16 July 2021
Not Our Cup of Tea
Brew has pretty much everything I, personally, think I want from a game. A bit of dice drafting for creating emergent strategies, area control for some friction, a little tableau or engine building to create a sense of escalating power, and a sprinkling of potential nastiness with a few powers that might directly effect your opponent.
And yet, it doesn’t quite land. In Brew players take on the role of forest mystics who are attempting to set the seasons right, as time has got a bit confused and all the seasons are happening at once. You do this by taking control of various forest areas, taming wildlife and brewing the odd potion to help you along the way. By which we mean, collecting all these things for points.
Players roll their dice and then have a choice of where to use them. In forest areas they can work towards claiming that location card by filling a slot on the card with a matching icon and collecting the resource – whether that’s brewing ingredients or taming a creature. You can have up to three creatures with you at once, adding a little bit of set collection to the game – and ‘release’ those you want to move out of your active pool into matching wilderness you’ve collected. It’s a very pleasing way to get points, who doesn’t want to release the animals for bonus points after all? The creature powers give you little bonuses, occasional worker placement spaces, or points for collected sets.
On the village board (which flips to night every other turn) gives players basic worker placement options, and keeps the game trundling along. It also contains the ‘scorch’ option – a way of blocking card location spaces, which can be useful for scuppering your opponents plans.
The central area control section of the game asks players to gain control by a simple majority using their (lovely looking and custom) forage dice. Player can also add elemental dice here, which won’t win them the area, but may cause a draw that forces the other player to lose the area. This sort of meanness is welcome in an otherwise gentle, low conflict game. We found that taking control of an individual card would often be quickly solved in our group. Throwing dice at already partly-claimed areas is only any good to block others, and doesn’t advance your cause – although the occasional option of stacking a dice upward to block an opponent is amusing.
I’ve barely mentioned potions, which you can craft with your resources and tend to change dice results for you. Sometimes useful, sometimes not worth it even for end game points, it’s a very your mileage may vary kind of mechanic. There’s enough to do most of the time that changing your dice results isn’t imperative.
And then there’s the art, which is lovely to look at but is missing something. I feel cruel in saying this, but the quite limited number of creatures (each with an interesting enough palate swap for each season and power) left our group uninspired. We knew we weren’t in collecting ‘em all territory, but the world seemed a little bland. It’s a lush looking game, everything is beautifully made, but it seems to have all the edges knocked off in terms of character.
The game if admirable for everything it is trying to do, we would have loved this game if it did all of them just a little bit more meaningfully or it turned the pressure up just a touch more. There should be something great here, but the cocktail isn’t quite right.
Christopher John Eggett
Sadly, despite all its promise, Brew falls a bit flat – the area control doesn’t feel meaningful and sadly, even the creatures’ undeniable cuteness illicit little more than a shrug by the end of the game.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Dice Hospital…
While it doesn’t contain the area control elements of Brew, Dice Hospital gives you a much more meaningful sense of pressure to play with.
Designer: Stevo Torres
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Time: 45-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Village board
- First player marker
- 4 Character boards
- 16 Forage dice
- 8 Elemental dice
- 20 Forest cards
- 36 Creature cards
- 32 Potion cards
- 4 Reference cards
- 24 Herb tokens
- 24 Crystal tokens
- 24 Energy berries
- 38 VP tokens
- 10 Scorch tokens
This feature originally appeared in Issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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