Review: Bohnanza The Duel08 Nov 2017 0
Review: Bohnanza The Duel
Released 26 Oct 2017
I didn’t realise what a cunning, conniving, wheeler-dealer my daughter was until I introduced her to the original Bohnanza card game. She may have been only seven at the time but this didn’t stop her from using every trick in the book to ensure victory. Sweet-talking, wheedling, stirring, pestering and even threats - she made Machiavelli look like Mickey Mouse.
Bohnanza The Duel is yet another game from prolific designer Uwe Rosenberg. It is a two-player variant of the original Bohnanza, a game that is celebrating its twentieth birthday this year. The game is one of Uwe’s less complex designs, more in keeping with the recently reviewed Cottage Garden rather than his heavier games such as Le Havre and Agricola. The premise is much the same as the original; players are competing bean farmers who plant, harvest, and trade beans in order to make the most money. At the heart of the Bohnanza experience is player interaction through trading and deal-making. It is a game that naturally works best with more players, but that hasn’t deterred Mr. Rosenberg from creating this two-player version.
Both players begin the game with a hand of bean cards. The cartoon beans are illustrated by some rather odd but humorous artwork, which shows the beans locked in various sorts of duals, such as a boxing bout for the black-eyed beans. There are eight different sorts of bean and each card has a number rank that shows how many beans of that type there are in the game. There are, for instance, only six garden beans compared to twenty blue beans. You have three fields for planting your crops but can only plant a bean if a field is empty or if the previously planted bean is the same type or one rank higher.
There will come a time when all of your fields are full and you have no beans cards that you can legitimately plant. At this point, you can drag the harvest icon to a field and start earning some cash. All the beans cards have a beanometer that determines how many of a particular bean type you need to start earning gold. For instance, to earn the maximum four gold coins you need a sequence of ten common blue beans or just five of the much rarer red beans. One thing to keep in mind is that it is the beanometer of the last card you placed in a field that is used to calculate earnings. This means that placing a common bean on top of a sequence of rare beans may be the only way to keep your field going but could end up being worth less.
The reason that you may want to keep adding to a field with cheaper beans is because of the bonus cards. At the start of the game, in addition to their bean cards, each player is dealt three secret bonus cards. These give players the opportunity to earn some extra cash by fulfilling secret objectives that require the completion of certain sequences of beans. The neat trick here is that you can not only complete bonuses by developing the appropriate sequences in your own fields but can also score if your opponent has beans planted in their fields that match a sequence on one of your cards. The app automatically identifies and awards points for these sequences, rather than relying on the players to spot them.
At the start of each turn, a player can plant either one or two bean cards. The tricky thing is that at no time can you change the order of the beans in your hand, so some forward planning is needed. Actually, playing the electronic version prevents you from getting the sequence of cards mixed up. This can be a problem with the physical card game, as you have to fight the urge to sort and organise your cards. The active player then turns over the next three cards and has the opportunity to gift, discard and plant each of them.
The gifting sequence is where Bohnanza The Duel really comes to life. The active player must offer one of their bean cards as a gift, and their opponent can either accept the gift or make them a counter offer. This process will pass back and forth until one player finally accepts a gift. Adding an extra level of intrigue is the ability to bluff by offering a bean card that you do not actually own. However, if the other player accepts such an offer then you have to pay them a coin. Bluffing may be risky, but sometimes it is a better option than accepting a gift that you don’t really want.
I have had a few problems with the game freezing but, overall, Bohnanza The Duel is a polished and competent app. However, I was still left asking yourself what advantages this version has over the physical card game. The card game is cheap, portable, quick to set up, fast to play and, most significantly, allows players to interact with each other in the way that the designer intended. The digital version gives you a good opportunity to learn and practice the game but is no real substitute. The offers and counter-offers that make up a vital component of the game mean that unless you play directly across two connected devices then you are going to have to pass your device like a hot potato, or spend ages playing asynchronously. The constant toing and froing soon diminishes the fun, and the fact that you do not have to worry about being vigilant to spot bonus card scoring opportunities just takes away a little more of the challenge and interaction.