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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Wednesday 15 January 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Game: The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

Designer:  Wolfgang Warsch

Year: 2019

When asked for my designer of 2018, I named Wolfgang Warsch - with Ganz Schon Clever, The Mind and The Quacks of Quedlinberg. However, he didn't stop there, and in 2019 he added even more successful titles to his line up. The Taverns of Tiefenthal is next in the line of big box games and brings together some push your luck aspects from Quacks of Quedlinberg, but it certainly feels like a heavier game, combining dice drafting, deck-building and dice placement.

With a theme based upon beer and running pubs, a designer who seems not to be putting a foot wrong, and a game full of variety with lots of modules to explore, The Taverns of Tiefenthal was definitely high on our list to try in 2019.


Taverns of Tiefenthal takes place over eight rounds, each of which will see you welcoming guests, serving them, and then spending the resources you generated to improve the quality of guests, workers and facilities at your disposal. The round starts with welcoming guests; each player has a deck of cards that represent their current staff and patrons. You simply draw off the top of the deck one at a time until you have drawn enough patrons to fill all of your free tables in the tavern.

Once everyone's tables are full the drafting round begins. Each player rolls four dice and chooses one to keep, they then pass the remaining three along and pick one of the three passed to them and so on until each player has chosen four dice. If you drew any waitress cards during the round you also roll one die in your colour which no-one else can take. Once you have all your dice you can assign them to the various spots in your tavern. You can gain money by serving customers the right numbered die, or by placing any single die on your cashbox. You can produce beer by assigning sixes or ones to the beer deliverer or any single die can be placed on your keg. Finally you can curry favour with the church by serving the bishop to advance around the church track which is laden with bonuses along the way.

The purpose of doing all of this is to improve your tavern. You can use produced beer to attract new customers. A market of customers is available at all times, each with a recruitment cost in beer. Simply spend enough beer to add them to the top of your deck, so that they are certain to visit in the next round! You can spend money in a couple of ways. You can also recruit new staff by paying the cost on their card. Staff also get placed on the top of your deck, so you are certain to see them next round too. Finally large sums of money can be spent to physically upgrade your tavern. Pay the cost on one of the pieces of your puzzle-board tavern and you can flip it over to its improved side. Not only does this give your a permanent bonus to the relevant area (ranging from permanent wait staff to being able to store more resources between rounds), but you also attract a noble with your fancy new decor. Nobles are earned in a few other ways too, but they are the main way to make points in the game - being worth ten points each! However, they also all like to hang out at your tavern and they don't pay much money when served, so they don't clog up your deck too much.

The game ends after eight rounds, at which point players will go through their decks and total up the points values on all of the cards they have. Staff tend to have a point or two, customers a few more and nobles provide the biggest bonus. That's all there is to the base game. But, with Taverns of Tiefenthal there's a whole lot more than the basic game in the box. There is a bunch of additional content which is all additive to the gameplay. You start adding bonuses such as schnapps and entertainers that you can pay in schnapps to perform certain actions, bards who's songs affect your reputation, with a high reputation being sure to attract nobles and more!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Taverns of Tiefenthal is a lot of things. It's a deckbuilder, a dice drafter and a dice worker placer all in one and that's before we start getting into the resource management that the expansions add. You might worry that this results in a game that feels quite clunky, or that one of these mechanics ends up feeling less than fully realized. Incredibly this is not the case! The game's deckbuilding is as true and significant as any, which results in a signature ramping up of abilities as the games go on. In turn the dice drafting and worker placement seeks to limit what you can do even if you have the perfect cards, letting your prevent players from activating that wealthy customer, or preventing you from really focusing on producing beer unless your opponents let you.

The upgraded customers all have their place, Sure the ones that take fives or sixes generate more money than threes or fours, but those dice are more sought after as they have special uses on the board, while threes and fours are otherwise useless dice so perhaps you are better recruiting the more modest customers. They often give you instant benefits too. Similarly all the staff are all unique but interesting. The waitress give you extra dice, the washers give you die manipulation, the extra tables lets you extend your card drawing round and the beer deliverers are simply free beer. Who doesn't want free beer? Importantly staff don't clog your deck, only customers do, so there's little reason not to hire them. They even provide a discount against their relevant permanent upgrade on the turn they are out, so you can think of them as an investment towards the big reward too!

It all ties together so well and gets wrapped with a little bow. Though the game can seem like it's over really fast and the base game lacks complexity. That's exactly what the series of mini expansions help. Once you have thrown all these expansions in then you will never go back. They are done in a clever way, as you only add one new module per game the game gets progressively more complex, but you are never taking on a lot of new rules each game. In addition to the new rules they also feed back onto the old expansions. For example the schnapps module simply gives you schnapps most rounds to play with. But once you add the next expansion you start having to earn it using the new mechanic, if you want to take advantage of the bonuses.

Overall Taverns of Tiefenthal is a fantastic game with an unpronounceable name. There's almost nothing to dislike and a hell of a lot to love in this deckbuilder and what few grumps I did have melted away as we introduced new modules. If you've been looking for an incredibly tight game that uses deckbuilding in a novel way then this is the game you are looking for. Don't think about it any longer, just buy it!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

There was quite a bit to enjoy about The Taverns of Tiefenthal when we played the basic game, but I generally felt that the game was a little too short and that the deck-building never really took off in such a short game. It's great that new cards get added to the top of your deck, because you don't go through your deck that many times, but it wasn't enough to offset the short number of rounds. However, even though the additional modules don't change the game length, they do give you more focus to your game, perhaps pointing you towards beer or gold, rather than both, so that you do start to feel you're building a deck. Opportunities to trim your deck are also introduced, which I often find to be a key to many deck-building games. Once you've got rid of some of your starting customers and perhaps added a couple of extra tables to your deck, than a single turn can involve a much bigger percentage of your cards and each turn has a whole lot more exciting elements going on.

Although I heard many people recommending that experienced gamers should just throw in all of the modules, I really enjoyed how we introduced them one at a time. It brought in some of the same excitement that you might feel in discovering the new content of a legacy game. I've enjoyed all of the modules, but I don't think we'll play with them all every time. The module that gives each player an asymmetric starting deck seems like a no-brainer, but I'd like to mix and match the others to build in more variety in each game. It's only as I write about this mix and match aspect, that I see another little nugget of The Quacks of Quedlinberg that gave you all of the different rules for each ingredient that also created an inherent variability.

Wolfgang Warsch has really done it again with The Taverns of Tiefenthal. It's another hit game for me and has been given a place on the shelf. It's definitely a little heavier than The Quacks of Qudelinberg, so I don't see it becoming such a family favourite, but nevertheless I think it might become a favourite at home. I can't wait to see what's coming from Wolfgang Warsch in 2020!

You Might Like...
  • Adding the modules really elevates The Taverns of Tiefenthal into a fantastic game.
  • The opportunities for combos and clever deck-building are really fun to discover.
  • The game feels almost too fast but really builds over the eight turns into some epic turns at the end of the game.
You Might Not Like...
  • There's a lot of pieces to set up and it can be a bit fiddly.
  • Adding all the modules creates a more unruly game, with more chance of a runaway winner and big swings in score.

The Verdict
8/10 The Taverns of Tiefenthal is a good dice game straight out of the box, but discovering each module is like anew gift every time. The modules create combos and deck-building opportunities that far surpass the basic game - creating that big money experience that we love to discover whenever new content is introduced to a game. The beauty here is that all the content is right there in the box and you can mix in whatever elements you enjoy most to create an extremely satisfying 8-round game.

The Taverns of Tiefenthal was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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