Grand Austria Hotel – A dice-selection Euro game.
I’m a fan of dicey Euro games. That is, games in which dice rolls determine your options for action – my husband calls this dice selection – and there’s some means to modify the dice results – though it may cost a bit. My favorite dicey Euro game of all time is Castles of Burgundy, which I still have yet to write a review for. Lately, however, we’ve been playing Grand Austria Hotel a lot. In some ways it reminds me of Castles of Burgundy, in others of Troyes, another good dicey Euro game. At any rate, I thought I’d try my hand at describing Grand Austria Hotel for you.
Grand Austria Hotel is set in early 20th Century Vienna – the capital city of Austria – where you are the proud owner of a modest hostel that you’d like to evolve into a world-famous Grand hotel – in game terms, you want to score the most victory points. To accomplish this lofty goal, you’ll hire some staff, fill your guests with the wine, coffee, cake and/or strudel they desire and put them to bed – in your hotel, of course – all while also working to gain and maintain the Emperor’s favor.
There are a variety of ways to earn points in Grand Austria Hotel, including:
- Fulfilling guests’ food and/or drink orders and putting them in prepared rooms.
- Preparing certain luxury rooms.
- Filling rooms, that is, making them Occupied.
- Completing blocks of Occupied blue rooms. You also receive bonuses for completing blocks of red and yellow rooms, just not in victory points. Red blocks award money, yellow blocks advancement on the Emperor track.
- Earning and maintaining the Emperor’s favor.
- Hiring Staff that earn you points for taking certain actions.
- Achieving the goals on Politics Cards A, B and/or C.
- Hiring Staff that provide end-game points for achieving particular goals.
- Having money on hand and food and drink in the kitchen at the end of the game.
I may have forgotten something, but that’s the gist of it: lots of ways to earn points throughout the game. So, let’s look at the setup, game play and components in a little more detail.
Setup is pretty straightforward.
- Set the game board in the center of the table with the action board next to it.
- Place the round marker on 1.
- Shuffle the Guest cards and place 5 face up in the appropriate spaces on the game board and set the remaining deck nearby.
- Shuffle the A, B and C sets of Politics cards and place one of each on their respective spaces on the game board.
- Do the same for the Emperor tiles.
The varying combinations of Politics cards and Emperor tiles each game enhance replayability. So no two games are ever quite the same.
- Give each player a hotel board, 6 Staff cards, 6 tokens of their player color and 1 cube each of strudel, cake, wine and coffee.
- Players place one of their player-color tokens on the scoring track, one on the Emperor track, one on the 10 spot of their money track and keep the other three for potential placement on the three Politics cards.
- The food and drink cubes go in their kitchens.
- Set the rest of the food and drink cubes and the room tiles within easy reach.
Starting the Game
Players should together decide whether they’ll all play the Night side of their hotel boards – same for all players – or the Day side which features a unique hotel room configuration on each board.
Determine start player and distribute the play order tiles accordingly. Starting with the last player, each player chooses one of the available Guests – for free. Slide Guests to the right to fill any holes and turn up a new one after each selection.
Players each prepare three rooms of their choice, paying any room prep fees as appropriate. The first must be the room in the bottom left corner of their board, the second room must be adjacent, orthogonally, to the first room, the third room must be adjacent to either or both of the first two. You can prepare rooms on the first floor for free. Rooms on the second floor cost $1 to prepare, on the third floor $2, and the fourth $3.
You’re now ready to play Grand Austria Hotel.
Grand Austria Hotel is played over seven rounds. Players each get two turns per round beginning with the start player and going clockwise then back counter-clockwise. So the last player will get two turns in a row and the start player goes first for his first turn and last for his second turn. It’s easy to keep track of turns, because when you take a turn, you take one die from the dice board and place it on your turn order tile. At the end of each round, pass your turn tile to the next player clockwise. Thus, everyone will get a chance to go first at least once during the game.
To begin a round, the start player takes all of the dice, rolls them and sorts them onto the corresponding six action spaces on the Action Board. The number of dice on an action space, before you take one off the board, determines how much you can get or do with that action space. The six possible actions include:
- Bake Strudel and Cake. For each die on this action space, you can take one strudel or cake cube. However, you can’t take more cake than strudel. You can serve the strudel and cake directly to any Guests at your tables who ordered it. Place any leftovers in your kitchen.
- Get Wine and Coffee. For each die on this action space, you can take one wine or coffee cube, with the caveat that you don’t take more coffee than wine. You can immediately serve the wine and coffee to any Guests at your tables who requested it. Put the leftovers in your kitchen.
Prepare Rooms. You can prepare as many rooms as there are dice here. Take whichever color room tiles you desire and place them on matching room spaces with the front Prepared side faceup. You must pay the appropriate fee to prepare any rooms above the first floor and follow the adjacency rules.
- Get money and/or progress on the Emperor track. For each die here, you may advance either your money marker or your token on the Emperor Track one space. You can just take money, only advance on the Emperor Track, or any combination, it’s up to you.
- Hire Staff. You can hire one Staff from your hand at a discount equal to the number of dice on the 5 action space. You don’t receive any money if the discount exceeds the Staff card’s cost.
- Wild Card. Pay $1, then perform any one of the first five actions. How much you can do is determined by the number of dice on the 6 action space, not the space of the action you perform.
Important: You can always pay $1 more to treat an action space as having one more die than is actually present.
But I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself. The first thing you’re supposed to do on your turn, before taking a die, is decide whether you want to seat one of the waiting Guests on the game board at one of your three tables – assuming you have an available table. If so, take a Guest and place him at an empty table, paying the appropriate tip (noted below the Guest card on the game board) to the maitre d’. Then you can take a die from the Action Board and perform the appropriate action.
You can also do as many additional actions as you like, before and/or after you take a Guest and before and/or after you take a die, including:
Spend $1 to move up to 3 cubes from your kitchen to one or more Guest cards.
- Feed a Guest and put him to bed in a matching-color Prepared Room. You can put Green Guests in any color room. There are a few steps to do here:
- Turn an appropriately-colored room tile to Occupied. If this completes a section of Occupied rooms, take the appropriate bonus.
- Score points according to the number in the top right corner of the Guest card.
- Receive any bonuses provided by that Guest card, if any.
- Place the Guest card facedown next to your hotel board.
- Use a Staff card with a once per round effect. Turn it sideways to note you’ve used its effect this round. Straighten it at the start of the next round.
- Claim one of the rewards on a Politics card if you’ve completed that goal.
It’s important to choose your Guests wisely. Guests can provide a variety of bonus actions, such as:
- Prepare one or more rooms, maybe at a discount or even for free.
- Turn one or more Prepared rooms to Occupied.
- Acquire more Staff cards and/or hire Staff, sometimes for free or at a discount.
- Advance on the Emperor’s Track.
- Seat a Guest at one of your tables, usually for free.
- Get food or drink (one or more cubes).
Likewise, it’s important to hire Staff wisely. Staff are powerful. There are four types of bonuses:
- One-time. You immediately get the depicted bonus and that’s it. For example, when you hire the Barista, you immediately receive 4 coffee. Save the Staff card, though, it might apply to a Politics goal or an end-game bonus on another Staff card.
- Once per round. This is usually a dish or drink that you can take once per round – not per turn. For instance, the Waitress allows you to take one cake per round.
- Permanent. You can activate a permanent bonus whenever it applies. For example: the Restaurant Manager, lets you take an additional dish or drink whenever you use a 1 or 2 action die. My favorite is the Kitchen Hand which lets you use a 6 action die for free at a plus one!
- Game end. These Staff cards come into the play at the end of the game, providing victory points. For instance: with the Receptionist, you score 1 point for each prepared and/or occupied room in your hotel.
The rulebook includes a handy reference for the Staff cards, ordered by title. I’m thinking of copying this and printing up reference cards for everyone.
You only get 6 Staff cards at the beginning of the game, though you may be able to acquire more during the game. The primary way to acquire more Staff cards is by fulfilling certain Guests’ orders. In addition, there are two Emperor rewards that let you take 3 Staff cards from the top of the deck and hire one, discarding the rest. Of course, only three Emperor rewards appear each game, so it’s rare that you’ll ever see both in the same game.
Which brings me to the Emperor’s favor. At the end of rounds 3, 5 and 7, you must score the Emperor Track:
- Players score the victory points shown underneath their position on the track.
- Then move each player’s token back x spaces on the Emperor Track, where x is the round number: 3, 5 or 7.
- If a player’s token ends up in the gold favored area of the track (3+), he receives the bonus on the top of that round’s Emperor Tile. Should his token land in the grey neutral part of the track (1-2), nothing happens. However, if his token ends up in the black out-of-favor position (0), he receives the penalty shown on the bottom of the Emperor Tile.
So, the Emperor Track can prove a powerful bonus, not just in terms of a potential reward, but the victory points earned there are nothing to turn your nose up at either.
Oh, I almost forgot. Instead of taking your turn as usual, you can Pass, if you don’t like any of the actions available. This often happens when you’re one of the last to play and there are only a few dice or no dice left on the action space you most want to use. Here’s how it works.
When you Pass, play continues as usual until all other players have either taken two actions or passed. Then, the player with the lowest number still open on their Turn Order Tile (without a die on it), moves one of the dice left on the Action Board to the Trash Can, and rolls the rest, sorting them as usual. He can then play or pass. The next player who passed (next lowest number on Turn Order Tile) can choose a die and take an action or pass again. If anyone still has an open space on their Turn Order Tile, the player with the lowest number discards a die from the Action Board, rolls the rest, then plays or passes. The next player who passed plays or passes and so on until everyone has two dice on his Turn Order Tile or you run out of Action Dice.
The game ends after 7 rounds and the last accounting of the Emperor’s favor. Players score additional points for:
- Occupied rooms. First floor rooms are worth 1 point each, second floor 2 points and so on.
- Cubes in your kitchen. 1 point per cube. Any cubes on Guest cards don’t count: they’ve been consumed by the Guest.
- Money on hand. 1 point per dollar on hand.
- Staff cards that provide end-game points.
- Politics cards.
The player with the most points has successfully turned his modest hostel into a Grand Hotel and wins the game.
All of the components are well made. The artwork on the hotel boards is kind of dull and hum drum – not that exciting – however the Staff and Guest cards are better and the game play itself more than makes up for the drab board artwork.
The rulebook is well written – nice translation – and organized. A legend of the various symbols used in the game is provided on the back of the rulebook for easy reference. So it doesn’t take long to understand most of the symbols.
Grand Austria Hotel Replay
I’ve played Grand Austria Hotel a number of times with different people most times and every game has been fun and interesting. Replayablity is excellent. Not only due to the various Politics cards and Emperor Tiles that come out during setup, but also due to the variety of Staff cards – you never know what you’ll get dealt or what might turn up when you serve the right Guest. For even more variety, you can try the card drafting variant for experienced players described in the rulebook:
- Deal each player 6 cards.
- Players each choose one and pass the rest.
- Rinse and repeat until everyone has a hand of 6 cards.
Of course, the dice rolls and what your fellow players do also affect game play dramatically, demanding you try new tactics and strategies. No two games are quite the same. This is a big plus in my book.
If you like Castles of Burgundy, Bora Bora, Troyes, or other Euro games with a dice selection mechanism, you’ll probably enjoy Grand Austria Hotel.
I would rate Grand Austria Hotel as a medium-weight strategy game. It doesn’t take all that long to learn. For your first game I recommend using the Night side of the hotel boards. Go over the basic game play and explain what each of the face up cards and tiles on the game board mean, then let players look up their particular Staff cards. As new Guests are turned up, you can look up and read their bonuses aloud.
Instead of dealing random Staff cards to each player, you might try the Introductory Variant in the rulebook for distributing Staff cards. It gives each player a balanced hand. Just sort the cards by the tiny letter in the bottom left corner and give one player the A set, another the B set and so on. The Hotel boards also have letters in the top left corner that you can match the sets to. Finally, shuffle the rest of the Staff cards to form the Staff deck.
Grand Austria Hotel supports 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, and plays in about 90 minutes.
Copyright © 2017 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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