In the broad, horizon-spanning world of tabletop gaming it’s safe to assume that there is a game for everything under the sun. When I was gaming with a friend last night I mused, “They should make a beer brewing game like Scoville…wait, I’ll bet someone’s already done it.” A later search revealed that there are at least two.
So the shock was unshockingly absent when I started discovering tabletop inn and tavern games online. There are quite a few and I mean to cover as many a possible.
What did surprise me, a bit, is to find a game about competing taverns. It shouldn’t have been surprising; real businesses have competed in the real world for centuries. Still, the concept was novel.
That brings us to Taverns of Tiefenthal, a multiplayer board game about operating a tavern in some sort of medieval Bavaria. Can a kind of Gothic bar wars game work? I’d say so!
We might clear up much by simply stating that Tiefenthal is a very Euro-style game. If you know what that means, then you know what to expect: some kind of core mechanic, victory points, end conditions, and multiple pathways to play. Something that does set Tiefenthal apart from the hordes of other Euro-style games is that it blends a few different core mechanics in a way that is not overwhelming. After setting up your tavern and your starting deck (the deck being your patrons and employees), you get straight into said mechanics. First, you roll dice, draft those dice between the other players, and spend those dice to accrue cards for your deck. So it’s a little drafting/worker placement and a little deck-building tossed together like malt and hops.
Even as an experienced gamer, I felt a bit intimidated by the process. So if you’re new to these kinds of games, be patient; it’ll take a round or two for things to click. Once they clicked, however, I felt very comfortable as this game resembles countless others I’ve played before.
As I said, the deck represents your patrons and employees who show up at your tavern each night. You roll and spend dice to “activate” those cards. Employees are there to help you by modifying your dice or by making beer; beer is then spent to attract patrons; patrons help you earn gold which is then spent on more employees or tavern upgrades; and tavern upgrades attract the nicest of patrons, those being nobles.
Board Game Geek gives this game a 2.6/5 complexity rating. Having only played the main game, with none of the other 5 modules, I’d say this is fairly accurate. It feels like a big learning curve but, again, once over the hump things go smoothly and easily.
Once the rules are clear and the nights at your tavern pass with relative ease, the broader scoring strategies open up. Again, like so many other games in this style you are presented with dozens of options for scoring and must sit and think through which options are the best (or be like me and run with the most obvious strategy). This includes getting in good with the local monastery (no doubt where the best brewing is done), represented by moving your piece around the monastery board.
This is where the path will diverge for strategic players and thematic players. If you just want to kick back with friends and enjoy the beautifully presented tavern boards, admiring the detailed illustrations of your patrons as they come and go, then you might feel a bit overwhelmed until your gameplay options click. If you are the type of person who likes maxing out their score and playing competitively, then presentation starts to take a backseat as the veneer of a cozy tavern melts away and reveals numbers or the next strategic move.
Which begs the question, is it worth it? As board games go, Tiefenthal is not especially pricey, but there are other considerations when it comes to boxy tabletop fare. Considerations like time (how often will you actually sit down and play it?) and space (do you have room for yet another box??). If these are questions you find yourself asking, be advised that the game is also available on TableTopia and Tabletop Simulator, which might be more accessible.
But if you are a true enthusiast of the gaming tavern then Taverns of Tiefenthal is a worthy addition, especially if you are fortunate enough to have one of those big gamer basements complete with a nice bar and stools. It just looks sheik and its always nice to visit the local tavern. Pick it up here!