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Meeple’s Eye View – Bohnanza

The Meeple’s Eye View is an in depth review of one of the many games in our board game library

Bean farming.  Not exactly a scintillating subject for a board game. Yet somehow, Uwe Rosenberg turns the topic into an amazing game in Bohnanza, one of our family’s long standing favorite games.

Theme: Bean Farming

Number of Players: 2-7

Game Time: 45 minutes

Age Appropriateness: 8 and up

Game Type: Hand management, trading, negotiation.

Game Play: Bohnanza is a card game, with cards representing various types of beans (wax, cocoa, blue, garden and green, for example).  Each player starts with a hand of five cards, and two ‘fields’ in which to plant those beans.  The object is to plant several of the same type of bean, at which point you can harvest the field for coins.  How many beans you need, and how many coins they’re worth, depends on the type of bean in the field.

On each turn the player must plant the first card in their hand, and may choose to plant a second if they desire.

Two cards are then turned face up from the draw pile, and the active player must either immediately plant them, or trade them with another player.

The catch is this: you can only have two types of beans planted at a time (until you buy a third field later in the game). If you have to plant a bean, whether from your hand or the two card turn up, and that bean doesn’t match one of the two types you’ve already planted, you are forced to harvest one of your fields – even if it is not yet worth any coins.  Add to that the fact that you cannot rearrange your hand, and the game becomes a constant dance of trying to rid yourself of unwanted cards in order to protect your precious bean field until it’s ready to harvest.

Component Quality: The cards in Bohnanza are high quality, fairly thick, and stand up well to repeated plays. They are easy to read and clearly convey the necessary information. Perhaps most importantly, the artwork on the cards is great, with each bean type being depicted with a unique and entertaining caricature.

My Take: Bohnanza is a perfect example of a game that takes place “above the table”, in the interaction between the players. The cards and the mechanics of the game itself disappear into the constant stream of negotiation, pleading, wheeling and dealing.

Selling someone a card they want. Paying them to take a card you really don’t want. Or best of all, convincing them to pay you for a card you would gladly have paid them to take.  That’s the heart and soul of Bohnanza, and that’s what makes it one of my family’s favorites.

Expansions and Replay-ability: Bohnanza has quite a few expansions. There is Fun & Easy, a version aimed at younger players (although we’ve had no problem playing the base set with children as young as 7). Ladies & Gangsters introduces two new mechanics, including the Bean Mafia which competes against the players. Princes & Pirates introduces quests, and the ability to buy ships to assist in trading and selling beans. Bohnaparte & High Bohn introduces territory control and buildings with attributes. These all sound very interesting, although I’ve actually not played any of them myself. In my opinion the base set of Bohnanza itself has substantial re-playability, and is one that we never hesitate to bring to the table at family game day.

Profile - Jim Reed

Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle and The Malted Meeple, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.