A to Z Gaming: Seize the Bean

We ran Berlin coffee shops in Seize the Bean, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Seize the Bean
Players: 1-4
Time: 45-90 Minutes
Designers: Andy Couch, Dylan Howard Cromwell
Artists: Mario Fernández García-Pulgar
Publisher: Quality Beast

In Seize the Bean, players are managing a Berlin coffee shop, upgrading their shop with pantry additions and trying to meet customer demands. Over the course of the game, players will build up a deck of customers, attracting them to the store with themed upgrades. They will also need to balance upgrading their shop with shopping for supplies. Whoever can get the most good reviews — through serving customers and attracting the most of different types of customers — will win.

Game play

The game is set up by choosing a set of six different types of customers (there are a number of suggested combinations in the rules!). The different cards are separated out —customers, pantry upgrades and style upgrades. These decks are shuffled and used to set up “the city” — a market with five cards from each deck, the last of which forms the beginning of a discard pile. The coffee, sugar, and milk tokens are placed nearby. A number of good reviews based on player-count are placed in a supply. And a number of awards are chosen at random, also based on player count. Each player takes a cafe board, two meeples, a hype token, five coffee beans, one milk, and four starting customers.

The game is played in rounds until the supply of good reviews is depleted or any deck in the city is depleted. Each round has five phases: actions, hype, serve, word of mouth, and end of day. During the actions phase, players will take turns placing one of their meeples in their own cafe. The available spots will either let the player collect resources — coffee, milk, or sugar — or perform a city action — attracting a customer, adding on to their pantry, or upgrading their decor. These base actions will be upgraded throughout the game with the pantry and decor upgrades — each one can add additional things the player will do as they take those actions.

During the hype phase, players simultaneously play out new customers to their line equal to the number of their current hype.

Then players will serve each customer, one at a time in turn order. The customers have a required order in the upper left corner of their card, and then an optional order that players can choose to fulfill if they have met the required order. Once they fulfill the customer’s order, the player will activate the ability at the bottom of the card. However, if they’re not able to fulfill the required order, the customer will become angry, they’ll get an angry token and their special ability will be skipped. Once all players have served all of their customers, they clean up their customer line — most will go back into their discard pile, unless they are very happy or angry.

Next the player will do the word of mouth phase, where they will get a new customer into their discard pile if there’s one in the city that matches one of the type symbols in their shop. And finally the end of day phase is a bit of clean up. The last card in each city row is discarded, and the row re-filled. The first player marker moves, and then players move on to the next round.

Once either all of the good reviews are gone (players can continue to claim more from the reserve) or any one of the decks in the city is out, the game ends at the end of the current round. Players then convert happy tokens on customers in their line to good reviews, and discard one good review for each bad review in their collection. Then players tally up how many of each customer type symbol they have in their cafe, including customers, and visible symbols in the cafe upgrades. Whoever has the most of each symbol will get one good review for each customer of that type in their deck. Whoever has the most good reviews wins.

My Thoughts

I Kickstarted Seize the Bean and it fulfilled last year, but we’ve only gotten it out a few times so far. I do like the number of different customer decks that are in the game, which gives a different experience each time. I also like the agonizing decision of how to spend your two actions each turn — I always want to do upgrades to my cafe, but also need to keep my stock of coffee, milk, and sugar up.

One challenge we’ve had is the number of symbols in the game. The customer types have a number of different special actions, and they’re depicted by symbols that aren’t always self-evident. I think if we had a one-page reference, it would be super helpful. (In fact, there are some on Board Game Geek, so I’m going to print one up for our next game.)

I’ve really enjoyed our plays of Seize the Bean, though we often have to look up a number of symbols over and over. I’m hoping with more plays and a reference sheet that we’ll get this to the table more.

Three Quick Questions

How is it as a 2-player game? Seize the Bean works well at two players. The main point of player interaction is in the City market, which may not move as quickly with just two. However, since a card is always discarded from each row every round, there is always some movement and you’re never stuck.

How about the art and component quality? I like the art in this game. I know it’s not for everyone, but it works for me. The components, though, are one place where this game goes over the top. The coffee beans, sugar cubes, and milk tokens are realistic and well-made.

My main complaint about the game is the number of symbols that are not intuitive. I know this was done to make the game language-independent, but there needed to be a really good quick-guide to help players out to make up for it.

Will this stay in my collection? Yes, this is a keeper. I’m happy to find a solution to help with all the symbols because I like the theme and the game-play.

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