Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Game Central Station: Bohnanza IS Stretch Armstrong

It's been a while... but here's yet another post taken from my old Game Central Station website. The post was last updated in 2004 - at which time I evidently still loved puns, as I subtitled it "The Bean & O Railroad: a few short thoughts about one of the most brilliant game designs ever..."
As kids, we all loved to play with rubber bands. (Well, as long as we weren't the people being winged by them.) Stretch Armstrong dolls and that foul-smelling green goo (whose brand name escapes me right now) had the same kind of elastic qualities.
One of the interesting things about Bohnanza is that the basic game mechanism is so strong that it works with a truckload of variations/mistakes/whatever on the rules... the darn thing is the Stretch Armstrong of German card games. Bohnanza is incredibly elastic. It stretches and stretches and it's nearly impossible to break.
Phillip Fayers noted that his gaming group had made all kinds of mistakes in learning the game, yet it still worked... mistakes both from misreading the rules and from dealing with the early "translations". (For those of you with the benefit of the current Rio Grande edition in English, you can not begin to appreciate how screwed up the early homegrown translations of the rules were... count yourself lucky.) Here's some of the different ways folks have played:
Bean Planting
EITHER play one card from hand and an optional second (correct rules)
OR you have to plant the first two from your hand
Field Burning
EITHER you can burn a field with 1 bean only if all of your other fields have exactly one bean (correct rules)
OR there is no restriction on burning
Bean Trading
EITHER you can offer cards from your hand to trade in addition to the two you have turned face over on your turn (correct rules)
OR the only beans for trade are those which are turned face over, you cannot add beans from your hand
Other groups have their own peculiar spins on basic Bohnanza:
Trading Traded Beans
EITHER you can not trade beans that have already been traded (correct rules)
OR you can retrade traded beans, thus creating some very interesting 3 & 4 way deals [yep, this was the way I was taught]
Like for Like Trades
EITHER you can trade, say, a blue bean for a blue bean (correct rules)
OR you can not trade the same bean [this is still an ongoing argument on rec.games.board]
Planting Beans
EITHER you may plant beans in any order (correct rules)
OR you must plant beans in the order you receive them [this, thank goodness, is not a common mistake]
Overplanting a Field
EITHER you are allowed to plant more beans in a field than can possibly pay off (correct rules)
OR you can not plant more beans in a field than the highest payoff number
Forced Selling Off
EITHER you may sell off any multiple field (or any single bean field, if you only have single bean fields) (correct rules)
OR you must sell off the largest field
Game End
EITHER the game ends when the last card is drawn from the deck and the current player finishes their turn (correct rules)
OR the game ends immediately when the last card is drawn from the deck
Dave, whose last name escapes me right now, suggests what he calls a less "elegant" way to explain the way Bohnanza ends: "When the card deck is depleted - that is to say when you *need* a card but there isn't one to draw - the game ends. It's slightly counter intuitive, but what do you expect from a card game where you're not allowed to sort your hand :) This is how I usually explain the rules when the job falls to me."
It's a hot topic... but you can always give away beans from your hand or from the two you turned up from the pile... and the non-active players can give you beans as well. Nobody has to get anything in return. (Note: often, what you're "getting" is clearing your hand of a pesky bean that will screw up your next turn... which is good.) It's important to remember that the person receiving the donation must agree to it... you can't force people to accept charity!
Thank you's are in order here... first, to Doug Adams and the Billabong Gamers, who published the most user-friendly and "correct" translation on the 'Net prior to Rio Grande Games publishing Bohnanza in English. Second, to Kevin Maroney, Mik Svellov, and others who helped check this pile of clarifications for errors. Finally, thanks to Uwe Rosenberg... without his incredible creativity, there wouldn't be this wonderful little card game.

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