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How To Play Beer & Bread

beer & bread (1)

Scott Almes is a designer that does a lot with not much. And by that I mean, he packs in lots of fun brain-squeakiness in small packages. His solo range for Buttonshy games is a fine example – think Insurmountable, Food Chain Island and more. So seeing his name on the two player game, Beer & Bread, instantly got my attention. And I am very glad it did. Because, whilst I don’t drink beer, I now have an overwhelming ongoing desire to brew it! And I never need an excuse to surround myself with yeasty, deliciously doughy goodness. After all, my diet is predominantly beige thanks to my special 5 per day regime (sourdough, rye, granary, seeded, and good old thick sliced)! But now, having played Beer & Bread, I say “to hell with Marbs; I never wanted to go there anyway. Give me carboard carbs every night for tea!”

Why this sudden need to focus on ferments? Well, this modest box promised a lot of special-sauce game play for us; 2 player, multi-use cards, strategic drafting, forward planning, munchy-crunchy decision making, tension, sneaky-scoring, and clever resource management. And friends, I can confirm that the promises were kept!

But I am not here to give you my views – the epic blogger, Neil P aka Board Game Happy, has done a fabulous job and you can read and watch that here. Instead, I am going to tell you how to play the game. Not win. I rarely do that at any table. But at least give you the run down of a game in play!

A Brew For Two

So, in Beer & Bread, each player plays a neighbouring village that loves to brew beer and, yep, bake bread. Not exactly vying for space as the no.1 superstore of old, there is nevertheless some competition brewing. The villagers are willing to share the raw materials, but what they do with them is where bucolic pride bubbles over!

Set Up

Setting up is simple; unfold the board, shuffle the cards into a single deck, and place the wooden resource tokens in close proximity. Then first player (windmill token in front) takes 5 off the top of the deck, followed by player 2. Boom. Ready to brew and bake!

The game takes place over 6 years (rounds), and each year is either fruitful or dry. The year marker begins on a green spot representing the first year which is fruitful and move along until you reach the money spot. Then it’s pans and barrels down ready for scoring time.

Each year has the same phases. But what you do in those phases can depend on whether it is a fruitful or dry year.

Seeding – this is where you fill the fields on the board with resources for later taking. Very handily indeed, the board shows how many of each resource is to be laid on the fields in both types of year. Fruitful has more of everything, but the river always contains as many drops as are available to “seed” the board with. If there aren’t enough in the supply to seed fully, use what you’ve got.

Cards and actions – these go hand in hand, so I’ll cover them together.

In fruitful years, each player has 5 new cards. First player chooses one from their hand and does one of 3 actions:

  • Harvests that card for the resources shown on the top of the card – these go into the 9 box store show on the main board, and the card is placed to one side. Importantly the card is kept because resources will multiply if you lay another card on top which shows an identical resource (note: the resource has to show on the newest card to benefit from the multiplier effect of any existing resources;
  • Produces the beer/bread by paying the recipe’s requires resources from their personal stone (which maxes out at 9 unless you have an upgrade that increases storage space – see below; or
  • Upgrades by placing the card under the matching slot on their side of the board.

Once they have collected, made, or cashed in, the second player gets to do the same with one of their cards. Then it’s pick and pass in fruitful years with each player using a card to take an action until there are no cards left.

If a player produces beer or bread, that card is slid into the bakery/brewery slot face-up. The resources are returned to the general supply, and then the card gets flipped face-down. It will stay in that slot until clean up.

What is clean up? Well, remember upgrading? When you choose to use a card to upgrade, you’ll get ongoing bonuses that either give you in game bonuses and powers or end game point boosts. Upgrading also acts as your opportunity to clear out your bakery and brewery slots. This is important because, unless modified by an upgrade, you can only hold one of each at a time. And you can’t produce anything else (or gain the points for it), if your bakery and brewery are barley blocked!

At the end of the card phase in fruitful years, keep hold of the cards you harvested.

In dry years, the card phase is a little different; you collect any cards you harvested in the previous fruitful year and draw back up to 5 from the deck. 3 cards also go into the exchange slots. Now, instead of picking and passing, you can exchange a card with one on offer. But if you do, you must carry out an action on that card immediately – it can’t be saved to be used on a later turn.

Windmill - When all the cards are used in either phase, it’s the windmill phase. The player with the fewest stored resources gets the windmill meeple (signifying that they will go first in the next year). Then you re-seed the fields with the required number of resources depending on whether you are moving into a fruitful or dry year.

If you’re ending a dry year, any harvested cards are discarded as are those in the exchange slots. Each player then gets 5 new cards starting with the first player ready for the next fruitful year to begin.

Scoring… Simple As Sliced Bread

Once the 6th round is over (i.e. the 3rd fruitful year has come and gone), it’s time to find out just how much of a brewing boss and baking baron you are. And even though you tot up your totals for both beer and bread, your final position is your lowest scoring commodity. You can’t prioritise panini at the expense of porter. You can’t gun for stout and leave sourdough on the shelf. You’ve got to be busting both out to protect your position! You can look at your produced cards at any time (they are turned over for the duration of the game), but your opponent will only know whether you have produced bread and/or beer,, and how many of each.

You might also have upgrades that add coins to your totals so don’t forget to check through modifiers before putting pen to paper on the scoring pad!

So there you have it. A run down of the blooming brilliant Beer & Bread! I hope this helps you brew up a storm in your first game and satisfies your hunger for fast playing crunchy game play!