Wolfgang Warsch has had quite a streak. Since 2018 That’s So Clever, The Mind, The Quacks of Quedlinberg, Illusion, and Brikks have all been published to considerable success and acclaim. Only Subtext failed to catch fire.
Now, with The Taverns of Tiefenthal, Warsch tries his hand at a more traditional, heavier Euro. Up to four players (no solo mode, alas) take the role of tavern owners competing for customers and ultimately victory points over eight game-days. The game’s main mechanics are dice drafting, action selection, and deckbuilding, but there are other lots of things to take into account too.
Warsch clearly felt the game would be better served if players eased their way in, so the rules are split into two parts, with the first laying out the “basic game” and the other layering on four additional “modules” one at a time. Experienced players can try diving in at the deep end; n00bs should definitely take it slow.
Each turn begins by moving the Moon marker to the following day, with players getting whatever little bonuses appear on the track. Then each player simultaneously starts pulling cards from their deck and playing them into their appropriate places on their personal tavern boards. Servers, dishwashers, brewers, and deliverymen are free draws, but each guest card has to sit at their own table, and you only start with three. When all your tables are full, you have to stop drawing. Clearly, buying more tables and upgrading your serving area is a priority. (Later on, the big-VP noble cards all congregate at a single table, freeing up space.)
Next players roll and pass-draft sets of dice, each of which is then used to activate a space or card in your tavern, generating one or the other of the game’s currencies: money and beer. Money is used to purchase new cards for your deck and upgrades for your tavern; beer is used to attract guests, who have powerful activation abilities and are worth VP’s.
The modules add extra complications. A new currency, schnapps, is used to pay special entertainers that provide extra actions. A reputation track appears, which provides benefits as word of mouth spreads about your tavern. Players begin with different starting resources and cards in their decks. Finally, you get a guestbook which arriving guests “sign” (using cute little signature tiles) which gives bonuses to players as it fills up, rewarding players for attracting both a diversity of and a lot of the same cost of guest.
So: does it work? It does. It is very much in the vein of recent games like Maracaibo, Black Angel, and Trismegistus which force players to optimize their play across several mechanics all at once. Is it fun? It is--if that is your jam. If you were hoping for another Quacks of Quedlinberg, you will be challenged and perhaps disappointed. This is not a gateway game, even just with the basic rules. But if you were wondering whether Warsch was capable of something meatier, wonder no more. Click here to order your copy of The Taverns of Tiefenthal.