The Bean & O Railroad (he he he...)
a few short thoughts about one of the most brilliant game designs ever...
last update: November 15, 2004
As kids, we all loved to play with rubber bands. (Well, as long as we weren't the people being winged by them.) Stretch Armstrong dolls and that foul-smelling green goo (whose brand name escapes me right now) had the same kind of elastic qualities.
One of the interesting things about Bohnanza is that the basic game mechanism is so strong that it works with a truckload of variations/mistakes/whatever on the rules... the darn thing is the Stretch Armstrong of German card games. Bohnanza is incredibly elastic. It stretches and stretches and it's nearly impossible to break.
Phillip Fayers noted that his gaming group had made all kinds of mistakes in learning the game, yet it still worked... mistakes both from misreading the rules and from dealing with the early "translations". (For those of you with the benefit of the current Rio Grande edition in English, you can not begin to appreciate how screwed up the early homegrown translations of the rules were... count yourself lucky.) Here's some of the different ways folks have played:
EITHER play one card from hand and an optional second (correct rules)
EITHER you can burn a field with 1 bean only if all of your other fields have exactly one bean (correct rules)
EITHER you can offer cards from your hand to trade in addition to the two you have turned face over on your turn (correct rules)
Other groups have their own peculiar spins on basic Bohnanza:
Trading Traded Beans
EITHER you can not trade beans that have already been traded (correct rules)
Like for Like Trades
EITHER you can trade, say, a blue bean for a blue bean (correct rules)
EITHER you may plant beans in any order (correct rules)
Overplanting a Field
EITHER you are allowed to plant more beans in a field than can possibly pay off (correct rules)
Forced Selling Off
EITHER you may sell off any multiple field (or any single bean field, if you only have single bean fields) (correct rules)
EITHER the game ends when the last card is drawn from the deck and the current player finishes their turn (correct rules)
Dave, whose last name escapes me right now, suggests what he calls a less "elegant" way to explain the way Bohnanza ends: "When the card deck is depleted - that is to say when you *need* a card but there isn't one to draw - the game ends. It's slightly counter intuitive, but what do you expect from a card game where you're not allowed to sort your hand :) This is how I usually explain the rules when the job falls to me."
It's a hot topic... but you can always give away beans from your hand or from the two you turned up from the pile... and the non-active players can give you beans as well. Nobody has to get anything in return. (Note: often, what you're "getting" is clearing your hand of a pesky bean that will screw up your next turn... which is good.) It's important to remember that the person receiving the donation must agree to it... you can't force people to accept charity!
Thank you's are in order here... first, to Doug Adams and the Billabong Gamers, who published the most user-friendly and "correct" translation on the 'Net prior to Rio Grande Games publishing Bohnanza in English. Second, to Kevin Maroney, Mik Svellov, and others who helped check this pile of clarifications for errors. Finally, thanks to Uwe Rosenberg... without his incredible creativity, there wouldn't be this wonderful little card game.<P>
The Bohnanza Family Tree
There are now 4 official expansion sets for Bohnanza, 2 games which are "siblings" in the bean game family, and 2 unofficial expansion sets that is approved/worked on by the designer, Uwe Rosenberg. Hard to believe a game about bean farming could spawn this many offspring. Anyway, here's my very biased rundown of the extras available.
Bohnanza Expansion Set (included in the Rio Grande original game)
La Isla Bohnita
Bohnanza Expansion Set #2
Spacebeans (available from Rio Grande Games)
The first translation of the rules contained one major error, as follows. Thanks to Stefanie Kethers for finding the problem... "I have read the English sentence in question, "A bean card on the discard pile of a type which is collected by the Bean Mafia, must be given to the relevant Bean-Mafia boss", and it is simply a translation error.
The German rules say: "A bean card that is of the same sort as both the top card of the discard pile and a Bean Mafioso's collection is given to the Bean Mafia". But "a bean card" in this case refers to a bean card that has just been flipped over (which could have been expressed more clearly, I agree). If such a card fulfils both conditions, it is given to the appropriate Bean Mafioso (and does not result in removing cards from the discard pile).
This probably explains why none of the German rec.games.board readers could tell you when to move beans from the discard pile to the Mafia ;-)
As an added bonus, Mik Svellov has put together a 5 turn illustrated sample game of the solitaire version of Al Cabohne to help straighten out any other questions.
Included in the Amigo version of High Bohn (see below) is the Prohibohn expansion for Al Cabohne, which adds High Bohn-like buildings to Al Cabohne. My translation of the rules is right here.
Here's a trio of resources for Bohnanza & family...<P>
<A HREF="http://www.riograndegames.com/games/rules/Bohneng.pdf">Rio Grande Games rules</A><BR>
This is the English version of the rules to use... it also includes a 2 player variant.<P>
<A HREF="http://www.gamereport.com/tgr16/bohnanza.html">The Game Report Online</A> with a review from Peter Sarrett<P>
<A HREF="http://www.gamingdumpster.com/index.htm">The Gaming Dumpster</A><BR>
This is the best place to find translations of the rules for La Isla Bohnita, Al Cabohne & High Bohn.<P>