Coffee Roaster Review
How do you take your coffee? Black or with milk? Sugar? Syrup? Do you prefer the bitterly intense caffeine punch of an espresso or the sweetly decadent creaminess of a latte? Perhaps you’re fine with a heaped spoon of instant in a mug of boiling water. Whatever your preference, why not take a break, brew up a cup and settle down as I take you through Coffee Roaster, a solo game from Saashi and Saashi and DLP Games.
In Coffee Roaster, you will play the role of, you guessed it, a coffee roaster. It’s your job to carefully guide the roasting process to produce a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. To do this you will need to remove moisture and impurities from the beans. You will want to get an even roast that brings out the right flavour tones for the particular type of coffee you’re roasting. Timing is an issue too: too short, and you’ll end up with a weak, insipid brew. Too long, and you risk burning the batch and producing a noxious broth with the flavour of an ashtray.
The game is played over three rounds. Each round begins by choosing a particular bean and building a starting bag based on the information on the card. There are plenty of beans to choose from that offer a beginner, moderate and expert challenge. How well you do in one round will affect which level of bean you can choose in the next round. The more complex the bean you choose, the higher the risk and greater the reward.
Each round is split in to two: the roast and the pour. The roast is the core part of the game and is a push-your-luck bag building game. Each turn, you will draw a set number of bean tokens from the bag and increase their value to simulate roasting. Keeping track of what is in the bag is a skill as you are aiming for a very specific score in the pour phase to achieve maximum points.
To bring a little tactics and precision to the luck of the bag draw, you also have flavour tokens in the bag. This grants you special powers that help you achieve an even roast and preserve beans to stop them burning. They can be used to claim power ups that will help you in the second half of the round. You also need to try and get the right combination of flavour tokens in your final cup at the end of the game to achieve bonus points.
Trying to thwart you in the roasting process are the pesky penalty tokens; defective beans, burnt beans, green unroasted beans, smoke. These tokens spoil your coffee and cost you points. Using the flavour token power ups to remove these tokens or mitigate the chance of one ending up in your final cup is another key component of the game.
When you are confident that your bag has the right mix of tokens to maximise your chance of a perfect pour, it’s time to turn off the oven and start pouring. In the pour phase of the game you will draw tokens from the bag one by one and place them in your cup or discard them to your tray. Be warned; your tray only has so many spaces for unwanted tokens. Fill them, and everything you pull from the bag is going in your cup – good or bad!
Hopefully, to make this easier, you earned some power-ups in the roasting stage. Perhaps you got some honey to add sweetness and simulate any colour flavour token that you need. Maybe you got an extra discard tray or the ability to swap two tokens out of your cup at the end. However you get there, you are hoping that when you fill the cup and have your coffee graded, you have met the very specific requirements of that bean to score big. Scoring well in one round unlocks harder beans and potentially bigger scores in the next, helping you achieve your ultimate goal of becoming the Master Roaster!
As a self-professed coffee snob (my grinder alone cost £100) and committed solo gamer, Coffee Roaster was a must have as soon as I heard about it. It has not disappointed. While I hear there is a unique charm to the Saashi and Saashi original printing, I cannot fault DLP’s co-production.
The tokens are solid and haven’t become worn after several plays. The box has a sorting tray for the different tokens with pictures of what should go in each tray underneath. The cards for the individual beans have clear iconography that speeds up play. What’s more, there is a great deal of flavour text on the back of the cards that tells you about the origins, flavour and how it should be processed and roasted. As a coffee fanatic, the detail of the research shows a great amount of love and care for the subject on the designer’s part. It really helps ground the roasting simulation and prevents the theme feeling pasted on top of a game mechanism.
As each round takes about 10-15 minutes, the game is a perfect afternoon extended coffee break. It’s tactile and satisfying, with a tension that keeps things interesting without causing palpitations. Neither simple, nor unnecessarily cluttered and complex, it is streamlined and elegant. Like a perfect cup of coffee, Coffee Roaster balances its flavours exquisitely and provides enough sharpness and variety to entice you back for a second cup.