Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game

Board Game– Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game

Producer-Dice Hate Me Games

Price– ~$30 through kickstarter later at http://dicehatemegames.com/games/vivajava-dice/

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 10 min/player (1-4 players)

TL;DR– You won’t hate this dice game by Dice Hate Me Game. 88%

 

Basics– Want a cup a Joe?  Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game is a reimagined version of the popular eurostyle coffee game that came out from Dice Hate Me Games a few years ago.  In this game, you roll dice and try to get multiple same colored beans in a simple poker mechanic.  Each turn, if you have a brew in front of you, you score points.  If not, you roll five dice.  From these dice, you decide to either make a brew or research.  Making a brew and over taking the current brew is determined by how many of one bean type you have with more being better and then the type of bean ranked one to six.  It’s simple poker with just flushes ie. four rank three beans beating three rank six beans.  You can also get a rainbow brew if you have five beans of different colors.  If you can’t beat the current coffee brews out there, you research.  When you research you choose which beans you want to research, and mark them on a score sheet.  You can only research one bean type each turn.  When you research to certain level for each bean type, you gain some powers like reroll, upgrade one bean, downgrade one bean, or extra dice.  You can also complete a research track, lose the ability the track gave you, and gain points.  There are five different powers each game with the sixth being flavor dice.  Flavor dice are extra dice for your turn, but each time a player rolls, you can roll too.  If the other player uses your flavor dice in their brew, you gain one point hence the semi-coop nature of the game.  If you still have flavor dice on your turn, you must roll them, and those dice leave at the end of your turn.  What keeps a player from winning easily is that the current winning brew degrades over time.  Each turn, the person who scores points for that brew must remove one dice from that brew ie. six rank four bean brew becomes a five rank four bean brew.  That player then chooses to either press their luck by hoping no other player beats their brew or roll the remaining dice.  Since you have to have five dice to make a brew, it’s almost impossible for a player to go from a winning brew to a new brew.  Player continues around the table like this until the first person to get 21 points wins.

 

Mechanics– This is an interesting mix of your standard American style and euro style games.  I won’t call this a eurogame, but there are elements of a eurogame in it.  The games randomness from the dice really do hamper full, hard core thinking potential of any eurogame, but that’s also part of this game’s charm.  Yes, playing this game you will be amazingly screwed by the dice since they are random.  But, that’s part of the fun, chance nature of this game.  As for the upgrades, they provide a lot of replay value as you now get random new boards that keep the game fresh as well as adding that eurogame element.  There is even a solo version if you just want to have some fun and roll some dice quick.  I also wanted to say any game that can fix the runaway winner problem is an elegantly designed game!  I wouldn’t necessarily call this semi-coop eurogame, but that doesn’t mean I won’t call this fun, well designed game. 4/5

 

Theme– Quick dice games are hard to have an immersive theme.  Since the game has a short run time, it’s hard to get deep into anything.  I like this game a lot, and I feel like I’m building “something”.  But, that “something” is nebulous.  I don’t necessarily feel like I am a coffee shop owner against all the odds tinkering to find the best flavored brew out there.  I feel the coffee theme is a bit added on.  You get some theme, but this game is one of those that you have to drag yourself in deeper to really be in the theme of the game.  The game’s theme is not bad by any means, but don’t expect to forget who you are for several hours as you carefully plan your coffee empire.  But then again, in several hours, you could play this game at least 10 times.  I thing a bit more flavor text would have made this game on part with other dice games in the same vain ie. Elder Sign. 3.5/5

 

Instructions– Well done through and through.  I was able to get going really fast and felt like I didn’t screw up anything.  I didn’t even have to run off to Board Game Geek and plead with random strangers to understand what the heck is going on.  So, top marks for that!  I don’t know how I feel about having the research powers on cards as opposed to being the rule book or a printout sheet.  But, that is just me.  The cards are well done and explain the rules really well.  Best part of all this is that one cards is a QR code that links to the Dice Hate Me Games website that will have FAQs and new rules.  That is phenomenal and ALL game need to start doing that NOW! 5/5

 

Execution– Overall, I liked how this game came out.  It’s got some great, little additions like how all the play boards look like coasters and the burlap coffee bag the come with the game.  The dice are good quality along with all the cards and art.  One point that annoyed me was that I felt like I never had enough tokens.  5/5

 

Summary– I love this game.  It’s quick, easy, and fun.  My wife and I learned this is 15 minutes, and I spend a weekend playing this while camping.  It was a blast and even non-gamers picked it up with ease.  Like any quick dice game, it’s got some problems with theme.  Also, I don’t really think this should have been billed as a semi-co-op eurogame.  It’s got elements of those two game styles, but not enough to completely bill the game as those things in my opinion.  But, the game itself is rock solid fun.  Lots of different ways to play (and win!) keep this game very fresh.  The game even comes with three cards that can be added to the base Viva Java: the Coffee Game, so now, based on this game, I have to go buy a new game!  If you get a chance, give this one a buy if you want some quick, fun, dice rolling with some deep thinking.  88%

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