Brewin’ USA (Preview)
If you were to look up “America’s favorite pastime” in the dictionary (assuming the entry existed in the first place), you’d probably discover that beer is right up there along with Baseball, barbeques, and taxes…okay, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch. “Brewin’ USA”, a project that’ll be launching on Kickstarter February 18, 2015, will task players with launching beer (not literally, though that might be fun) in order to score victory points. Special thanks to Game Creator Adam Rehberg for reaching out and providing me with a prototype copy for preview purposes. It’s important to stress that prototypes are not often reflective of the final product, making the rules and components mentioned in this article subject to change.
My prototype copy came with 117 ingredient cards, 36 beer cards, 12 game tiles depicting locations across the US, 135 bottle caps (5x each of 5 colors), 110 uncolored bottle caps, and 1 play marker. To set up the game, each player takes a set of 5 colored bottle caps and 15 uncolored bottle caps. The ingredient cards and beer cards are shuffled into separate decks. Each player receives 3 beer cards and 3 ingredient cards of “quality one”. At this point, players may discard up to two beer cards and draw new ones to replace them. The city tiles are arranged by groups via columns (from left to right): Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Atlantic.
The object of the game is to score as many victory points as possible before the game ending condition is triggered, which occurs when one player launches three beers. To earn victory points, players can launch beer cards, control cities, control regions, and win a brewfest. Players may also earn victory points for any unused bottle caps when tallying the final score at the game’s end. The game itself is broken up over a series of rounds with each round containing three phases: 1. Ingredient Auction, 2. Launch a Beer, and 3. Resolve any Brewfests. The role of the dealer will change from round to round.
The first phase (Ingredient Auction), without getting too much into the specifics, will allow players to use their uncolored bottle caps to bid on a number of different ingredient batches. Each player must buy at least one batch per round, with the last batch always being free. All caps paid into the auction are distributed upside-down amongst unclaimed cities (dealer’s choice), acting as the “market demand” and potential victory points at the game’s end.
The second phase (Launch a Beer), allows players to launch up to two beer cards, if they are able. A beer card can be launched when you obtain the required ingredients. Each ingredient card has a number on it, signifying its quality. While a player might have a hops ingredient, for example, it might not have the quality value listed on the beer card in order to launch it.
When a player launches a beer, they’ll lay down the required ingredients and place one of their colored bottle caps on the beer to mark it as its owner. The player can then either place the launched beer onto an uncontrolled city OR challenge a controlled city (and thus the player controlling it) to a brewfest. Players will also earn more beer cards to replace the ones they’ve played.
The third phase (Resolve Brewfests), is an event that occurs as the result of a player’s choice during phase two. Each participating player will select up to four ingredient cards from their hand, discard one from their opponent randomly, and then compare the remaining cards. Whoever has the highest sum (based on the values on the ingredient and beer cards) wins the city.
It’s important to stress that I didn’t cover all of the rules found in the prototype rulebook, but the above should give you the general idea. You’ll essentially be bidding on the ingredients you’ll need to launch beer cards, which in turn not only allow you to earn victory points, but control cities. A player who controls the most cities in a region earns victory points at the end of the game equal to the “market demand” on that region (upside-down uncolored bottle caps). Each city also has a “beer preference”, so if you happen to launch a beer onto a city with the matching beer preference, you’ll score double the quality shown on the beer card.
Confused? You’ll have an easier time understanding the big picture once you see how the different mechanics come together and work in tandem…at least that’s how my experience went. I like the fact that claiming a city allows you to earn uncolored bottle caps (one per round), which you can then use in future rounds to buy out more ingredients during the auction phase. This gave me a reason to invest in launching beer cards early rather than horde ingredient cards…though doing so might tip off other players as to which region(s) you might be trying to control. After all, you’ll more than likely want to control cities that match the beer preferences in your hand for extra points.
There’s also a bit of strategy in the auction phase aside from simply trying to outbid someone else for a particular batch of ingredients. Since the dealer has direct control over where the bottle caps used during the auction will go, you might opt to let a batch go (that you need) for cheap to prevent the dealer from seeding a lot of bottle caps onto the unclaimed cities. That might not seem like a big deal during the game, but allowing your opponent to up the market value of a region you know they want to control can be devastating later on when comparing scores.
All in all, “Brewin’ USA” has a pretty unique theme. While it was clearly designed to appeal to an adult audience, the game is family-friendly enough to allow children to play as well. Of course, some parental guidance might be called for…something along the lines of, “this is as close as you’re getting to alcohol until you’re 21.” In all seriousness though, folks who enjoy bidding/auctioning and area control games will more than likely enjoy this title. With that said, fire up some hamburgers and go get your brew on!
You can learn more about and support “Brewin’ USA” by visiting its Kickstarter page, here: