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[Review] Bean Trader

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/23/2011

I was a little leery of the hordes of people screaming the praises of Bohnanza. It was, after all, a card game, and I invariably like board games more than card games. However, after playing the game, I became one of the converted, seeing just how fun of a negotiation game it was. Then, when I heard that a board game, Bean Trader (Rio Grande and Kosmos, 2003 – Uwe Rosenberg), with the same theme and designer was being created, I was interested to the point of acquiring the game at the first opportunity. Upon getting the game, I was impressed with the beautiful bits, but was a little put off by the somewhat complex rules, so the game sat on the shelf for quite a while. Finally, we blew off the dust, and settled down to see what the game was like.

Sadly, I think the game will go back on the shelf for a while, only to be pulled out occasionally. I don’t often use the word “fiddly” when describing games, but I don’t know how else to explain the games. The game was really too complex for how simple it was. That sounds almost contradictory, but those who played the game agreed with me. The game play was not really that difficult, but there were just too many steps to a turn, and too much going on to excuse the amount of luck in the game. Also, the Bohnanza “theme” seemed a little tacked on, as Bean Trader holds almost no similarities to its “parent” game.

The theme of the game is (surprise!) about players acting as bean traders. Each player gets a set of seven cards, numbered from one to seven. They also receive a wooden piece that represents their bean wagon, and a player summary card that also shows the contents of their wagon. There are eight different types of beans, and each player puts one bean counter of each type in their wagon. A deck of order cards is shuffled, and three of them are dealt to each player, with the remainder of them forming a draw deck. A board is set up in the middle of the table, showing ten different cities, connected by various paths. Each city produces two to three different beans, and one of each of those beans is placed in the first of four slots in the city. A stack of ten bean harvest cards are shuffled, and eight of them form a draw deck on the board, with two being stuck under the board. Each player compares the three orders they have, and put the two orders that are worth the lowest at the back of their hands. They place in front of themselves the highest valued card. They remove from their wagons the amount of beans shown on the order, and receive the amount of money (called “thaler” in this game) from the bank. The players place their token in the city mentioned on the bean order, and the game is ready to begin. Whichever player received the lowest amount of money goes first, and then play continues clockwise around the table.

A player’s turn is broken up into three phases: the travel phase, the trader phase, and the final phase. Each player must keep the cards in their hand in order, and can never change the order of their cards. In the travel phase, the player can either stay where they are, or move to another city, by using the shortest route possible. The player must place cards from their hand down on the table, one plus the amount of spaces they move. (So if they don’t move at all, they still must play one card. Most of the travel cards have no effect, but if they play the Toll card (#3), they must pay 20 thaler to the bank, and if they play the Supply card (different number in each deck), they must take the top “New harvest” card and place it face up in front of themselves. After moving, they place all these cards in the back of their hands, always putting the toll and supply cards first, if they played them.

During the trader phase, the active player may invite other players to come to the same city where they are to trade beans. If a player accepts this optional invitation, they move to the city, using one of their cards in their hand to travel just like the travel phase (except that they only use one card, and if they use a Toll card, they only pay 15 thaler). The players then trade beans from their wagons, using any kind of agreement they can come up with, as long as it only involves beans. After trading (if any), the player can purchase any available beans in the city. The price of the beans is noted on the square above the last bean, and the more beans there are in a city, the cheaper they become.

After the trader phase, players discard any orders that may have come up when they were traveling, and draw a new order card, placing it at the back of their hand or delivering it immediately. A player can actually deliver an order any time during their turn, as long as they are in the city on the order card and have the beans listed there. They then discard the order card and the beans, and receive the money. Players can get additional order cards by discarding one of their travel cards (not the toll or supply) and paying 5 thaler to the bank. At the beginning of future turns, if players have new harvest cards in front of them, they fulfill them, which involves adding an amount of beans into the indicated cities (on the cards). When the last of the eight harvest cards is drawn, the final round begins. (The other two harvest cards may possibly be used during this round). After the final round, all players sell any remaining beans they have left in their wagon for whatever price the beans bring (on the reference card). Each player then adds up all their money and the player with the most thaler is the winner!

Some comments on the game….

1.) Components: The components for this game are really nice, and rather striking. The game truly looks like Bohnanza in a big box. The money is thin, colorful paper, printer on both sides, in five denominations. The bean tokens are very colorful, and have different pictures of beans on them, to help color-blind folk. The large wooden wagon tokens are nice and easy to move around the board – which itself is rather colorful and nicely illustrated. The cards – both the order and the harvest cards, are typical playing card size and have nice illustrations on them, besides being very clean and easy to read. Everything comes in a yellow (not sure I’ve ever seen one like this before) plastic insert that holds everything fantastically. This insert is then nestled in a bright yellow box that really stands out on the shelf – one decorated with Bjorn Pertoff’s humorous and terrific illustrations. All in all, the product sports some impressive components.

2.) Rules: The rulebook is 12 pages long, and is fully colored and has many full-blown illustrations and examples in it. Yet the rules for the game were in a somewhat strange order, and were fairly convoluted. I really had to sit down and concentrate on them until I understood them enough. It took a while to explain the game, also, and it’s one that really doesn’t sink into people’s heads until after a round or so of playing. That’s certainly different than Bohnanza, which is a lot easier to explain and learn.

3.) Bohnanza: The game claims on the box that it is the Bohnanza board game. Of course, this means that the companies hope to sell this game to the (justly) rabid fans of the original card game. Yet, the differences are really quite a bit. Besides the bean theme and the order of the cards in a hand, there were not that many similarities. Yes, there is trading in the game, but the trading can be successfully ignored by most of the players if they so choose, as it really didn’t make or break the game. Usually, players wanted to keep all of their beans, and it seems as if the games we’ve played that little trading occurs. So why didn’t the company just re-theme the game, thus not disappointing loyal fans of Bohnanza, who I doubt would really enjoy this game? I think it was to cash in on the name of the Bohnanza game, but in this case, I think that was a mistake.

4.) Thaler: The money is basically a form of victory points – as it is in many Eurogames that use money. The toll cards, the expensive beans, the low payout of the order cards (comparatively), really make for a tight money game. Now, that can be a good thing or a bad thing – but when at the end of the game, everyone buys beans and sells them for an immediate profit – earning over half of their total income – of what point was the rest of the game? I guess one of the points the game is trying to make is that it’s not really profitable to be a bean trader. I, for one, have crossed that off my list of desired professions – it’s just not feasible to support my family.

5.) Fun Factor: Once we got passed the different stages of the different phases, we started to have fun, but occasionally the fun got bogged down while waiting for another player’s turn. Supposedly the trading helps keep player interaction high, but the incentives for trading are somewhat low, and most of the player interaction in our games was to help the other players understand how the rules worked – and help them catch things they missed doing – or did out of turn. There was also a good amount of luck in the game – perhaps too much for a game that seems to be seeking middle-weight game class stature, and probably too much for a game that takes this long (about ninety minutes).

6.) Strategy and Players: The game is for three to five players, but seems best with the maximum amount. The strategy seems to be pretty obvious, with each player getting the beans they need to fill their orders, and then trying to make a small profit while doing so. We found that less of our time was spent in strategy as much as it was keeping our money straight, making sure our cards were in order, and moving the beans up and down the spaces in each town correctly.

I come across fairly negative in this review, and it’s not because I don’t like the game – I actually enjoyed playing it. However, they should never have themed it with beans, because the inevitable comparisons with Bohnanza are going to occur – and most players will probably end up disappointed in the difference. Also, the game had so much “busy” work for the players to keep track of that it basically detracted from the fun factor of the game. In a heavy strategy type game, this kind of “fiddliness” might be acceptable, but not a game that has strategy this light. People who played the game enjoyed it, but said that they would be content if we didn’t play it for a while. If you are a Bohnanza nut, and must own all things Bohnanza, then pick this game up. If you are looking for a game that has some fun maneuvering, and don’t mind the detailed work involved, then you also might like this one – the components are rather nice. But if you are coming here from Bohnanza, seeking a similar game to that wonderful card game, then stay away, you’ll be dreadfully disappointed. This is an example of a game where theme actually detracts from the mechanics – and it’s too bad, I so much wanted to love this game.

Tom Vasel

Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
Game names.... and translations

Of course, one of the few undoubtedly great things about the game has been completely lost - the title.
The original German title is "Bohn-Hansa", which is one of the cleverest puns I have ever seen, playing off the original name (itself a very neat pun) and the Hansa, being the medieval trading alliance of northern Germany. Of course, a pun based on the Hanseatic League was never going to make it in the rest of the world, so we ended up with the disappointing "Bean Trader".
But I do wonder if the game was driven by Herr Rosenberg coming up with the name first? :)

I'm also quite interested in the whole business of translation, especially that of puns and/or colloquial phrases used in game titles.

A recent example would be "Viva Il Re" (Long Live The King), which was renamed for the US edition "King Me" which, despite being a nice double pun isn't a very good name for a game.

Meanwhile the classic "Adel Verpflicht" has long resisted being issued in an English edition since the title would be best translated as "Noblesse Oblige" which is, of course, a French phrase! Finally Uberplay have bitten the bullet and called their version "Hoity Toity" which is not a bad stab at the whole concept but may run the risk of bringing a different collection of associated images with it.

Faidutti's "Citadelles" (in French) became "Citadels" in English quite understandably. But the German name is "Ohne Furcht und Adel", which I think may be a pun on "Ohne Furcht und Tadel" (which is something like "Without Fear or Shame" in English, although the phrase "Ritter Ohne Furcht und Tadel" is a "Knight in Shining Armour".) I suspect that the English would be "Without Fear or Favour". Any native German speaker who can clear that one up for me? :)

Any other good game name puns people would like to share?

Joined: 12/31/1969
[Review] Bean Trader

Based on a chat the other day, I'd like to create a game called "The Boargame," but I know it wouldn't translate. :)

IngredientX's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Re: Game names.... and translations

Scurra wrote:
Faidutti's "Citadelles" (in French) became "Citadels" in English quite understandably. But the German name is "Ohne Furcht und Adel", which I think may be a pun on "Ohne Furcht und Tadel" (which is something like "Without Fear or Shame" in English, although the phrase "Ritter Ohne Furcht und Tadel" is a "Knight in Shining Armour".) I suspect that the English would be "Without Fear or Favour". Any native German speaker who can clear that one up for me? :)

I'm not a German speaker myself, but Morritz Eggert cleared this issue up on BGG... turns out Scurra was right!

Dear friends - let me explain the title "Ohne Fucht und Adel" for you (being Germnan). It is a pun on "Ohne Furcht und TADEL" (which roughly means "without fear and blemish", or rather somebody being very valiant and chivalrous, in the sense of, for example, King Arthur. It is an old-fashioned expression which is not used a lot these days, perhaps in fun when describing a perfect performance by Michael Schumacher for example.
Taking away the "t" of course makes it a kind of double entendre, meaning "fearless" (ohne Furcht), but "without nobility" (ohne Adel) or rather "without morals", which neatly describes the murderous and evil actions that usually happen in a game of "citadels".
An adequate english title would perhaps have been: "chivalrous and rivalrous", but that's to difficult to pronounce, isn't it?
- Moritz Eggert

Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
[Review] Bean Trader

How about missed puns? In the expansion to the Bohnanza Card game you get extra points for having specfic fields. They seem to have used everything else with the Bohn name, but still call them Bonus points, and not Bohnus points. It seems like such an obvious pun to me, and they did it in all kinds of other ways, why not that one.


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