Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 27 October 2015

Good for what Ales you:- Fürstenfeld

Game: Fürstenfeld

Manufacturer: Rio Grande

Designer: Friedemann Friese

Year: 2010

If there’s one thing Germany is known for its beer, beer and palaces, but mostly beer. There’s nothing I want more in life apart from a family and an ample supply of beer. That’s why I’m becoming a farmer, I’ll supply the hops, they supply the brew, and everyone wins! And if I happen to make enough money to create a little homestead, well then that’s just a coincidence right? Yes a nice little 3 storey homestead, with a stable. Oh and a statue, I’ve always wanted my own statue, perhaps in the middle of a fountain? A fountain of beer of course, this is all about the beer... A HEDGE MAZE, I knew I was forgetting something I need a hedge maze!

Fürstenfeld is a 2-5 player beer-themed farming/market game in which you actually make no beer at all. Instead you make create a farm that produces the fresh spring water, barley and hops that nearby breweries need to make the golden nectar. Ultimately the aim of the game is to stop being a farmer and build your own personal palace instead, however the more of your land that is devoted to decadence the less you can use to produce fiscally sound crops.

The core of Fürstenfeld’s game mechanics is selling your goods. A number of breweries are open depending on player count and each has a varying amount of demand, one brewery may need only 1 water a turn to fill demand, while another asks for 3. After players have sold their goods the value of goods changes based on how well demand has been met, should a brewery be 2 short for a good then the price of that good will go up 2 notches on the track. At the start of the game each good is worth 1, but it can easily rise up to 2 or 3 during the game. If you want to lower the value of a good then all you have to do is oversupply that brewery, for each of a good sold beyond the number needed the price tracker immediately drops 1 notch. Controlling the market is important, particularly when considering player order which is decided by the amount of money a player made last round, the lowest income goes first next turn which can be vital for filling up those slots for selling water at 3 apiece.
The farm at the start of the game (left) and the palace at the end of the game (right). If you are playing an advanced game then you have to build the palace tiles in order.

The second core mechanic is building up your farm, each turn you will have a hand of 4 cards to choose from of which you can build 2 (should you be able to afford it). Your farm has 6 plots of land for farming, building palaces (which vary in cost based on the total number built) and other sundry buildings, such as the incredibly useful crane that reduces the cost of all buildings by 2, or the banks which give you a steady income regardless of fluctuating farm prices. To win the game you need to have built palace tiles over all six spaces so naturally your income drops off as your palace builds up. After building you then discard your hand down to 1 card before drawing 3 more for next turn’s choices. The discarded cards go on the bottom of the deck so you have to decide carefully if you have enough time to get back round to that palace tile again, there are some buildings that allow you to retain extra cards or draw cards quicker, but using these will lead to less income due to wasted space.

A game midway through, someone has oversold to the central brewery lowing the value of barley, however the brewery to it's left is about to reach 3/barley as no-one sold to it this round. Bought palaces are represented by the tiles in the top right, the price increases the more are built so building them sooner is cheaper.
Fürstenfeld is one of the earlier games that we acquired and I think one that we don’t give enough credit to, the nature of the card drawing and building mechanics force you into hard decisions almost every turn and the balance of being poor at the start *and* end while rich during the middle portion of the game isn’t something you see very often. There are flaws though, the game really could use a different counter for goods you own and the price of goods on the tracks, I constantly go to collect those things up at the end of each round. There is also some questionable balance, like the aforementioned crane which costs 3 to build which happens to be the amount of money you get turn one, start with that in your hand and everything costs 2 less for the first half of the game.


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