Disclaimer: This review is from a review copy of the game that was provided by North Star Games to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Game: The Taverns of Tiefenthal
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele, North Star Games
Design: Wolfgang Warsch
Art: Dennis Lohausen
Mechanisms: Deck building, Dice rolling/placement
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Game Time: 60 minutes
Description: The Taverns of Tiefenthal is a game combining deck building with dice placement to activate actions. Players each have a tavern board with several areas (such as tables, a beer keg, storage, etc.) and each turn they draw cards from their deck and place them in the appropriate areas until every table has a patron (regular, guest, or noble).
Then, each player rolls 4 generic dice plus any personal dice they earned for that turn. Personal dice are kept, and the generic dice are drafted 1 at a time with the dice rotating to the left for the next draft. Once all players have finished drafting a planning phase takes place where players position their dice on cards or areas how they think they want to activate them. Starting with the first player, each player then performs their actions until they have used all of their dice, free to move dice around as they go if they change their mind about what actions they want to take.
Dice actions primarily will accrue beer or Thalers (money) which can then be spent in a number of ways, including buying new cards for your deck (which get placed on top of your deck and will be available the following round), attracting guests to your tavern (which also go on top of your deck), and upgrading areas of your tavern (such as hiring a permanent server or increasing your beer production). You can also move up on the monastery track with dice actions, which provides various bonuses as you move past certain spaces such as cards for your deck, extra Thalers, or even attracting nobles.
At the end of 8 rounds, players count up the victory points on the cards in their decks, and the player with the most wins!
There are also modules that each add additional gameplay to the base game. Here is a brief run-down of each module:
- Module 1 – The base game is considered Module 1 with the extra mechanics starting in Module 2 and being sequentially added up to Module 5 (i.e.: you can’t play Module 4 without using Modules 2 and 3 as well).
- Module 2 – Schnapps are a new currency with this Module, primarily used to pay the new Entertainers for their special actions. Unspent schnapps are also work 1 victory point each at the end of the game.
- Module 3 – A new reputation track features in this Module and with it new tavern cards (Bards) and guest cards that give ways to move on the track as well as other rewards (including potentially schnapps). Bonuses are achieved at various points on the track, and at the end of the game your current position awards victory points.
- Module 4 – Alternate starting setups are what this Module brings, with 7 cards (3 of which are randomly chosen to be available each game) featuring different ways to begin the game instead of the default setup in Module 1. You might start with an upgraded beer storage right off the bat, or more tables, or perhaps a permanent server or dishwasher to give you more dice manipulation early game.
- Module 5 – The guestbook for the tavern gets added here, with signature tiles available to acquire by attracting guests or from the reputation track. The guestbook is filled from top to bottom by column and has rewards that are awarded when a signature covers certain spaces (and also when you finish rows and columns).
Marti and Sarah: Wolfgang Warsch caught my attention when he came out with The Mind, and every single game that he has done has left me seeking out more from him. The Quacks of Quedlinburg was one of my favorite games of 2018, and I can’t tell you how many hours that Sarah and I have spent playing Ganz Schon Clever and Doppelt Schon Clever in their respective apps.
So, of course, when I heard that he was coming out with a deck building game, I knew that I needed to get my hands on it and start playing it. And let me tell you – it’s something special. Like many of Warsch’s games, there is a lot of luck, but there are tons of ways to manipulate that luck so that it’s in your favor in a big way.
While your first game or two should definitely be just the basic game, experienced gamers are going to want to jump into the modules pretty quickly. It takes the game from a fun little deck/engine building exercise to something that has quite the interesting depth of strategy. With so many paths to victory (and so many ways to get bonuses), you’ll find that every game is different.
The board is really cool. Like, who the heck looks at a game and is like “and the board is in like 10 different pieces which you can upgrade and manipulate.” There are a lot of moving parts to it, which can make it a little fiddly from time to time, but that’s a pretty minor thing to worry about when it comes to everything else. Also, check your dice – One of my poor yellow dice has seen better days.
There is a limited pool of cards that you’re working with – and all of them do some pretty necessary things in regards to dice mitigation. The ability to actually make some of the characters “permanent” via upgrades (for example, a permanent extra die, or the ability to manipulate your die to one more than its face value) is invaluable, and you need to do it to win. Not only does it provide you with extra points from the Noble you get, but the bonuses you get from those upgrades help to make the game go more smoothly for you.
I think that this game is ripe for an expansion – not because the board needs expanding, but more cards would be fabulous. I feel like this base is a “proof of concept.” Alright, here we go with the modules, here are all of these things that we can do with the board and with some bonus stuff. Now? Let’s add some more new and different cards. Maybe an alternate dishwasher that lets you decrease your numbers, or cards that let you manipulate your own individual dice.
Overall, I love this game. It feels like a natural progression after Quacks (lots of luck assisted by mitigation as you go through the rounds of the game), but it’s so different and unique. I would love to see other games use this sort of “upgradeable player board” in other styles of games (and if there are any I don’t know of, let me know).
Scott: I love deck building, it’s definitely my favorite game mechanic/genre (3 of my current top 10 games of all time, including my top 2, are deck builders), especially when the deck building reinforces or is an engine for other mechanics. Taverns scratches both of those itches in a wonderful way. The cleverness of building up your tavern and also attracting patrons by having to balance both in one deck, and trying to make sure you have an assortment of options for the dice results (or at least having ways to mitigate the luck factor), makes for a really thinky and deceptively deep game, especially if you’re using some or all of the modules.
Purchased cards going to the top of your deck and being available for your next turn creates an interesting decision structure as to how your turns play out, and sometimes what order you do things (such as purchasing a table card last so that it comes out first the following turn). I occasionally found myself wishing I’d done things in a different order the previous turn, or remembered certain things I had bought when making decisions about what to upgrade. The tokens that allow you to discard everything you drew that turn and redo your drawing, before rolling dice and taking actions, are incredibly powerful but few and far between so you have to be very careful about when to use them.
I definitely think playing with all the modules makes for the most satisfying game, though it’s good to work up to it as some of them add a lot of decision-related complexity so you’ll want to have a solid grasp of the base game before adding those to the mix. There are so many paths to victory that everyone can usually have their own strategy and it still ends up being a close game. I thoroughly enjoy playing Taverns.
Marti, Scott, and Sarah