It's a great time to be a board game fan, unless of course you are a wallet, or long suffering significant other. It's also a great time to be a UK board gamer. UK companies are bringing out some amazing games. I've already covered Hero Master and Gladiatores and not even got on to the work of Alley Cat Games and others.
Then there is One Free Elephant, a company I've had the pleasure of being in contact with since their debut game, ORE-SOME, and they have gone from strength to strength. The latest game from the company is the two-player worker placement game in a mint tin!
Mint tin games are games that literally fit in a mint tin. You would think this limits the depth and breadth of what can be achieved. The beauty of Microbrew is that this is a medium weight game squeezed into a mint tin, or as Aladdin once said 'Phenomenal cosmic power, itsy bitsy living space.'
Microbrew is also a two-player worker placement game. As a genre, worker placement is very hard to get right at two players. Games like Russian Railroads manage it by altering the board and spaces that are available but I'd always prefer to play them with more players. The best two player worker placement game in my opinion is Targi as, like Microbrew, it's designed specifically for two.
Microbrew is an excellent worker placement game. In it you will place your workers in order to manipulate your copper (where you store your worts ) in order to brew the perfect beer and thus attract loyal customers. The size restriction means you don't have many workers, a maximum of three, so Microbrew adopts a bumping mechanic. If the place you want is occupied by your opponent, simply bump them off it, of course this returns a worker to their hand, but who knows? Maybe they will bump you back.
This creates a timing dilemma of the finest kind - do you rush and bump to take the action now, or can you afford to sweat it out another round knowing your opponent must do the same? Added to decisions like this is the puzzle of the copper itself. You must arrange the worts in columns matching the beers you want to serve as best you can.
The trick is lighter worts can only move up, and heavy worts down. It's simple and eloquently done, although here the constraint of the mint tin brings my only real complaint - fiddliness. This puzzle element would be a touch fiddly at any size but when you have 'spoon' fingers like mine it can be hard not to knock things around especially when they are on this scale.
That aside, Microbrew is a game I love, and have backed with my own money. It will travel well and offers more depth than the other mint tin games I have played. In my over-inflated opinion this is the best Nigel and Sarah of One Free Elephant have produced yet and I look forward to their next project.