it somewhere.
This is not a family-friendly game unless it’s time to give your children their first lesson on “The Meanness of Life”. This will unfortunately put some people off playing Brew.
The forest cards colouring can cause some confusion. Your eyes are drawn to the big area of the forest card. The area doesn't necessarily match the season but your mind thinks it is. Certain colour combinations don't work especially where a card has 2 seasons. It makes it harder to determine what you are seeing like blue/purple and orange/yellow. Mystic powers are imbalanced and Brew is already well balanced. Adding these is a step back as this gives certain players an advantage.
Brew doesn’t quite reach the must-play/buy group of games. It is strange, as the game is very enjoyable and has good game playtime. Maybe it is due to no one game mechanic dominating the gameplay or just the meanness. Brew will be underrated and possible overlooked, which would be a shame.