Recently our gaming group has played a couple of games of Bohnanza, everyone’s favorite bean farming game. However, I’ve had to reconsider some of my thoughts on the game because two aspects of it. One, we actually have not been playing the game the correct way. Two, Bohnanza is an excellent two player game.
So, apparently we’ve been playing Bohnanza all wrong the entire time. I feel foolish about it, especially since I’m usually the one who reads the rules and figures out how games work. While playing the other night Cris pointed out that she thought we were doing a couple of things wrong. Turns out she was right. Apparently she learned something about farming this summer. Somehow I manage to totally misinterpret two pretty important rules and created a new version of the game, one that breaks from the actual game in a couple of key aspects. In a strange twist the rules that we’ve been playing with are like a Bizarro version, here’s what we’ve been doing. The first mistake was allowing a player to dig up any bean field when they had to plant and had no open spaces, rather than the actual rule of harvesting the bean field that is the largest. Pretty big difference? It is, though the other one is even more significant, I think. During the donation and auction phase of the turn a player can turn down a donation from another player, we had been playing that you must take any cards that the other player gives to you. Which was often a very destructive way to play the game, essentially because your opponent was giving you cards that you had to play. If we had only done one of these wrong I don’t think the game would have worked and we would have been left scratching our heads (and probably figured out how it actually works), but with both mistakes they sort of cancelled each other out. Here is the difference; in the correct version a player has a great deal of control over what they plant in their fields, however when forced to plant they can’t control what gets dug up. In our renegade version a player was often forced into planting cards that they did not want, however they had total control over what was harvested. In the end our game worked fine, but I do think that the actual rules are the better ones.
I’m not sure why I read the rules this way, they are pretty clear. Not having to accept donations is even printed in bold! So how did this happen? I have a theory. When we first got Bohnanza earlier this year and started playing it a bunch, we had just come out of a phase of playing a lot of Munchkin. Because of the cut-throat nature of Munchkin I think that we were in the mindset that the goal of games is to screw the other players and make their life miserable, therefore it made perfect sense that you would be sticking it to the other bean farmers by forcing wax beans into their plentiful fields of cocoa and black eyed. And considering how much we embraced this idea one thing is quite clear. We are rotten people who delight in making games harder for one another.
The more pleasant discovery involving Bohnanza is that it is a really great two player game. There are several key changes to the game from the normal version, but simple changes that are easy to adapt to. The biggest difference is that any cards left over during the auction phase do not have to be taken by the player or traded, any beans left stay on the board and the opposing player has the option of taking or discarding these beans at the beginning of their turn. The other interesting wrinkle is that the top card in the discard pile is added to the face up auction cards if they match. For example: a green bean is put face up during step three of the turn, the top card in the discard pile is also a green bean, so the discarded bean is placed on top of the other one creating a stack of two cards that can be taken by the player or traded. This creates a whole new strategy that involves selling off at key times and creating large piles on the board. I highly recommend the two player variant of Bohnanza. Twice Mike and I played last night (he won once, and we tied the other) and I suspect we will play again soon.