Posted by: gschloesser | August 9, 2011

Nicht die Bohne

Design by:  Horst Reiner Rosner
Published by:  Amigo
3 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

What is it with Germans and beans?  We’ve had Bohnanza, La Isla Bohnita, Space Beans … and now Nicht die Bohne.  I’ve had the great pleasure of traveling extensively in Germany and don’t recall beans being a large dietary staple or being such a big deal.  Nevertheless, beans seem to be an enticing theme when it comes to games.

Nicht die Bohne, designed by Horst Reiner Rosner and released by Amigo, is a clever Essen release which has been mostly overlooked.  That’s a shame, as it is quite a fun and nasty card game with some interesting twists.

The game rules and mechanics are very simple, but do require one to warp his thinking  outside of the normal patterns. There are four sets (colors) of cards, each color with two sets of cards numbered   1 – 10, three ‘minus’ cards, one x2 card, and one ‘Nicht die Bohne’ (“Not the Bean”) card.  These are all shuffled together and dealt out evenly to the players. The game can  accommodate from 3 – 6 players, but I’ve found that it would actually plays better with 5 or  6.

The start player places one of his cards face up on the table and marks it with the wooden bean token. All other players then simultaneously play a card face-down from  their hands and they are then revealed. The start player then chooses one of the cards  (not the one marked with the bean token) and places it in his field in front of him. The  player whose card was chosen then selects one of the other cards. This continues until  only one player hasn’t had a selection, and he gets the original card marked with the bean  token. He will now be the ‘start’ player for the next round.

What are you trying to accomplish? Well, once all cards have been played and collected, the scoring round is held. Players score each of their colors independently. You tally the numbers on each of one the cards for one color you managed to collect. If you have either 0 or 2 negative cards, the result is positive. If you have 1 or 3 negative cards, however, the result is negative. This figure is then doubled if you collected the x2 card … which, of course, could be either a negative or positive result. This same calculation is done for each of your four colors collected and the totals added for a final result.

The game is played over three rounds and the player with the highest cumulative total is the victor.

Again, sounds easy enough. The warped thinking required, however, is that when you are the ‘start’ player, you usually want to lead with a card no one would want. This forces your opponents to play cards you desire so you will choose their card, allowing them to pick next. They are all trying to avoid being the last player to have his card selected, otherwise they will get stuck with the nasty lead card. So, to get a good card, you have to lead with a bad one. Hmmm.

However, you don’t want to help your opponents TOO much, so sometimes it is wiser to offer horrible cards that your opponent will have to take, even if it means you getting hurt, too. With more players, however, this gets more and more difficult to accomplish.

One also must keep a careful eye on the number of cards which have already been played, especially the ‘negative’ cards. Getting stuck with one negative cards isn’t a tragedy IF the other two negative cards have not yet been played yet. However, one must be careful to not to get stuck with that last negative card if it will result in an overall negative score for you for that color.

During the card selection process, with four players, it is not too difficult to decipher which cards will likely be selected by whom. That’s the one real problem I see with the game. It tends to bog down as a player contemplates, “If I take the yellow 3 from Bill, then Bill will likely take the Blue 1 from Greg, which means Greg will have to take the negative green from Ashton, who’ll then get stuck with the yellow negative. But, if I take the negative green from Ashton, then Ashton will take …..”. You get the idea. The game is one which is very susceptible to such analyzation and calculation, which with four players greatly bogged the game down.  Later playings with 5 and 6 players actually sped up the game as such analyzation and calculation proved to be too cumbersome and difficult, so players didn’t try to do it.

One rule we steadfastly enforce following the first round is ‘no helping other players’.  Let them play their own game, for better or worse. Otherwise, it would be very easy to coach players to take this card or that one.

Nicht die Bohne is quite fun and, to my surprise, quite vicious. In a recent edition of Counter magazine, Stuart Dagger accurately said, “This is not a game where you have a huge amount of control, but it is one that often offers plenty of scope for group malice.”  Due to this ‘malice’, I don’t know if this game is really destined to be a ‘family’ game that I  originally envisioned. But that’s OK … a little viciousness within a circle of gamers can be a fun thing!

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