The waitress almost tripped over the flea bag lying on the floor. Who left the door open so the dog could get in? If I didn’t take care of everything, the tavern would have gone down the drain long ago. Oh no, the knitting club is coming in. You gotta be kidding me. They’re gonna grab the last tables and barely spend any money on drinks. And I need every thaler! The renovation of the beer cellar must be financed. Of course, now that the knitting club has taken the last places, the nobles are coming, too – their coins have to go into my bag! I’ll see if I can get the table over there cleared, the peons have been long enough in my tavern in Tiefenthal.
The Taverns of Tiefenthal is, like the Quacks of Quedlingburg, another board game by Wolfgang Warsch, which was published by Schmidt Spiele. This time we slip into the role of a tavern owner and try to get our tavern going. We expand our tavern and attract more and more wealthy customers with free beer in the hope that they will leave their money with us and we will become the most successful tavern owners in the deep valley. You can read how the board game is doing in our review of the game.
The Taverns of Tiefenthal open their doors
In German there is the idiom “Wer nichts wird, der wird Wirt”. What means as much, who has learned nothing or can do anything else, can still become an innkeeper. – before taking this step in life, it might be more wise to try it first. It’s a good thing I can do that at The Taverns of Tiefenthal without any risk. And after a few games, I quickly realize that life as an innkeeper is quite lucky. One evening enough guests with full wallets come by, but on other days only the peoners come to spend their last thaler in my tavern.
Whoever appears in my tavern is controlled by a deck of cards. After all, The Taverns of Tiefenthal is also described as a deckbuilder, so there must be cards in play somewhere. To attract guests to your tavern, each player draws cards from his personal deck until all tables in his tavern are occupied. At the beginning you start with three tables, but you can buy additional tables as the game progresses. If you draw other cards as guests, this does not block you. In fact, it’s very good, because these special cards will give you advantages.
For example, there is the beer supplier, who provides you with more beer, which you can use to acquire new customers (cards). Or there is the waitress who gives you an additional die in the later dice phase.
After the cards are drawn, the dice-drafting comes. You have a total of 4 dice at your disposal, plus a maximum of 3 dice if you have the corresponding number of waitresses. In any case, you choose one of the 4 dice and give the rest to your neighbor. This is repeated until all the dice are drafted.
Dice in the tavern
But why do we actually need the dice? This is where the combination of card and dice mechanisms comes into play. You need the dice to activate the previously drawn cards. Your guests may be sitting at your tables, but they will only bring you money if you assign them a dice. The beer supplier also offers potential new barrels of beer, but will only deliver them if you give them a 1 or 6.
Thereby you have to pay in your tavern appropriately. If a guest asks for a 4, then you have to deliver a 4 as well. Overpaying is not possible. After distributing the dice, the next step is to use the two resources beer and money wisely. With the money you buy new things for your Tavern of Tiefenthal. You can either buy fixed upgrades to enhance your tavern, or you can buy new cards for your deck, which will give you an advantage when you draw.
With the resource beer you only recruit new guests. These are available in an open display. A part of the display is randomly controlled and is refreshed again and again by the draw pile. But there are also deck-building standard cards that are always available, but do not add as much value to your deck as the random cards.
The drawing of cards, drafts of dice and expansion of the tavern is repeated eight times. After the eighth round is over and you check who has the most victory points. These points are given for upgrades and guests in your deck. Most valuable are the noblemen you are trying to get at the end of the game.
Dinner at the tavern
The Taverns of Tiefenthal are not difficult. Especially since you can adjust the difficulty individually. The board game consists of a total of 5 modules, which build on each other to make the game more and more challenging and complex. Whereby module 1 is the actual basic game and the other 4 modules extend the game. For the experienced player it is suggested to start with module 1, 2 and 3. But the bottom line is that nothing changes in the basic mechanism, only other options come into play through the individual modules.
But how does it feel to be an innkeeper now? I personally feel trapped in a quandary. There are many elements I like about the game, but there are also elements I don’t like. First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m not a big fan of the Quacks of Quedlinburg, the famous game by Wolfgang Warsch from 2018.
But let us first come to the positive things. I like the way the game materials are designed. For example, there’s tableau, which I really develop over time. The artwork of Dennis Lohausen is excellent and I keep discovering little gimmicks all over the game materials.
In addition, there is one of my favorite mechanisms: the deck building. This combined with the new Dice-Drafting is fun and could catch me again and again at the table. I was able to enjoy myself in the tavern and especially at the beginning I could try out new strategies to get the desired points. Speaking of points – they are quite simply structured here. Basically I only count the value of the cards in my deck and that’s it.
I also like the mechanism that I don’t put new cards on the deposit rack first, but rather specifically on the draw pile, and that feels fresh and unused.
Dark clouds in Tiefenthal
Unfortunately the game loses its momentum after a few games, even the many modules do not help. In every round I try to put as many additional cards as possible on my draw pile, preferably chairs, so that I can draw as many cards as possible from the draw pile. But at some point that is just not enough for me anymore.
There are hardly any possibilities to slim down my deck. In one game I only get through my deck three or four times due to the large number of cards. This is personally too little for a deck builder.
And then there’s this thing about luck. I can put some cards on my draw pile, but when those cards are used up, luck decides. And that often enough led to moments of great frustration. Cards and dice often just don’t fit together. So powerful cards, which I bought a round before, go up in smoke without being able to use them properly. And that is a pity and very often frustrating. It reminds me strongly of the Quacks, only in their case I was able to decide for myself whether I should continue or not.
Also the dice-drafting is not as sparkling as it appears in the first games. I always make sure I pick the best dice. And it’s not only me who does that, but also the other players. And so with the second choice I only get the “B-Stock” of dice, which culminates in the fact that I get worse and worse dice and can’t place them on my lucrative guests.
The memorization of the different currencies during my turn, does not lift the mood after a few games. If I add up my beers on one hand and my gold coins on the other hand, it can be quite complicated. A primitive counting bar would have been good for the game.
Closing time in The Taverns of Tiefenthal
So in the end I stand there with mixed feelings as already described above. On the one hand, a nicely designed game with a really funny theme, which really makes me think of a tavern sometimes. When the jugglers perform their dangerous tricks or the celebrities immortalize themselves on the wall with their name tags, it’s just fun. It is also a game that has a low entry level and that I like to explain to new players every time.
On the other hand, there is the brute luck factor, which has spat into my soup or beer too often. Something is always wrong. Also the downtime is not to be sneezed at if you follow the rules, because in Dice-Drafting the players draft one after the other. But in our game we do it at the same time because every player looks at his dice anyway and doesn’t care what the other players have done before.
Also the fact that I’m playing solitaire and the only interaction is when one of the other players snatches a card from me, dampens the enthusiasm. Even the Dice-Drafting with 4 players is almost unnecessary, I can just as well roll the rest of my dice every time I have chosen one.
In the end The Taverns of Tiefenthal remain an opulent game, which I will enjoy playing again but not proactively put on our board game table.