Classic Callback: Bohnanza

Note from the Editor: So, Scott and I were sick, and Sarah and I got busy with the 6-month mark before our wedding (yay!). That’s why OSG fell off for a couple weeks. But, now we’re back, with great content ready to come out. Thanks for sticking around and being patient! 

Welcome to Classic Callback, where Marti, @fluffymeeple, checks out some of the great games of the past so that new gamers can get a fresh look at what we think of them! This month, we’re putting on our farmer hats and becoming bean farmers in the classic Uwe game, Bohnanza!

Game: Bohnanza
Rio Grande Games
Uwe Rosenberg
Main Game Mechanisms: 
Hand Management, Set Collecting, Trading
Number of Players: 
2 to 7
Game Time: 
20 to 30 minutes

The Game: Bohnanza is a game where you get to farm BEANS. It’s all about beans – chili beans, black-eyed beans, all of the beans ever. I usually just call the game “Beans” because that’s really what it is. So, you’ll probably see me switching between calling this Bohnanza and calling it “Beans” throughout this post.

Anyway, the game is relatively simple – you have a hand of cards and you have to collect beans in your two bean fields. Your turn goes like this: you play at least one card from your hand into a field.  This gives you a space to plant. Then, you have to take 2 cards off of the top of the deck and either trade them, give them away, or plant them into your field. Then, you draw 3 cards and the next person’s turn starts.

If, at any time, there isn’t an empty field and you must plant beans, you have to harvest the beans, in which you get coins for hitting certain amount thresholds. Harvesting beans for coins is how you get money for your third field, and the person with the most coins wins the game. Sounds almost too easy, right?

Here’s the big twist – you can never, and I mean never rearrange the cards’ order in your hand. Never. Ever. This is where the challenge comes in – as you’re playing cards into your field, you have to do so in the order the cards were drawn into your hand. So, in order to get some of those pesky beans that you don’t want to plant out of the way, you have to trade them (or just give them, if you’re desperate) to others. Any cards you trade must be planted immediately.

Why It’s Worth a Classic Callback: 

It’s Uwe’s First Design that Was Published. If you’re someone that really supports the creative and unique designs that Uwe Rosenberg pushes out, you definitely want to check out Bohnanza. It’s different (super different, actually), but it’s a good look into how he does things and how he messes with seemingly simple mechanisms to make them exciting and fresh.

Bohnanza is Unique As All Get Out. In short, there is absolutely no other game that is like Bohnanza. Sure, there are other set collection games, and trading and negotiation games, but the hand management mechanism is super unique and I wish that it was used in other games in an effective fashion. While it definitely scratches my set collection itch, Beans has its own itch that I like to scratch at times as well. Like, if I want to play Bohnanza, I want to play Bohnanza, and that’s what I want to play period.

It’s Really Easy to Teach Non-Gamers. While the hand management mechanism is really unique, it’s easy to understand. You have to drill it into people’s heads (yes, even the heads of those who have played Beans dozens of times), but once you get people to stop trying to rearrange their cards, it’s fairly simple. It’s a fun gateway style game that gets people laughing and thinking and having a good time together.

There’s an Edition for Everyone. Want to play solo? There’s a version for that. Want to play with more types of beans? There’s that too. Want to play with 2 players? Bohnanza: The Duel was one of my favorite games of Origins last year, because it put Beans into a 2 player version that I enjoyed. Want to play with more than 5? There are expansions. Basically, if you want to play with all of your bean farming friends, you can find things to make it happen. Sweet.

Who Won’t Like Bohnanza? 

  • If you’re someone that likes Uwe games, but you like them because they’re really thinky, you may not like Bohnanza. It’s a great game for what it is, but it’s very different than any of Uwe’s other titles that are popular nowadays.
  • If you don’t like card games, you likely won’t like it. While the mechanisms are different, they aren’t going to be different enough for you to be interested in the game.
  • If you don’t enjoy trading and negotiation, it is a part of Bohnanza, and you may be deterred by it. Or, you can play like Sarah and just give cards away instead of dealing with negotiation. It works – she still does just fine and really enjoys the game.

Who Will Like Bohnanza? 

  • Do you enjoy set collection as much as we do here at OSG? In my opinion, Bohnanza is an excellent example of what set collection games can be like, and it’s really a lot of fun to think through.
  • If you like the trading part of Settlers – yes, to the point where you’re trying to get the most for your trade – the trading phase of Beans is definitely going to catch your attention. It’s not front and center, like I mentioned above, but it’s still a good part of it and you’ll like it.
  • Do you like games where you want to be sure that you’re involved in every step of the game? You want to pay attention to what people are doing, so you can get a piece of the.. bean? I tried to make a joke there and it didn’t work. Anyway, it’s about paying attention, but you can do so while eating a snack or talking to someone, so it’s not as intense as games where trading and negotiation are central.

Have you tried Bohnanza? How do you like it? What sorts of things do you like about this type of game and do you wish that other designers tried a similar mechanism in their games?

Game On!
Marti – The Fluffy Meeple

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