Brewin’ USA Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 12 and up (publisher suggests 21+)
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • Approximately 1 hour to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bluffing and Misdirection
  • Auctioning and Bidding
  • Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult- Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Brew the best to be the best!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek untested!

Overview

The beer market has entered an exciting new time of exploration and discovery. The masses crave new tastes and styles to challenge their taste buds and enhance their self-esteem. You are a crafter of fine brews and see a great deal of opportunity. Get the right ingredients to make the perfect beer and then carefully market it to reap wealth and prestige. Victory goes to the shrewdest.

Brewin’ USA, designed and self-published by Adam Rehberg, is comprised of 107 Ingredient cards, 82 Beer cards, 10 Player Helper cards, 16 Game tiles (for a total of 32 cities), 105 Bottle caps (in different colors, used as tokens), 1 Bottle cape bag, 1 Score pad, and 1 Auction tracker. The game component quality is excellent, with thick cards, real bottle caps, and thick coasters that not only give the game a thematic feel, but makes it look great, too.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first give each player a set of 6 colored Bottle caps of a single color. Any colored Bottle caps not used should be returned to the game box.

Second, separate the Beer cards and the Ingredient cards into two different piles. Separate each pile individually and place face-down to create the Ingredient draw deck and the Beer draw deck. Deal 5 Beer cards to each player, face-down. Players should look a their cards and select 2 to discard. The remaining 3 Beer cards are the player’s starting hand.

Third, each player now collects a specific number of uncolored Bottle caps as their starting “money”. The total number collected depends on the number of players in the game. Any uncolored Bottle caps not used should be placed in the Bottle cap bag.

Fourth, select a number of Game tiles at random based on the number of players in the game. Arrange the Game tiles to form a “map” by creating columns and rows with the tiles. Each column should contain a specific region (noted by color and by text).

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will be the first player and begin.

Brewin’ Up Some Fun

Brewin’ USA is played in rounds, phases, and turns.  A single round contains a total of 4 phases in which players take individual turns. A round of game play is summarized here.

Phase 1: Ingredient Auction

The first phase of the game establishes which ingredients will be made available for the players to use when crafting their beer. The current dealer (a role that is changed each round of the game) creates 4 rows of cards called the “ingredient batches”. As soon as a single ingredient in the batch is duplicated (two “yeasts”, for example) or a total of 6 Ingredient cards are dealt, that specific column is closed and a new column is started. The process is repeated until there is one column of ingredients per player in the game.

Players now use the uncolored Bottle caps as “money” to bid on specific ingredient batch columns. The Auction track is used at this time to help keep track of the bidding. The player to the left of the dealer selects any of the columns and declares their opening bid. Players then take turns either increasing the current bid or passing. This continues until all the players pass and the player with the highest bid claims their prize. The ingredient batch is paid for by spending the uncolored Bottle caps.

Collected uncolored Bottle caps are controlled by the dealer who then distributes them to uncontrolled “City” Game tiles. The total number placed and where is up to the dealer, but no uncolored Bottle caps can be placed on any tile that has a player’s colored Bottle cap on it. These placed uncolored Bottle caps represent the market demand and will be used as victory points. If all the Game tiles are controlled, the uncolored Bottle caps are placed in the Bottle cap bag.

The next player in turn order sequence now opens a bid, unless they won the previous bid. A player can only win one ingredient batch per round and cannot bid again if they have already collected their ingredients. This means that the last ingredient batch will always be free and will go to the player who has not yet collected any ingredients for the round.

Phase 2: Brew Beer

Players now attempt to Brew up to two of their Beer cards by providing the necessary Ingredient cards, starting with the player left of the dealer. The sum of the values on the Ingredient cards must be equal to or higher than the value listed on the Beer card. The player does not get a bonus if they have more ingredients than what is necessary.

If the player can complete the Beer card, they place it face-up in front of them along with the Ingredient cards used. They also place one of their colored Bottle caps on the card indicating who owns it.

The player now has two options. They can either transfer their Bottle cap and Beer card to an uncontrolled “City” Game tile or they can challenge an opponent for a “City” Game tile that is already controlled. This will trigger a “Brewfest” later in the round.

Controlling a “City” gives the player a bonus, but a “City” only accepts certain beer styles. These restrictions must be followed.

The player discards their used Ingredient cards and then draws 2 new Beer cards. The player reviews what cards they have and then discards down to no more than 3. If an “Adjunct” Ingredient card was used, it should be resolved now and then discarded.

Phase 3: Brewfest

A Brewfest only occurs in the round if one or more players are attempting to seize control of a “City” that currently belongs to an opponent. If none of the players attempted to seize control, this phase of the round can be skipped.

Each participant in the Brewfest may select up to 3 Ingredient cards and then hold them so they are hidden from all opponents. Each participating player in the Brewfest selects 1 of the Ingredient cards presented by an opponent and discards it. Then the participating players reveal their Ingredient cards simultaneously. The values of the Ingredient cards are added together for each player. The player with the highest total wins the Brewfest and either takes control of the “City” or retains control. Ties go to the defending player. All Ingredients used in the Brewfest are returned to their owner’s hand.

Multiple Brewfests are resolved in clockwise order. A player must provide at least 1 Ingredient card to the Brewfest in order to discard an opponent’s Ingredient card.

Any “Market Demand” Bottle caps on the contested “City” Game tiles are divided as evenly as possible and given to the players who participated in the Brewfest. If there is an uneven number, the majority goes to the winner of the Brewfest. The winner of the Brewfest can now do one of two different things with their newly acquired winnings. They can either take the Bottle caps and add them to their total number of uncolored Bottle caps (increasing their bidding power) or leave them on the “City” Game tile in hopes of still controlling them at the end of the game for bonus points.

Losers of the Brewfest always take their winnings and add them to their total uncolored Bottle caps. The loser also gets to keep their bumped Beer card which is placed on the table in front of them. The loser can reintroduce this specific Beer card later in the game, but it will cost them 1 uncolored Bottle cap (added to the Bottle cap bag) to do so or using an “Adjunct” Ingredient card ability.

Phase 4: Accounting

Starting with the player left of the dealer, each player who controls a “City” Game tile can take one of two possible actions.

  • If the player controls a “City” Game tile that still contains one or more “Market Demand” Bottle caps, they may take one of them now and add it to their total uncolored Bottle caps.
  • If the player controls a “City” Game tile, they can place one of their “Money” uncolored Bottle caps to a Game tile, increasing its “Market Demand” value.

This ends the rounds.

There Are Tears In My Beer

The endgame is triggered when a player completes and places their third Beer card. The round is then completed as normal. Players then calculate their score by first determine if they control one or more regions and then any “City” Game tiles they still control.

There are four possible regions in the game. These are “Pacific”, “Mountain”, “Central”, and “Atlantic”. These regions are quickly identified by the four different columns that make up the “map”. The player who controls the most “City” Game tiles in a region controls the region. The total number of victory points earned is equal to the total number of “Market Demand” Bottle caps found in that region (regardless of who controls it). A tie in a region reduces the total number of possible victory points earned to zero.

Each “Market Demand” Bottle cap on a “City” Game tile the player owns at the end of the game counts as +1 victory point.

The player with the most victory points wins the game!

Game Variants

The game described above is the “basic” game for 3 or more players. There is an advanced game that introduces “City” Game tile bonuses that come into play, impacting final scoring, and city upkeeps. It should be noted that the game is not anymore difficult than the “basic” game, but it’s more involved. Players will be spending more time considering which “City” Game tiles to pursue and how best to manage their funds to keep certain bonuses active. When playing the “advanced” game, new “City” Game tiles are introduced that are not used in the “basic” game.

The game also comes with a 2-player game variant that changes the rules a bit, but not to a point where the 3 or more player game feels drastically different. Like the “basic” game noted above, the “advanced” game can be played with 2-players.

To learn more about Brewin’ USA, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

All Parent Geeks get to review the games we want to play with the Child Geeks before we put them in front of our youngest players. All the Parent Geeks (except one other parent and myself) felt that the game was not appropriate for their children due to the game’s theme involving alcohol. It should be noted that the game does not endorse or suggest consumption of alcohol other than the fact that the beers being created are obviously being slurped down by the game’s invisible beer enthusiasts. This was enough to make the majority of parents nervous as it put alcohol in a positive and “fun” light that went against the parental norm. As such, we were not able to play the game with our Child Geeks enough to provide you with a endorsement. Sorry about that.

As for the Parent Geeks, they loved the game. According to one Parent Geek, “I really like the flow of this game. It makes sense and each round feels exciting and gets me involved.” Another Parent Geek said, “I really like how you have to bid on your ingredients because it makes you stop and think real hard about what types of beers you want to brew and where you want to send them.” For those Parent Geeks who were beer enthusiasts (either because they drank them or made their own), they found the game’s theme to be spot on and engrossing. For those Parent Geeks who were tea totallers, they were neither terribly impressed or turned off by the game’s theme. When the last beer was brewed and shipped off to be slammed (possibly with cheese curds), the Parent Geeks all agreed that Brewin’ USA was a good time.

The Gamer Geeks found a good deal to enjoy. Not only were they playing a game that had a theme they could get behind, but the game itself provided a good deal of tension, depth, strategy, and tactical play. A few of the Gamer Geeks felt the game was less interesting the second time they played it and somewhat boring when they played it a third time. According to one Gamer Geek, “I like the game, think it was well designed, and enjoyed it. After playing it once, the second time around felt a bit stale. The third time felt even staler. I cannot decide if this means if the game has poor replayability or we are just playing it too much and too often.” Another Gamer Geek said, “The game has a nice balance of medium weight game play, some back-stabby elements, good player interaction, and some really fun moments. I enjoyed it and would play it again.” When all the games were over, the Gamer Geeks all agreed Brewin’ USA was a “pretty good game”, which more or less means that it was a game that neither terribly thrilled them or pissed them off.

As for me, I enjoyed the game. I liked the idea of scrounging for the perfect ingredients and then working my butt off to gain a large market share in which I could make massive profits. The game plays very smoothly, with tight rounds and interesting choices to make. I have yet to feel that the auction element will make or break a character’s chances to win, but there is a great deal of psychological meta gaming going on that allows players to bluff their overall interest in certain ingredients, thus making opponents spend lots of caps and weakening their position. I felt the weakest part of the game was the Brewfest, which felt like a quick and dirty way to determine the outcome of unavoidable collisions. Not the most crafty way to go about it, but it works and works well enough to make players stop and think how best to use their ingredients.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the game. I’ve played it with my kids and they enjoyed it. There is nothing, again, about the game that suggests the players should drink beer, but it does strongly suggest an individual could make a pretty good living off of brewing it for a mass market. That’s not a bad thing. As a Parent Geek, however, I understand why others would hesitate when it comes to putting a game that deals with alcohol in front of their children. They do the same thing when it comes to games that have a bit too much violence or erotic elements contained within it. I encourage all Parent Geeks to always review whatever might be in front of their kids. Better to be safe and informed than sorry and caught be surprise.

But I digress.

Do try this game. I think you’ll find it to be a fun one with your groups. And, yes, I also encourage you to support your local microbrewers while playing this game, too. Nothing compliments Brewin’ USA more than a cold IPA and a bowl of mini pretzels.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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