Review: Coffee Roaster

Coffee Roaster Review

Coffee Roaster has been on my want list ever since I first heard about it in the 1Player Guild on BGG. It’s been very hard to find as it’s a self-published title from Japan. Which means getting a copy into South Africa is rather difficult.

I recently got a call from a local store owner to say that he knew someone with a copy for sale. It turns out a local coffee machine supplier brought in a few copies for an expo that he was going to and now he needed to let them go. LUCKY ME!

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box:

  • 1 player
  • 10-30 minutes
  • Ages 12+

There’s an odd page in the box, it’s just got pictures of all of the counters on it. I did not know what to make of it until I flipped it over…

Coffee Roaster Review
Insert Instructions!!!

That’s fantastic. A useful insert with an organising reference that you don’t actually need to reference. CGE has some fantastic inserts but packing away takes practise and sometimes an online guide. Saashi & Saashi have nailed this.

Coffee Roaster Review
I love a good insert, the game packs away perfectly.

The components themselves are all of good quality. The rulebook at first glance seems to be a bit too technical. Once you start reading it’s actually very straight forward, all the flow charts and illustrations are easy to understand. The handy player aid means that you won’t really be referring to the rulebook beyond the first game or 2.

Theme

Coffee Roaster has you doing what it says on the box, roasting coffee 😉 From what I can tell it is very apt. You put beans (counters) in a bag (the roaster) and let them cook. Over time the moisture will evaporate and the beans with start roasting. Too long and they will burn, too quick and you won’t be able to extract the correct amount of flavour from them.

Gameplay

Setup

You start by placing the 2 boards on the table. Pink side up for the easy mode and blue for the normal mode. Next you select either a quick game (Trial Menu) or a long game (Full Menu). With the quick game you roast a single type of bean and score it. For the campaign you will roast 3 different beans with the difficulty of the newer beans being based on your performance as you progress through the campaign.

Coffee Roaster Review
The turn counter starts on a space determined by the number of moisture tokens in the bag.

Select a bean card and then find the tokens listed on it, then throw them into the bag. Lastly you need to place the turn marker and the Unique Effect Tokens on their starting spaces and you’re good to go.

Turn sequence

Each round starts with you drawing a number of tokens from the bag based on the current round. There’s a little number next to the round marker to remind you.

Among these tokens you will have beans of varying roast levels, Flavour tokens, smoke, moisture and burnt beans. Moisture evaporates, so you discard those immediately. Then you can start your actions.

First you can use some of your beans and Flavour tokens to perform once off actions. These usually give you bonuses like extra counters or removing counters from the game. Smoke and burnt beans are bad, you will want to get rid of them.

Coffee Roaster Review
Unique Effect Tokens to the right you can see which flavour tokens you need to use to earn them.

You can, instead, use your Flavour tokens for a once of effect. There are 3 kinds and each does something different. Body lets you combine beans to increase their value. Acidity allows you to save the beans at their current value while Aroma lets you split a bean into 2 beans of lower roast levels. There is a reason for this which will be made clear later.

Once you have used the Flavour tokens you can then spend them to gain other benefits that will help you in the scoring phase. You can spend unused Flavour tokens but then you need to spend 2 of them which is pricey. You should also keep in mind that keeping some of them in the bag will help you with scoring later.

At the end of the turn all of the beans you have in front of you increase 1 level of roasting. So a “hard” bean is replaced with a level 0, 0’s are replaced with 1’s, 1’s with 2’s etc… any beans of level 4 however become burnt. They then go back into the bag and you have to decide if you would like another turn or if you are ready to score.

Two of the rounds are special “Crack” rounds. Smoke tokens will be added to your bag but any beans you have in front of you will increase their roast level by 2 for that round!

Scoring

For scoring you move over to the cup-board to taste your creation. Draw tokens 1 at a time from the bag and place them on empty space in the cup. There is a separate tray in which you can place tokens that you don’t want in your cup but once the tray is full, it’s full!

Coffee Roaster Review
A full cup of coffee is a wonderful thing.

Remember those Unique Effect tokens? They give you extra abilities like an extra tray for those unwanted tokens, bonus points or allow you to draw extra tokens from the bag.

Once the cup is full you need to total up the roast level of all of the beans in the cup. You then check this value against the current beans desired roast level, too high or too low and you lose points. Having unwanted (burnt) beans or smoke in the cup will also lose you points. Skilful roasting though, like having the majority of your beans roasted to the same level will give you bonus points.

If you are playing a quick game then you track your score and end the game. If however you are playing a Full Menu then your score you will determine the difficulty level of bean to roast next. After roasting your 3rd bean you can see where you rank as a master roaster.

Conclusion

Have you ever spent an early morning alone? Just sitting with a cup of tea or coffee and a good book or your daily newspaper? That feeling when everything is serene and you are just absorbing what is around you and letting your brain slowly soak up info as you’re getting ready for the rush of the day or winding down from a busy one…

… That’s the kind of feeling I get from Coffee Roaster. I can see myself sitting in a little holiday cottage in the mountains playing a game with a nice cup of coffee while watching the sunrise.

Balance and harmony. That’s what this game is about. You can’t “Grok” it. There is no long term strategy. The randomness of the draw totally negates multi turn planning but that’s a good thing. It’s all about taking what life throws at you, making decisions based on what else is coming and then deciding when you have done enough.

Coffee Roaster Review
Small foot print means it can be played almost anywhere. You don’t need the reference cards one you are used to the game.

Then you sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Like when you want to have a cold beer on a spring afternoon when you have just finished tending your garden.

If you like to challenge yourself then you will find this game rewarding. Unlike other games where you have to beat your previous highest score the randomness of the game changes the nature of the puzzle so you’re not just aiming for points but actually working against some kind of adversity.

For us Saffers though, the price might not warrant what you get out of it. I’ve got no regret though.

How does it play solo?

Well, it plays no other way 😛 I guess you can co-op it, but it’s a lovely solo experience.

Can I play this at a Braai?

You could, if you’re not in any hurry. I won’t thought, just like the braai if your attention wavers something might burn 😉

 

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