Date: 24th September 2004
Game played: Goldbrau ( Zoch Verlag ) BGG Id: 12632

This week we decided to try the brand new Rio Grande game, Goldbrau by Franz-Benno Delonge (the guy who previously designed the excellent Transamerica and Dos Rios).

Goldbrau is a business game where the idea is to earn the most money through investment in beer gardens and the breweries that supply the gardens. The game board shows a town square consisting of 38 spaces for the beer gardens to expand into. Six beer gardens surround the square and each starts by occupying one space. There are also four breweries that can supply beer to up to three gardens but each garden can have only one supplier. Each beer garden has one boss, who can determine which brewery supplies it, but players can compete to take over the role of boss. The breweries also have bosses and each business (gardens and breweries) has six shares available for purchase.

The game is played over three weeks (rounds) with each consisting of seven turns (days) followed by a payout. On each day players secretly choose one of three actions: expand a beer garden where you are currently the boss; challenge a boss or change a contract; or buy a share. Players reveal their choice simultaneously and then carry out the actions in the order described above. Those choosing beer garden expansion go first. They get to expand a garden where they are the boss by one space, including taking over a space from an adjoining beer garden if they are the boss of both gardens. Those who chose "challenge or change" go next. They can attempt to take over as the boss of a garden as long as they have one share in the garden. If the current boss does not have an absolute majority of that garden's shares in play at that time, the challenger takes over as the boss; otherwise the challenge is unsuccessful. Alternatively, they can choose to change the brewery that supplies a beer garden where they are currently the boss. (With these first two actions, if only one player chooses the action, they get to take the turn twice. If more than one chooses the option, they each just get a standard turn). The final action is to buy a share from a choice of two displayed at the beginning of the day or a blind one from the supply deck. The cost of the shares goes up the more people choose that action: 2 Thalers if just one person chose to buy shares; 5 Thalers if two chose the option; and 8 Thalers if more than two. Shares once bought can be either played immediately and a share marker is placed on the respective beer garden or brewery, or kept in hand to be played later. Each day continues in the same fashion and after 7 days, a scoring takes place. Each beer garden generates income of 4 Thalers for each space it occupies (or 8 Thalers for certain special spaces). Half of this income is paid to the brewery that supplies the beer garden and the other half is distributed equally to the garden's shareholders (with any excess going to the current boss of the garden). Once all the gardens have paid out, each brewery distributes all its income equally to its shareholders (with remaining Thalers going to its boss). Two more rounds are played in this way and the player with the most money after the third week is the winner.

We all quite liked this but felt it went on a bit too long. Admittedly, with it being our first game, we were feeling our way a bit, but it clocked in at two hours rather than the one hour suggested on the box. It took a while for us to work out what strategies might work. I decided early on to concentrate on shares and ignore garden expansion completely. Having shares is important for income but the more people going after shares the more they cost. The other twist is that as soon as all the shares in a business have been issued, any player with just a single share in that business loses it. Consequently, I made sure that I doubled up shares as soon as I could. I also concentrated on breweries rather than beer gardens, whereas the others competed more for the beer gardens (at least initially) and this brought me a steady stream of income. There were a few battles between beer gardens but I kept away from these and concentrated on building up my share holdings. The income from the first round was very useful but I spent virtually all of it on the second round to get shares on the board. This paid off with a very handsome income in the second round, which set me up for a defensive third round where I spent very little and just waited for the brewery income to roll in at the end of the third week. This gave me a pretty comfortable win, but Mark G also did pretty well in controlling a fair number of bosses. I'd like to play this again to see if a different strategy would work. The one I followed seemed pretty strong but that may have been because none of us knew what was likely to work so no-one really tried to counter my plans. A solid design which had us all thinking hard throughout the game but a little on the long side for what it was.

Mark G
Mark K

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