There are things that go together like French fries and currywurst: beer and games, for example. Using the hop drink as a topic for a board game is not new, but Wolfgang Warsch has done it anyway and invites players in "The Taverns in the Deep Valley", published by Schmidt Spiele, to manage their own pub. What the guests at the tables want is clear: beer. Preferably a lot of it. The board game is aimed at family players, but also attracts frequent players to the counter with its variations. Everyone will have fun, if not a lot. In the following board game review we reveal how “The taverns in the deep valley” fared in the test.


The topic sounds as fresh as a hard worker feels after twelve hours of munching and five after-work beers. Nevertheless: Wolfgang Warsch manages to arouse the interest of the players with the strategic board game “The taverns in the deep valley”.
Last but not least, this is due to the enormously modular play structure and some innovative mechanics - above all to the clever deck building trick.

Money or beer: that is the question

Even the basic introduction that the board game knows how to captivate: Each player tinkers his own personal bar from countless individual parts - not freely, but according to specifications - in which from now on as many guests as possible are to be served. This has already been achieved in the first module, the basic game, and leads to smaller storms of enthusiasm in the subsequent modules (there are a total of four additional modules to expand the basic game).

Each “place setting” of the player consists of his tavern, a starting deck of guest cards and three tavern cards. Then the eight round drinking binge can begin. And because a round starts better with a few goodies, smaller bonuses are distributed at the beginning of each round.

Board game review on taverns in the deep valley. Photo: André Volkmann
This pretty marker ensures that players have an overview. This is important because of the round bonuses. Photo: André Volkmann

A nice marker ensures that the overview can still be maintained even with three per thousand. The additional starting bonuses are not decisive for the game, but can at least influence basic tactical considerations: players receive a counter customer or an additional tavern card.

With their player tokens, hosts also advance on the monastery track in order to unlock further bonuses if necessary. This is not mandatory, but it can be worthwhile - but not only the player himself but also the dice decide. “The taverns in the deep valley” mixes a deck building mechanism with dice placement. Wolfgang Warsch's game idea is based on prevailing trends: instead of using a mechanism as a highlight, various basic mechanics ensure varied game actions.

Dear guests, please take it slowly

Beer-thirsty pub guests - if possible with a big wallet - every innkeeper wants to sit at the tables in his tavern. With "The Taverns in the Deep Valley" it is no different and so as the first active round action the players draw cards from their deck at the same time until all tables are occupied with guests. Guests are a curse and a blessing at the same time, especially at the beginning: if the tables are occupied, the phase ends immediately for the player! However, innkeepers would like to have some “extensions” in the form of tavern cards that are laid out in a defined area and provide advantages there in the current round. The supplier can then bring more beer, the waitress provides an additional (then green) cube. A maximum of three additional dice per player can come into play, resulting in three additional actions - strong. And there are also additional free tables for guests so that more coins can be generated.

Board game review on taverns in the deep valley. Photo: André Volkmann
In the taverns, everything revolves around the golden hop drink. Photo: André Volkmann

This small moment of tension at the beginning of each round works extremely well and loosens up the game through released emotions.

Because “The Taverns in the Deep Valley” is a mix of deck building and dice placement, the dice come into play after the cards. Each player throws his four white dice - and possibly his green bonus dice - and places them on the "beer mat". Then the draft follows: each player takes one of the dice and passes the rest on to his neighbor. This goes on until everyone has removed four cubes from the beer coasters. The placement options then result from the selection. Players now place their dice on the spaces that they expect to have the greatest effects: this can be additional money or beer, but also tavern upgrades or progress on the monastery track.

Beer, schnapps and bards

Wolfang Warsch provides players with various strategic alternatives, but does not overwhelm them with an almost infinite selection of options, as is known from complex worker placement board games. That could be described as a shortcoming, "The taverns in the deep valley" is however designed as a full-length family game, not as an optimization game lasting many hours with long pauses for thought. The title from Schmidt Spiel fulfills its role as a hybrid excellently. And with the optional modules, further tactical tricks find their way into the game anyway.

Players are not completely free in their decisions, the rules lead to the placing of the dice with fixed conditions - through a required number, which can, however, be manipulated by a tavern card "Dishwasher". Once all the dice have been placed, you can serve: All players clear the dice from their pub to receive money, beer, upgrades or jumps from the monastery. The money and beer can then be used to shop in the card display in order to expand one's own deck.

The player decides which cards are useful: Should more guests be in the deck? Do I need a special tavern card? Or do I prefer to buy expensive upgrades that bring more resources over the course of the game? Trying out and gaining experience is the way to go, not least because the desired balance between deck building and tavern upgrading (an upgrade brings a noble with an equivalent of ten victory points to the deck) is only reflected in points at the end of the game.

Board game review on taverns in the deep valley. Photo: André Volkmann
Great: modules like the guest book bring variance into play. Photo: André Volkmann

When expanding the deck, Warsch brings another trick into play: New cards are always put on the draw pile, so they are definitely available to the player in the next round. This can of course also be used strategically, like many micro-actions in this board game. Nobles are popular and unpopular guests: they bring ten victory points at the end of the game, but only provide small amounts of money during the game. Wolfgang Warsch limits this shortage of resources by the fact that all the nobles always sit down at a table (place cards on top of each other). Unused beer or money can be saved, i.e. stored, but only up to the capacity of the warehouse, which can of course be expanded.

This goes on for eight rounds, then the players evaluate their points. After determining the “best tavern in the deep valley”, you usually want to play again immediately - perhaps using one of the modules. The second module completes the "guest table setting" and brings schnapps to the table, with which jugglers can be motivated to special campaigns. Module 3 extends “The Taverns in the Deep Valley” with a call bar, which can lead to additional victory points in the final scoring. A bard also expands the display of the tavern cards that can be bought. The fourth module gives the game a partially random start condition, whereas module 5 uses a guest book in which every guest makes a “purchase” entry - this leads to further bonuses.

Pictures of taverns in the deep valley

Infobox

Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 50 to 70 minutes
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: high

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Author: Wolfgang Warsch
Graphics: Jörg Kiefer
Year of publication: 2019
Language: German
Cost: 38 Euro

Summary

With “The taverns in the deep valley”, Wolfgang Warsch proves that he is capable of devising a “real connoisseur's game”. Behind the supposed jumble of mechanisms is a complex overall system, the individual parts of which interlock perfectly - and encourage players to think strategically. He succeeds in doing this on several levels with the board game from Schmidt Spiele: the material is a feast for the eyes and is available in sufficient quantities so that the buyer definitely has the feeling of “really getting something for his money”. The equipment is impeccable, especially the additional modules ensure long-term entertainment. “The taverns” are also convincing with regard to the illustrations: many details polish up the board game optically and pick up the player from the start in order to then draw him into the subject. The pub theme also works well in terms of game mechanics, because Wolfgang Warsch lets the elements interact in a meaningful way. Rake in money, have beer delivered, serve the hops drink in moderation or in bulk: everything follows an orderly process, which is intended to ensure that the players improve their decks and thus fill their victory point accounts. The balance between money and beer works thematically and in terms of control technology and keeps players faced with decisions - but gives far less room to luck than in Warsch's "predecessor game" Quacksalber von Quedlinburg. The fact that additionally purchased cards are actually used in the next round is a comparatively small rule tweak, but with great effects.

Emotions are not neglected either, mostly in the card drawing phase. Hardly anything is more annoying than drawing guests from an extensive deck in quick succession, who occupy all tables in no time and thus end the player phase. Conversely, it is absurd to be able to continue drawing cards to equip the tavern while all the other players wait grudgingly. The strategic requirements change - depending on luck, of course - with each new round. Terrific!

Another random element follows directly with the throw of the dice, which - sometimes frustration, sometimes joy - enables further game activities. The dice-draft in a row results in indirect interaction between the players, because of course you can try to annoy your opponents by selecting the dice. This is particularly noticeable at the start of the game, when the matching "ones, twos or sixes" are missing or are sorted out by fellow players beforehand. The later the game, the greater the choice of alternatives. The central questions, however, remain: More money? More beer? Or would you prefer an expansion?

Because the warehouses are small at the beginning, a large part of the resources is spent. Bargain hunters are clearly at a disadvantage, but every action actually has a beneficial effect - sometimes more, sometimes less. Above all, the expansion element develops special charms with increasing gaming experience. In addition, the innumerable puzzle pieces provide a great thematic and visual solution.

The fine gradations in the set of rules ensure that the board game “The Taverns in the Deep Valley” appeals to a broad target group: The basic version challenges family players sufficiently, while modules bring high-proof and “tavern residents” into play in order to carry out new actions. In the long term this is also necessary, because especially in the basic version it becomes clear that the tactical freedom is severely limited, at least if you actually intend to optimize your victory points - with all the noticeable luck factors. The variance is good for the feel of the game, so that family players who like "The Taverns in the Deep Valley" should also use the modules. The point accounts literally explode with the module expansions, but the game time is still within the framework of the basic game.

The beginning is the board game is sometimes tough, not because of the complicated rules, but simply because there is no overview that shows the players what to do and when. The actually unnecessary recourse to the set of rules creates a remedy, but is cumbersome. Occasional gamers in particular would do well to sit down at the counter with an experienced host to get an introduction to the tavern theme.

Otherwise, the mix of mechanics, including a noticeable luck factor, is a hit, especially since none of the hosts have to rely on luck alone - the balance of power balances out over the course of a total of eight game rounds. The results are fair and comprehensible. “The taverns in the deep valley” turned out to be a terrific board game that also works wonderfully with two players. Even if the vintage hardly plays a role in beer: This Warsch from 2019 is a real quality drink.

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