Review – Brew

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Designer Stevo Torres

Artist Jake Morrison, Andrew Thompson

Publisher Pandasaurus Games

Category Dice Placement, Area Control

Length 45-90 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 2-4

Brew is a new release from Pandasaurus Games in which players are trying to restore balance to a mystical forest in chaos. Combining tried-and-true mechanisms like dice placement and area control, it offers lots of potential for player interaction. The game looks great visually—let’s see how well it plays!

Review

In Brew, players take on the roles of fantasy-inspired woodsmen. Each round, they can forage for ingredients to make potions, encounter benevolent creatures, and take special actions. The goal of the game is to earn the most points over 4 rounds; points come primarily from drinking potions, claiming forests, and training creatures.

The play area consists of a central board representing the local village and 3 card displays representing potions, creatures, and forests.

Each player begins the game with a character card, an “energy berry” token (wild resource), and a set of 6 dice (4 “forage dice” in their color and 2 white “element dice”).

At the start of each round, all players roll their dice. Normally, rerolls are not allowed, so players have to work with whatever results come up. In turn order, then, they begin placing dice in available spaces, either on the village board or on forest cards.

Forage dice can be placed on spaces with a matching icon (e.g. a die showing a tree branch can be placed on a tree branch space). Element dice are more powerful since they can be placed on any forage icon or on a matching element icon. When placed in a forest, element dice grant special actions in addition to the normal reward for the space.

Here, the yellow die, which shows a leaf result, is being placed on a leaf space. The yellow player collects a token of the indicated resource (a blue crystal).

Forests provide ingredients and creatures. When a die is placed in a forest, the player takes the item shown on the space, either an ingredient token or a creature card from the display. Ingredients are used to brew potions and creatures provide ongoing abilities.

The village board offers special actions such as “Gather 1 of each ingredient” or “Remove all element dice from all forests.” While most spaces only have room for 1 die, some village spaces can accommodate any number, which makes them the default actions when all other actions get claimed. Interestingly, in between rounds, the village board flips between the “Daytime” and “Nighttime” sides, which changes the available spaces.

As players collect ingredient tokens, they can use them to brew potions. Each potion card has a cost, and if the active player can pay it, they may take the card. Sometimes, potion cards can be reserved, as well, to be brewed on a future turn.

Once a potion has been brewed, its owner may drink it to use its power. Potions grant all manner of dice manipulation abilities, such as place an extra die, retrieve a die, change a result, reroll, etc. They are also worth points at the end of the game.

After all players have placed all their dice, the round ends. At this time, players check to see who controls each forest. A player controls a forest if they have the most forage dice present there, and the amount of forage dice they have is more than the number of element dice there.

2 examples of forest control:
1) In the forest on the left, the yellow player has more dice than the blue player (2-1), and there are more yellow dice than white element dice (2-1). Therefore, the yellow player controls this forest.
2) In the forest on the right, the orange player has more dice than the blue player (2-1), but there are not more orange dice than element dice (2-2). Therefore, no one controls this forest.

Players then retrieve their dice, deal a new display of forest cards, and play another round. When the forest deck runs out, the game ends at the completion of that round. The player with the most points wins!


Brew is a strong offering from Pandasaurus Games. Given that it combines 2 inherently cutthroat mechanisms—worker placement (or in this case dice placement) and area control—it’s no surprise that this game can be quite competitive. Players will constantly have to keep track of their opponents’ moves to stay a step ahead and secure critical majorities. At the same time, they need to balance the desire for majorities with the need to fulfill mini-objectives like collecting ingredient sets and training creatures.

The fact that players normally can’t reroll their dice helps to shape the turn-by-turn decision making. Players have to make the most of each round’s roll, but between the different kinds of dice and the different areas where dice can be placed, players usually have lots of options, regardless of their results. On top of this, the various potion abilities give players an extra level of control; rarely will someone feel totally shafted by an unlucky roll.

The production of Brew looks great, particularly the engraved dice and the game art, which bears a sort of Miyazaki-esque flavor. The rulebook is thorough and organized, and the overall aesthetic brings the fantastical theme to life. Once again, Pandasaurus has made an attractive product at a reasonable price point.

I generally like games with in-your-face interaction, so perhaps I was predisposed to liking this game, but nonetheless, I enjoyed Brew. Underneath its imaginative visuals is a solid design that offers a nice mix of strategy and tactics. It is definitely worth checking out!

A review copy was provided by Pandasaurus Games.

The Bottom Line

Brew is chock-full of in-your-face interaction, something I really enjoy in games. Recommended, especially for fans of cutthroat gameplay.

 

8

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.