Social Board Games, Part 10: Dominion Essays, Playing Bohnanza

Sorry for the lack of a post last week, and the late one this week. You can blame this new little gamer, who showed up on 4/4/14:




bohnanzaMom and baby (Elizabeth) are both happy and healthy, although mom and I are quite tired. Fortunately, we have just one week of school left before finals! My sub unfortunately fell through, so the students did not get to play Hearts, and I never snuck in For Sale because both Dominion and Bohnanza took much longer than I anticipated. However, Bohnanza, Hearts, and For Sale all encompassed the same prompt, essentially, which I gave them this week: in all three games, it’s easy to make an emotional decision rather than a rational one. Many obvious examples come up of this being a bad tactic at least in a business sense, but is it ever good to make emotional decisions? (Isn’t that what marriage is?) How do you know if you’re making an emotional decision – and whether it’s a good or bad idea?

I think it’s a good prompt; however, the students did not seem very enthralled with Bohnanza this week. And this goes back to it actually being a rather complicated game. Dominion is the game I thought would give the most trouble, but it again showed why it’s such a favorite of mine: the complexity is in the cards and not the rules, so figuring the game out is natural. On the flip side, Bohnanza is a game created by taking the basic idea of a hand cards and forcing rule upon rule onto it until it creates meaningful decisions, which means it has much more up-front complexity.

The Dominion essays were fantastic, despite a rather simple, “boring” prompt. I told them that, and told them that I thought it stemmed from the fact that they all really enjoyed the game, which inspired them to write better. They seemed to agree as well. I can’t believe it took me getting properly scared by Dominion to think of doing a digital walkthrough of me playing before we began the game. I already had Ticket to Ride on my iPad and should have done it there; immediately after this realization, I went and bought the Forbidden Island app as well. I looked for a Bohnanza app to no avail – maybe someone can help me out there?


Next week, we are playing The Resistance, an absolute all-time favorite of mine. I’ll do one more update after that, since I’m using our meeting during finals week as a chance to do a survey on the class and for them to take a study break by playing the games they enjoyed the most. See you soon!

6 comments to Social Board Games, Part 10: Dominion Essays, Playing Bohnanza

  • Congratulations on Elizabeth’s birth!

    Bohnanza is a surprisingly hard game to teach. It’s so simple once you begin playing, but I’ve had a hard time getting it going each time I’ve taught it. Do you have any teaching tricks with this one?

    • Derek Thompson

      Unfortunately, I don’t. I held off on it for later in the semester because I knew it would be tough. They are comfortable with me now so they asked plenty of questions, and I walked around answering more and checking that the game was being played correctly. I was actually surprised how long their games were – about 75-80 min for 4p seems long. Maybe they spent too long deliberating trades since they didn’t really yet know if a trade was ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

      A lot of the rules confusion was about the different zones – the hand versus the fields versus what you gain in trade (which sits in its own pseudo zone until trading is done). This experience actually lowered my opinion of Bohnanza, as I realized it’s a game made just by tacking on rule after rule. I think it is becoming a relic of days past. The best games happen naturally through simple mechanisms. Dominion, Ticket to Ride, and La Boca are great examples of this. I need to find a simpler, cleverer, shorter trading game.

      Thanks for the congrats!

      • Interesting… You’re right that the rules do feel tacked on. It’s been a while since I’ve played because my family played it over and over and over.

        I think a great and simple trading game that might work for your class is Jaipur. Unfortunately, only two players can play at a time, but the whole game is determining which choices you will give your opponent and when. You really have to determine whether a benefit for you is worth opening a benefit for the opponent. Knizia’s money accommodates more players and could also work. It’s got auctions, bluffing, and trading (although the trading aspect is secondary–good players pay attention to what others are collecting, though).

        • Derek Thompson

          Jaipur is a great idea, as are several two player games, but I don’t see publishers shelling out 10 copies. (We really probably should play Chess though.) Asmodee also said they don’t really do programs like this (sounds like they got burned before). Fortunately I have enough Dixit and Timeline cards myself to include those next semester.

  • Juan

    Congratulations!. Prepare to not sleep in a year.

    Totally worth it, though 😉

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>