Bohnanza – Growing Beans for Fun & Profit
In the highly interactive card game, Bohnanza, you play a bean farmer. Your goal: become a wealthy bean farmer – the wealthiest if you want to win the game. You begin building your bean empire with just two bean fields and a handful of beans. While there are 11 varieties of beans, you can only cultivate one type in each field, and each season (turn) you must plant at least one bean – the one in the front of your hand. If it’s not one of the varieties you’re already growing, you’ll have to harvest a field, perhaps before it’s reached its maximum yield – or any yield – in order to plant the new bean. You’ll need to do some savvy trading and prudent planning to turn your handful of beans into a wealthy bean empire.
The first rule of Bohnanza is you may never rearrange the cards in your hand. Feel free to turn them right side up, but do not change their order.
On your turn, you must plant the first bean in your hand. If it matches a variety in one of your fields, you can plant it there or in an empty field if you have one available. However, if it doesn’t match and you have no empty fields, you’ll have to harvest and sell all of the beans in one of your fields to make room for the new bean. Use the beanometer at the bottom of the topmost bean to determine how much your field of beans is worth.
The rarer the bean, the better the beanometer. For example, there are 16 Stink Beans, but only 12 Soy Beans in the Bohnanza deck. While it takes three Stink Beans to earn one gold coin, it only takes two Soy Beans to make the same amount of money.
After you’ve planted the first bean in your hand, you can optionally plant the second bean in your hand. Then turn up two cards from the deck and let the trading begin. You can keep, trade away or donate the beans you just turned up. You and your fellow bean farmers can trade beans from anywhere in your hands, but only with the active player – right now that’s you. You should not remove a bean from your hand until a trade is agreed upon (remember the first rule of Bohnanza). Any beans exchanged during the trading phase should be set aside for planting at the end of the phase; they are not added to your hand. If you don’t trade or give away the beans you turned up, you must plant them yourself, whether you want them or not. You can, however, plant them in any order you choose.
When you’re done trading, everyone plants any beans they received during the trading phase, and you draw a number of cards, one at a time, to the back of your hand to end your turn. The number of cards drawn depends on the number of players. Play continues with the next player, clockwise, planting the first bean in her hand – optionally the second – then turning up two cards to begin another trading phase…
You can harvest and sell beans at any time, even when it’s not your turn. There is one important caveat though, you cannot harvest a field with only one bean in it unless all of your bean fields contain just one card. To harvest a field, count the number of beans in the field and consult the top-most bean’s beanometer to determine they’re value in gold coins. Then take that number of cards from the top (end) of the field, flip them over to their gold coin side, and set them aside as your earnings. Place the rest of the beans in the discard pile.
Sometimes two beans fields just aren’t enough. After all, you’re trying to build a bean empire here. Luckily, for a cost of three gold coins, you can buy a third bean field any time during the game. You can even use it immediately. A third bean field usually pays off if you can buy it early in the game. Later not so much.
The game ends when you’ve gone through the deck three times. (It’s important that you don’t shuffle the discard pile until someone has to draw a card and there are none available.) When the draw pile has been exhausted for the third time, players harvest and sell any beans left in their fields and count their gold. The player with the most gold coins wins.
The game setup of Bohnanza varies depending on the number of players including: which beans are used, how many cards players start the game with, how many they draw to the back of their hands at the end of the trading phase, etc. All of this information is provided on the back of the rulebook for handy access.
It’s difficult to make a trading game work with just two players, but Bohnanza succeeds in spades with just a few minor adjustments. First, in a two-player game, you may discard one card from anywhere in your hand after planting one or two cards at the beginning of your turn. This allows you to weed out those pesky beans that are in an inconvenient spot. Second, after planting and weeding – in that order – you’ll turn up three cards to form a bean market. If the top card on the discard pile matches any of the cards you just drew, place it with the matching card. Continue adding cards to the market in this way until the top card on the discard pile doesn’t match any of the drawn cards. Now you can plant any of the cards in the market, harvesting and selling as desired. Anything you don’t want, however, you must leave for your opponent. Then you draw two cards to the back of your hand. Now, before your opponent does anything else on his turn, he must decide whether he wants any of the cards you left in the market. If so, he plants them. Anything he doesn’t want he must discard immediately. Then he plants the first card from his hand, optionally the second, then discards one card from anywhere in his hand if desired and turns up cards to form a new market… The bean duel ends when the draw deck runs out.
There’s more strategy in Bohnanza than at first meets the eye. Lining up your hand by trading away, or even donating, unwanted beans is crucial to success. It’s this trading and negotiating that makes Bohnanza so fun, engaging and interactive: “I’ll trade you a Green Bean for that Stink Bean.” “Will you take two Blue Beans for your Back-eyed Bean?” “What am I offered for this lovely, rosy-cheeked Red Bean?” Those are just a few of things you might hear yourself saying while playing Bohnanza. The artwork is likewise delightful and humorous. Check out the lady beans and baby beans in Bohnanza: Ladies & Gangsters, they’re hilarious! The two-player game is as much fun and interesting as the multi-player game even though there’s no actual trading involved.
Bohnanza supports 2 to 7 players ages 12 and up and plays in about 45 minutes. I don’t see any reason why younger players couldn’t play, too. For a more advanced two-player Bohnanza game, try Al Cabohne or Gangsters from Bohnanza: Ladies & Gangsters. For a more advanced multi-player game check out Ladies from Bohnanza: Ladies & Gangsters and the Bohnanza expansions Bohnanza: Princes & Pirates. All have been reviewed here recently.
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