Design by Wolfgang Warsch | Published by Schmidt Spiele
2-4 Players | 60 min
Nestled in the trees of western Germany lies the quaint town of Tiefenthal. The residents of this town love to spend the evenings at their favorite tavern doing what locals often do… drinking away the night. The Taverns of Tiefenthal comes from Wolfgang Warsch, the brilliant gaming mind behind the Quacks of Quedlinburg, The Mind, Wavelength and the Ganz Schon Clever series. In Taverns (as it will be referred to from here on), you are a local village tavern owner. To succeed in this competitive, beer-hungry market, you must attract wealthy patrons and improve and expand your humble tavern. Taverns combines dice placement and deck-building in this 2-4 player, medium weight, expandable game.
What do I mean by expandable? One of the beautiful things about Taverns is it comes with multiple, optional expansions directly in the box. So setup of the game is determined based on your preferred complexity.
To play, each player receives a tavern. The tavern itself is somewhat of a puzzle, full of upgradable, interlocking pieces. Perhaps you want to add an additional seat, create more beer storage or hirer an additional server throughout the game… if you have the means, each upgrade creates a permanent change to your tavern.
You then receive your deck consisting of a few patrons and sparse helpers with which to build your tavern empire. There is a problem though. The detestable locals (in your deck) just want to loiter around and take up precious seating meant for wealthier cliental. Sadly you can’t just boot them out the door. You must work to stack your deck with higher quality patrons and nobels who’s pockets are typically much fuller.
Each round consists of a series of actions representing a typical night at the tavern such as serving your guests and closing up shop.
A typically turn begins by drawing cards from your deck, placing patrons until they’ve completely occupied your tables while adding additional helpers to your tavern space. Players roll 4 dice each, taking turns in a standard draft fashion as each set rotates around the table. Once all the dice have been drafted, you place them on your tavern in spaces designated for certain dice values. These spaces will allow you to earn money or beer (the two types of currency in the game). Earning money allows you to hire additional tavern help or purchase upgrades to your tavern while gathering beer attracts wealthier patrons worth more victory points. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner.
As the game progresses your success will allow you to hire additional servers, dish washers, barbacks and brewers, each with their own special advantages. You’ll also be able to attract wealthier patrons allowing you opportunities to bring in more income. One of the interesting game mechanisms takes place when you gain a new worker or patron card. Once that card is obtained you immediately place that card on top of your deck allowing you to use that cards benefit on the very next turn! We’ve all played games where you draft a card and shuffle it into your deck never to be seen again. This is truly a breath of fresh air… because we all love instant gratification.
The game continues over a series of 8 rounds with the winner gaining the most victory points accumulated by the patrons in your deck.
The theme is rich and the art is whimsical and engaging, but the base game is only the beginning. Where Taverns really starts to hum is when you add in the additional expansions (or modules). The games 5 modules, added sequentially to your preference enrich the decisions making process and open up multiple paths to victory. Now there are additional bonus to attracting the right patrons, entertainment to liven up the joint, asymmetrical variations in the setup and new scoring tracks to gain additional benefits.
Taverns of Tiefenthal is likely to suck you right into the lively theme, colorful characters and silly antics taking place over a series of nights at your tavern. While there is a certain amount of luck with the dice drafting and deck building, all that can be mitigated with sound decision making.
This is a game that medium-weight in difficulty, but my 9-year-old daughter does enjoy the game from time to time (of course with her the taverns are restaurants and the beer is only root beer). The turn actions are fairly simple, but the decision making can be challenging. Small things such as the majority of cash and beer on hand must be spent by the end of each turn – and this can really start to stretch your brain. Taverns doesn’t have tokens to represent either coin or beer, so by the end of the game your mind feels as if it has received a good workout from the internal calculating taking place.
Setup can be a real challenge and the tavern boards themselves are a bit fiddly. The interlocking pieces can be a chore to put together and a gentle hand is necessary to ensure your board stays in tack through out play. There are additional pieces that are a little small and can be challenging to move around the playing field. The quality of the components are ok. For hardcore Tavern players I would recommend upgrading the box to better accommodate all the many, many pieces and cards. Those who have played Quacks will be familiar with the overall quality. I’ve created an internal system of setup and tear down where each player has their own individual packed baggie full of all the tavern goodies needed to play <— highly recommended.
I wouldn’t consider this a simple game, but it does come with all the personally edifying turn bonuses and achievements one comes to expect from a Wolfgang Warsch game. Despite its component challenges, Taverns is a game that always seems to satisfy. Perhaps it’s just my inner tavern owner coming out to play… but in all honestly, I’ve never had a desire to own a tavern or spend countless nights in one. For me that’s just additional validation for the greatness of this silly, yet truly engaging game that should be a mainstay for me for years to come.
Good at 2 players, great at 3-4