Distilled is a one to five player hand management, set collection, push your luck game designed by Dave Beck and published by Paverson Games.
Gin, Vodka, Whiskey and even Moonshine all require a careful blend of ingredients and processing to ensure you get the finest, distilled beverage (ok, well maybe not Moonshine). Distilled puts you in the shoes of someone who has inherited an old abandoned distillery and is tasked with bringing it back to the prosperous business it used to be.
Over the course of seven rounds you will acquire ingredients, bottles, barrels, recipes, equipment upgrades and staff to create and distill the best spirits around.
A typical round is made up of four phases; Market, Distill, Sell and Age phase and players will gain “Spirit” points over the course of seven rounds. At the end of the game the player with the most spirit points is the winner.
Market Phase – Players will acquire new ingredients, items, upgrade and staff to add into their distillery. Recipe cubes will allow players to distill better and more lucrative spirits. Two basic ingredients can be purchased from the basic market and premium ingredients, items and upgrades can be purchased from the main market.
Distill Phase – Players will attempt to distill a liquid using the ingredients they have collected and added to the washback, add a barrel and claim a spirit label. Ingredients placed in the washback are used in creating a spirit and at least one Yeast, Sugar and Water card must be used. Alcohol cards are added for each sugar, all cards are shuffled, the top and bottom cards are removed and placed in your supply for future rounds.
All remaining cards are revealed and are checked against the recipes that you have learned.
Sell Phase – Players bottle their spirits, score spirit points, receive money and gain a label bonus. Points and money are awarded for the cards that make up your spirit (including a barrel) that has been distilled in the previous phase.
Age Phase – Any spirits not sold that are stored in the warehouse have flavour added to them and ultimately gain prestige. To age spirits you place the stack of cards in your warehouse and add a face down flavour card to the stack.
There is a lot of other things going on in Distilled but hopefully the brief rules explanation gives you enough of an idea of how the game plays.
Distilling a spirit is a science, it is a craft that is finely tuned and perfected over a number of years. Distilled is in essence the embodiment of this craft. Distilled is a well crafted and tasteful blend of mechanisms that when mixed together leaves a very appealing taste on the metaphorical gaming pallet.
Ok, so my metaphors/word play is not the best, but boy oh boy, this game is good. There is so much that I enjoy in this game and I will attempt to unpack my thoughts in this review
At its heart Distilled is all about buying ingredients to fulfill recipes and scoring points. But there is so much more going on here. First off, you have a distiller with a special ability. So there is some asymmetry to the game. Each of these distillers also has a signature recipe and signature ingredient that only they can make.
There are premium ingredients that you can purchase to make your spirits, these premium ingredients will add money and/or points to the spirit that you make. They are worth picking up and adding into your washback but there is a cost to these and balancing what to spend your hard earned cash on is not an easy decision to make. In addition to the ingredients there are barrels, bottles, upgrades and staff that are all calling out to be purchased. Everything is so tempting and I love the choices that you have to make.
Your money can also be used to purchase new recipes. You can have all the fancy ingredients and barrels but if you don’t know how to make a Baijiu, you can’t make a Baijiu.
The way that a spirit is distilled has an element of push your luck. All the yeast, sugar, water and alcohol cards that you add to your washback are shuffled together and the top and bottom cards removed from your spirit stack. Some of the spirits have a specific ingredient requirement and by removing two cards you may remove the only two cards that you need to complete a recipe. The push your luck element adds a wonderful twist to the game and tension when you are revealing the top and bottom cards.
There is a lot of depth to the game but it doesn’t feel complicated or rules heavy. Everything flows nicely from round to round and there is a ton of variety straight out of the box. It also has an amazing solo mode which I have been enjoying a lot. The way the goals are displayed and figuring out your “path” through them is really fun and adds a nice twist to the gameplay.
There is so much to like about this game. The choices, the tension, the asymmetry, the replayability, the solo mode, the multiplayer mode, it all comes together as a wonderful package.