Theme&andn’What is it?
Dice Game of Inventive Beers and Homemade Competition
Homebrewers is an engine-building and dice-trading game. Your dice represent the actions you can take, such as buying ingredients, participating in monthly events, adding flavors to your recipes, and of course, brewing beer! Homebrewers is played over eight months (eight rounds). Each month, you meet with the homebrewing club one weekend (Trade phase) and take actions the other weekends (Action phase).
You’ll craft your own unique beer recipes in four categories (Ale, Porter, Stout, and IPA). Each time you brew a particular recipe, your quality level for that recipe increases.
You gain reputation in two ways. First, by moving up the quality tracks for the four beer categories in order to win medals at Summerfest and Octoberfest, and second, by crafting your recipes to meet the particular tastes of a panel of judges at Octoberfest.
At the end of eight months, if you’ve gained the most reputation as your club’s best brewer, you win!
–description from the publisher
Roll dice, trade ’em, brew beers, and score!
Homebrewers arrives as a compact (approximately 7″x7″x2.5″) box that is pleasantly heavy for its size. The external artwork is good and evokes feelings of hand-lettered chalkboards like you’d see at a brewery. The back of the box shows the game set up for 4 players and lists the game components.
Lots to do!
The main mechanic of Homebrewers is rolling dice. Each player rolls three custom-etched dice to define what actions they can take this round. There is a friendly trading phase in which players can negotiate to swap dice 1-for-1 with the other players. Once trading is complete, players lock in their actions for the round. Dice can be mitigated in a couple of ways (pay $1 to change a die to whatever action you want, or forgo the action entirely and take $2). If players want to take an additional action in a round, they can pay $3 for that.
There are 6 actions available:
* Sanitize: Sanitize your equipment to remove the right-most “trub” token from your garage (player board). What is “Trub”, I hear you ask? Brewing beer leaves your equipment dirty and full of trub: the name for the sediment and by-products that remain in equipment after fermentation.
* Event (appears twice on each die): When you take this action, choose either the top or bottom action on the event token for the current month. The top action is free; the bottom action costs $2.
* Gain Grain: When you gain grain, you receive 1 grain token. Each grain token represents everything you need to brew a batch of beer. You’ve got 4 types of beers you can brew (Ale, Porter, Stout, and IPA) and once you place a Grain token on that type of beer, it cannot be moved.
* Draw or Play a Flavor Card: Draw a Flavor Card — either from the face-up selection of 4, or sight-unseen from the top of the Flavor Card deck. Play a Flavor Card — play a Flavor Card from your hand. Play it to the discard pile to take its benefit, or place it under one of the recipes in your garage. Whenever you brew a beer of that recipe, you gain the benefits shown for the flavor card(s) for that recipe.
* Brew Beer: When you take this action, you brew one batch of that type of beer recipe. To be able to brew beer, you must have at least one available Sanitation level, or your equipment is too dirty and you cannot take the action until you clean up a bit. The Flavor Cards associated with each recipe provide flavors (and benefits each time they’re brewed) for your beers, some of which can get pretty interesting.
When you brew a beer, you move your score marker (clever little beer glasses!) up the score track for that beer type by the number shown above your leftmost uncovered sanitation level. The cleaner your garage, the higher your score when brewing. Sometimes, you cross a benefit on the score track, which you collect. Flip the Grain token to its Trub side, then take any benefits from the Flavor Cards attached to the recipe you just made.
Looks Right, Built Right
The quality of this game is solid. From the etched dice to the thick cardboard tokens, the quality is evident. Everything in my set was very nice. The cards do not have a linen finish, but I don’t think that’s necessary for a game of this weight.
Approachable, friendly art & design
The artists for this game went with a pub-like approach — many of the elements are styled to appear as chalk on a blackboard. It’s thematically consistent and very approachable.
The icons and graphics are easily read and make sense after just a round or two.
Easy Beer and Pretzels Game
When you start setting up the game, you might be intimidated by the Setup instructions which span 10 steps over nearly two pages. But persevere — the setup goes quickly and you’ll be playing in a short amount of time.
The reason that the setup appears complicated is that Homebrewers focused on replayability and variety. For example, there are 12 or so Quality Track Tiles (8 of which are laid on the scoreboard each game) that offer variety of rewards for accomplishing a certain score. There are 11 Judging Category Tiles, of which four are used per game. There are 8 Event Tiles and only 6 are used per game.
All this variety increases setup by a few minutes, but the replayability and variety make this worth it.
The game itself plays very quickly — roll dice, trade, take actions, and brew beers — and it’s possible to play several fast games with one setup, only modifying the various tiles each time.
Easy enough for kids, but it’s beer…
The age is listed as 14+ on the box (BGG lists 12+). Mechanically, this is probably generous. I would imagine a sharp 10-year old could handle this game. Be sure you’re comfortable with the theme of brewing beer before playing it with young kids.
Fun Game, Unique Theme
I certainly enjoyed playing Homebrewers because it’s light, easy to understand, and there is just enough strategy (BGG weight is 2.38/5) to keep it interesting. The variety of scoring tiles will keep it fresh for many play-throughs. If you’ve got a friend who is really into brewing and you want to get them into gaming as well, this would be a great place to start.