GUATEMALA CAFÉ (Eggertspiele/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $49.95)
Guatemala Café, the new game from Inka and Markus Brand, is, unlike its title suggests, a resource based game about growing coffee in Guatemala. It is a 2-4 player resource development game which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to play depending on the experience of the players.
The game comes with two boards. One board is used for storing resources (the resource board) and the other is a development board on which the players build coffee plantations using the pieces you buy during the course of the game from the resource board.
On the resource board you place all the resource pieces you will use in the game. These pieces are workers, drying sheds, roads, coffee sacks (used for scoring) and ships. Each resource come in five colors. One side of the resource board is used for a fixed resource setup, the other for a random resource setup. On the development board, one side is for the two player game, the other for three or four players.
The board is divided into four zones with a square grid of playing spaces which are the docks, lowlands (nearest to the docks), midlands and highlands (furthest from the docks). There are also road spaces and drying shed spaces. The different regions except for the docks have different costs for placing pieces with the highest next to the docks. The docks is where you will place the ship markers you buy (more expensive closer to shore).
At the start of the game, the players get plantation claim tiles in their color (each player can build one plantation in each of the playing piece colors), some starting cash (centavos), a set number of randomly chosen coffee sacks and a score marker which you place at the start of the score track. On your turn you move a “buyer” token around the outside of the resource board in a clockwise direction up to three spaces, or four if you pay an extras two centavos. You then can either buy any number of pieces available in that column/row or take the coffee sack piece and score plantations of the sacks color. You can only take as many pieces from a row/column as you can afford though road pieces are free to take and place. Roads replace the pieces taken and can be taken for free in later rounds. Workers can be placed anywhere on the board except for the docks, roads or drying shed spaces. You mark plantations that you own with your claim tiles and you can only build one plantation in each pieces color. Drying sheds can only be put on the marked drying shed spaces on the board and are important to coring since only workers who can trace a line of adjacency to the drying shed of the same color score. Boats are placed on the docks at the bottom of the board and are used as multipliers during scoring (one boat of the same color = 2x the score, two boats = 3x and three boats = 4x). However the multiplier only counts if the boat at the dock is connected to a drying shed of the same color during scoring by a road. Roads are used to connect the plantations to the docks but can only be placed on the road spaces in a three or four player game but in a two player game they can be place anywhere along a playing spaces side if you are playing a two player game).
you take the coffee stack in a row or column instead of buying the resources,
you create a scoring round. You get seven centavos for initiating a scoring
round and score all plantations of the color of the coffee sack. Each
worker connected to a drying shed scores one point and if you are connected by
the road markers to docks with the appropriate colored ships, you apply the
multiplier as mentioned. You then replace the sack with one from your reserve
(which you have been dealt at the beginning of the game) and place the scored
sack on the score board. This
reduces the distance between the players scoring pieces and the end of the score
board. This is important since to
win the game you have to be the first person to reach the end of the scoring
track (the first space covered by a coffee sack).
Overall I thought Guatemala Café was a nice light game which will appeal to gamers and especially non-gamers. I thought the theme was well integrated into the game play; you actually had a feeling of building coffee plantations. The strategy seemed to boil down to initially building your plantations in strategic positions then connecting them to the docks so you can score the multipliers. After the road network is developed, it becomes a race to score the plantations and stay ahead of the other players on the score track so you can get to the end of the score track first. Also, the rule book was not the best translation (Ed. Note: something that will probably be fixed in the English language Rio Grande edition) and occasionally one had to reread a few rules to figure out the correct interpretation. However this did not detract from the game significantly and is a nice game to add to the family friendly end of a gamers collection. - - - - - Chris Kovac
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