Who would have guessed a game about bean farming could be so much fun? Bohnanza is a card game about planting, harvesting, trading, and planning -- and it's intense, silly, frustrating, and amazingly enjoyable.

Each turn, a player first plants one card (with an optional second card) in their bean field. The player then draws two cards, face-up, which the player can plant, trade, or try to give away. (If they can't get rid of them, the cards must be planted.) At any time, players can harvest their beans for the appropriate amount of gold (listed on each card). Then the player draws three cards, and the turn passes to the next player.

So what makes Bohnanza different from other card games? First, there is a tremendous restriction on resources. Players start with two bean fields, and they can buy a third field during the game. Each bean field can only hold one type of bean, and when forced to plant a new bean they often have to discard an existing number of beans -- even if they can't harvest them for gold or were one turn away from getting more gold. (It's no surprise that many players will pass on donated cards, even for free.) Also, multiple cards have to be harvested before single cards, so you can't build up one type of bean farm while discarding useless single cards.

Second, players can never change the order of the cards in their hands. As a result, players will often make trades just to get unwanted cards out of their hands -- or suffer the fate of seeing the cards they need too far down in their hand to use. Bohnanza requires a lot of sacrifice and planning ahead.

Third, the game goes faster as it progresses. The game ends after the deck is gone through for the third time. When a player gets gold, they keep a number of cards equal to the gold they get, so the deck gets smaller and smaller as players earn gold.

Also, like several other games Bohnanza almost forces cooperation with the players who are competing. Whether trying for that next needed card or just unloading unwanted cards, trading is an integral part of this game. Negotiation can get fierce, and offers and counter-offers will happen many times each turn.

Bohnanza is also very enjoyable. There's a light, goofy sense of humor to the cards (take a look at the sample art above), and it's hard to be fully serious when negotiating for Stink Beans.

Luck does play a very important part of Bohnanza (some two-card draws can be harvested for gold instantly, while others can ruin your plans and hopes), but in many games the greatest plans can be ruined by pesky reality. (This is true in life as well.) Bohnanza is truly fun and original, a terrific game to play repeatedly with friends or teach new players.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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