In their own words: “Biergarten is a game of comfortable atmospheres, Alpine heritage, and cold bier. It's designed as a quick game for a relaxing afternoon”
Components: 54 Cards, 4 player tokens, a scoreboard, rulebook.
Cards are high-quality and attractive. The should hold up to repeated play without getting marked.
The tokens sent with the prototype just didn't fit on the scoreboard, so we used a notepad.
Game Play: Biergarten is essentially a “tile-laying” game with the tiles in this case being poker-sized cards. Each player is given a starting card that represents the center of his Biergarten. The middle of each side of the card has a symbol with two of the game's four colors. Player choose from three face-up cards a card to place to expand their biergarten. The card doesn't have to match the colors of the cards it is played next to, but scoring points requires matching colors. Players score one point for each set of linked colors and three bonus points for having all four colors paired at least once in their garden.
Note how ugly and low-scoring my biergarten is compared to Warren's in the first image :(
Other than color patches, some cards also have walls along one or more of the four edges. This means that those edges can't be matched to another card for points, but if a player can form a continuous series of walls around the edge of his biergarten (completely enclosing it), that player earns six bonus points and has a really good shot at winning the game. After playing their card each turn, players can swap two or move one of the cards on the board. Doing so can break up matches or create new ones. If this happens, the player's score is adjusted. A scoreboard is provided to keep a current snapshot of each player's score obvious to the players.
Once a player crosses the ten point line, each other player has one final turn to add to his biergarten as normal. When that turn is finished, the player with the highest score wins.
My Take: I just returned from a family vacation with my extended family during which I played mostly traditional card games (Spades and Hearts to be exact). Those are games that can be played while chatting and relaxing by the pool or in the hotel room late at night. They have some strategy but don't necessarily require a player's full attention at all times. Some people call these beer and pretzels games, but we've always called them shmoozing games after the yiddish word for small talk (and sometime kvetching games for when people use their downtime to complain about all that is wrong with their lives). Biergarten is the tile-laying equivalent of these games—simple, fun, and relaxing. The player interaction is almost non-existent, so their isn't any conflict to spoil the mood. Gameplay consists mostly of playing (and sometimes moving) the card that makes the most sense at that moment. It is vastly more tactical than strategic, and it works well for a wide range of age groups and tastes.
My main complaint about the game is the same complaint I have about all of the games that use cards as tiles: it would be better with square tiles that could be rotated for more options. Still, a deck of cards is infinitely more portable than a box of tiles, and the game would likely not cause much of a fuss if brought out at a bar or restaurant for play while waiting on food and drink to arrive.
Biergarten is a quick, light game that is pefect as a simple opener or quick closer for a game night or for pulling out with non-gamers who might balk at more complex games.
Review Score: 3/5