It doesn’t seem like over two years since The Taverns of Tiefenthal but we now have the Open Doors Expansion. The alliterative follow up to Wolfgang Warsch’s similarly alliterative Quacks of Quedlinburg. However, there is a new bunch of pub related shenanigans to be had in Open Doors. Bust out the beermats and make mine a stein of the good stuff.
The Usual, Sir?
The base game of 2-4 players running a tavern in the deep valley (Tiefenthal) and trying to become the best landlord. Drawing the most customers, getting the most nobles’ patronage, employing the most staff and making the most upgrades to their pubs to gain the victory points. This was achieved by first filling the pub with punters and staff (each player drawing from their own personal deck) then rolling and assigning dice to different parts of the pub to either serve punters. This would get you Thalers (cash), beer and bonuses from the monastery. Thalers would allow you to buy more staff (added to your draw pile.)
Upgrading your pub (which would gain you permanent staff members, better brewing and storage facilities and extra space for customers.) Beer would gain you, customers, also going to your draw pile. In turn, gaining you more Thalers and in turn more beer. A pretty sound business model. The base game also had modules that would introduce Schnapps to pay for Entertainers, Bards, a Reputation Tracker and Guest Books. As you can see, this was already a full-bodied game, but if some are good, more is better, right?
Sommelier Seems To Be The Hardest Word
To paraphrase Captain Jean Luc Picard, there are four expansion modules and I think the good captain would appreciate the first module, the wine cellar. This expansion introduces two new cards, the Sommelier, and the Quack Doctor.
Sommeliers are new staff who work in the wine cellar and, when they are drawn, allow you to serve the customers on the far right of your pub without assigning dice. You serve up to two customers if you have enough Sommeliers or have upgraded your wine cellar which really helps the Thalers flow.
Quacks do not take up tables and are paid for with beer, like customers. They will either give you one Thaler each (like the Beer Merchants do with beer) or you can return them to the middle table to reactivate. But the entry effect of one of your customers for each Quack you draw. Nice little money-spinner or bonus booster.
The Second Module
The second module introduces a new starter customer, the Priest, but more importantly a big extension for your tavern – the Guest Rooms!
The Priest, who starts in your discard pile, is straightforward. Place a 1 on him, move your monastery counter forward 1. Done? Done. Now, the Guest Rooms, an extension guaranteed to bring out your inner Basil Fawlty.
This part of the tavern is for Nobles only, no riffraff here. This allows you to use your dice to make some nifty things happen. The Guest Rooms can only hold one Noble, until you upgrade it, in which case you can accommodate a brace of them.
When you draw your first noble, you can choose one of the Guest Rooms for them to accommodate. Each one has a dice value from 2 to 5 at the bottom. Not only do you have to have a Noble in the room but also a dice of that value to activate the effect. You choose and activate 2, you can move your beer and cash box store on one. If you choose and activate 5, you can move your monastery counter on one. Choose and activate 4, you get to upgrade one of your ‘regulars’ to a three-beer customer immediately.
Or upgrade one of your other customers with a customer two beers higher than theirs. You can’t use their entry effect but hey, that’s what Quacks are for. I’ve left 3 until last as this is possibly the best effect. You get to draw another card and can use it as if you’d pulled it in the draw phase. Customers don’t need tables, they’re just happy to be there.
Master Of The House, Keeper Of The Zoo
Module 3 is probably my favourite as it adds a whole asymmetrical element to the proceedings, Critics and Bartenders.
Critics, like Priests, are a starter card. They can only be played if you are using the Reputation Tracker. They start on your discard pile and, when they end up in your tavern, can be activated to move your reputation tracker to 2 places. These Critics are clearly more Jay Rayner than Michael Winner.
The Bartenders are like individual superpowers for each player. It’s best to use them with all the modules so you have access to all the Bartenders, but you can chop and change depending on taste. Each Bartender gives their player a unique ability that will make them rethink their play strategy. The Master Builder allows you to put employees used in special offers back in your deck, the player allows you to use rolls of 3 and 4 as wild. The Charmer gets an upgraded Reputation Tracker.
The best Bartender is the Tax Collector. this character has a stack of IOUs that gives them a different ability each turn, so it could play like a dream or be completely disastrous. I haven’t played with all the Bartenders yet; their asymmetry seems balanced. I never thought I’d say this, I do like the Tax Collector.
You’re Having A Mayor(ess)
Module 4 is probably the most optional of the modules. But, in the same way, that the Alchemist expansion does to Quacks, will change the way players approach Taverns. It does have a new customer card, the Mayoress but you don’t start with her in your deck. You have to earn her, and for good reason too.
First off, when you gain her you can immediately upgrade a part of your tavern. You don’t get a Noble, but an upgrade is an upgrade. Then when she arrives in your tavern, you can place any value dice on her and get that many Thalers.
How do you earn her? By fulfilling her not too unreasonable requests, of course, and she is a very generous soul it would appear. Three as Tasks, such as serving all guests in your tavern or serving one Noble in your guest house. Three as rewards, such as use any number to activate your Brewer or move your monastery counter on 1 place for every 2 Nobles. When you achieve a Task, you get a token for the Reward, which can be used at any time. When you complete all three tasks you get the Mayoress, and if that wasn’t enough, you get 5 victory points for each token.
Angel’s Share Or Bottom Of The Barrel?
As I said at the beginning, I think Taverns is highly underrated and I hope this Open Doors Expansion makes people re-assess this game. There’s a lot to like in here and I think there’s a nice gradual build to the additional modules in a fashion similar to Space Base’s Shy Pluto. The expansions don’t quite monopolize the table in the same way but they do add more to the game. Also, this is still only a four-player game and there is still very little player interaction, apart from the dice drafting. But on the other hand, the modules have lessened the potential for hate drafting.