I jokingly warned everyone at the start of our inaugural playthrough of Brew Crafters (Dice Hate Me Games, 2015), the newly released worker placement Euro about, um, crafting brewskis, that brewing the Pumpkin Ale recipe would result in immediate loss of the game. Because, really, that stuff is awful, an abomination to all right-thinking people. But then, after I had installed hop infusers in my fledgling brewery, to increase the value of ales, and cornered the market on fruit, I realized that brewing Pumpkin Ale was a very winning strategy. So, yes, I brewed a ton of the vile stuff and felt only slight shame. Such are the hard decisions in this quite pleasant game about operating a craft brewery.
Some Euro-style games have themes that only tangentially relate to their mechanics, but Brew Crafters is one of those rare spiels that marries the two quite nicely thanks to the beer recipes at the heart of the gameplay. In the Market Phase, players place workers on spaces providing ingredients (malt, hops, yeast, and specialty fare like fruit and coffee), money, or special workers who alter game rules; these spaces may only be chosen by one player at a time, providing a nice adversarial aspect to the game. Then, the Brewery Phase allows players to conduct brewery research, build brewery components like a brewpub and oak barrel aging racks, and assemble the ingredients into differing types of beer, with each recipe requiring a different combination of ingredients and each being worth a varying amount of reputation. The highest reputation at the end of the game wins.
Gameplay is quick, about half an hour per player. Our four player game ran only slightly over two hours, and that even includes time spent getting real beers from the fridge to complement the beer chits we were brewing. The components are above average for a Euro, with a ton of wooden cubes, a handful of traditional wooden meeples, several sheets of die cut cardboard counters, fifty-odd standard-sized cards, and a two-toned wooden glass of stout as a first-player marker. The box is chock full, well worth the $60 retail price just from a component standpoint alone. Throw in engaging worker placement gameplay on a theme near to my heart, and, well, this one is a keeper. There are multiple paths to victory (one of the players in my session tried to crank out as much of the cheap stuff as possible), and there are over twenty different kinds of beer recipes in the game, so there’s a nice degree of replayability in the box as well.
When I saw the demo copy at Labyrinth Games and Puzzles on Capitol Hill, my Fine Local Game Store, I knew I had to have it. I’d drink a toast to Brew Crafters, but I already have . . .