With Erin being our household coffee lover, we’re always looking for games that blend her two favorite things, coffee and board games. Café is a coffee themed game from Pythagoras Games for up to 4 players. Players work to grow beans in their fields, dry, roast and deliver to score the most points after 8 rounds.
Players begin the game with a single card and an action card with a bean of each color type in their warehouse. Café unfolds like a puzzle as you add a new card into your tableau. Placement is everything and it can be a real struggle for everything to work efficiently from round to round.
From Field to Cup
Each round of Café plays out in 2 phases. First you’ll draft a new card from 3 in the center of the table. These cards have a grid of 6 spaces that contain icons for different actions. Some cards contain cafes that award points for delivering specific bean types.
After drafting a new card, add it to your tableau, covering up at least 2 open squares of an already placed card. In the early game, players are going to draft cards with a coffee cup on them which gives you an action point you’ll spent in the next phase. If you don’t have enough action points, turns will be extremely limiting.
Bean icons represent fields that grow that specific color bean. Drying fields allow you to harvest and dry beans of a single color. Roasters allow you to roast dried beans of a single color. Finally, the delivery action allows you to bring beans into your warehouse (on your player card) or to a café in your tableau.
You ultimately want to group your actions together so that they can be taken by using only a single action point. This is a huge strategy in the game. For instance, if you have 3 drying fields connected, you can spend a single action point to dry 3 different colors of beans. To be efficient, get used to covering up and sacrificing other action icons in your tableau.
Don’t Get Burned
Your new card can be rotated, flipped and arranged however you’d like, but it must go on top of another card(s). There are lots of times where the icon you need isn’t in the right place. I love the way that Café forces players to think ahead and plan carefully.
In a lot of ways, Café reminds me of games like Honshū and Smartphone Inc. The layering of cards can be very constricting and brings tension to the game. After 8 rounds, players will calculate the points they earned delivering to the cafes. Players also score points for beans in their warehouse. The twist is that you’ll only score points for the two smallest bean quantities in the warehouse. Having 20 of a single type of bean in your warehouse does nothing for you. Collecting an equal supply of beans across the 4 color types will give you the most success.
A Hidden Gem?
Café does merge two fantastic things, coffee and board games. Even though we consider this game a hidden gem, it’s not going to be a hit for everyone. There’s a learning curve to the game that first time players need to get through. A player who has 3 or 4 games under their belt are at a definite advantage. We’ve seen new players struggle to understand how to group the actions effectively.
The game is more abstract and the coffee theme is not entirely necessary. If you find yourself easily frustrated by spatial puzzles, Café might not be your cup of tea (or coffee). For us, this game hits the sweet spot of a medium-weight game that can hit the table on date night or to finish a game night with friends.
I’m a huge fan of the artwork on the box for Café. I only wish that the cards contained the same style. There is a disconnect from the card art and the gorgeous art on the front of the box.
I appreciate how Pythagoras Games shares the story of how the Portugal contributed to the growth of the coffee industry. There’s a bigger story being told for players who do additional research.
Café is a small game with just the right amount of challenge. Our copy has the Espresso expansion included in the box. This 8 card expansion adds just a little extra to the game once you’ve played a couple times. My understanding is that not every copy has this expansion.
Grab your favorite cup of coffee and sit down for a fun challenge with Café.
You can find Café at select game stores or purchase online through Amazon today.
- A fun card layering puzzle
- Balancing actions and grouping icons are a challenge
- Challenging enough to bring you back over and over
- Disconnect between cover and card art
- Your first couple games are all about learning from mistakes