This game is fairly new but has become one of our standard group games for reasons expounded on below. The concept is that each player is the owner of a tavern and has to hire staff and buy food, drink, and games to attract patrons and therefore make a profit.
The first half of each round is the “Day” phase, where players draw Tavern cards which can then be purchased to add to their tavern. It’s best to be careful, though–the coins that you use to buy and hire are also your points! At the same time, there’s no way to make a good tavern without investment. At minimum, you want at least one food item, one game, and most importantly one of each drink type–mead, ale, and wine. Of course, it’ll take a couple of rounds to build up those cards and the gold to buy them. You can also trade your Tavern cards with other players during this phase.
During the “Night” phase, players draw Patron cards. Patrons can only be played if you have their “Want.” Some patrons have abilities that can help you. At the end of the round, patrons will pay you, generally one gold per patron. Some patrons have “Likes” that are different from their “Wants,” and if you have one of their Likes, they will stay in your tavern; if you don’t have their Like, or the card doesn’t have one, it’s discarded. There’s also a hand cap of five cards between Tavern and Patron cards, so any beyond that have to be discarded.
The cycle of Day and Night phases continues until one player has 20 or more coins after the end-of-round payout. Generally this takes around five rounds, and as the rounds go quickly, this is one of the fastest games we own. In addition to being fast, all of the cards have humorous flavor text, most of which is silly puns, adding to the light-hearted atmosphere.
There are two major flaws with the game. One is that its high level of randomness can really cripple you. If you don’t get good opening drinks and patrons that go with them, leaving you with a slow opening, it’s almost impossible to catch up and overtake your opponents. In addition, despite the high randomness the game has very little strategic depth; there’s only one real strategy and few sub-strategies within it. However, the expansion, called Dirty Deeds, helps with that. Dirty Deeds enables players to sabotage each others’ boards, meaning that at least in games with more than two people, those who are behind can work on taking away the advantage of those that are ahead. Oddly enough, it ends up encouraging the trading aspect as well.