January Game of the Month – Bohnanza

The Game of the Month series will highlight one of the many games in our library at Ravenwood Castle.  We will briefly describe the game, how to play it, and why we like it.

Game: Bohnanza

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Bean farming.  Not exactly a scintillating subject for a board game. Yet somehow, Uwe Rosenberg turns the subject into an amazing game in Bohnanza, my girls’ new favorite game, and our January Game of the Month.

Bohnanza is a card game, with cards representing various types of beans (wax, cocoa, blue, garden and green, for example).  Each player starts with a hand of five cards, and two ‘fields’ in which to plant those beans.  The object is to plant several of the same type of bean, at which point you can harvest the field for coins.  How many beans you need, and how many coins they’re worth, depends on the type of bean in the field.

On each turn the player must plant the first card in their hand, and may choose to plant a second if they desire.  Two cards are then turned face up from the draw pile, and the active player must either immediately plant them, or trade them with another player.

The catch is this: you can only have two types of beans planted at a time (until you buy a third field later in the game). If you have to plant a bean, whether from your hand or the two card turn up, and that bean doesn’t match one of the two types you’ve already planted, you are forced to harvest one of your fields – even if it is not yet worth any coins.  Add to that the fact that you cannot rearrange your hand, and the game becomes a constant dance of trying to rid yourself of unwanted cards in order to protect your precious bean field until it’s ready to harvest.

And that is where the game shines. The game really takes place above the table, in the interaction between the players.  The cards and the mechanics of the game itself disappear into the constant stream of negotiation, pleading, wheeling and dealing.  Selling someone a card they want. Paying them to take a card you really don’t want. Or best of all, convincing them to pay you for a card you would gladly have paid them to take.  That’s the heart and soul of Bohnanza.

Just be careful if you’re playing against my nine year old.  She runs a mean coffee bean cartel!

Jim Reed

Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.