Bohnanza is a rare beast indeed: a quick-to-play-and-learn card game that looks like it’s for kids, but it isn’t… until it is. Kids can play it, adults can play it, and kids and adults can play it together, and it will still be just as interesting for both groups, unlike a lot of family games where grownups are either bored, or are letting their children win! The one challenge kids face is in fanming out their cards, since their hands are so small; in that even, i highly recommend using some sort of card holder to make the going easier for them.
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is Bohnanza, a set-collecting, trading card game with a twist, for 2-7 players. Let me show you how to play!
You and your friends play bean farmers. “Bohne” is the German word for “bean.” Why they didn’t call the English version of the game “Beananza” is beyond me. But anyway, you plant your bean cards in front of you and periodically harvest them to make money. When the deck is exhausted at the end of the third year, whoever has the most money wins.
But here’s the twist: you’re not allowed to rearrange the cards in your hand. All players have to decide on an “in” side and an “out” side. On your turn, you HAVE to plant the first card from your “out” side. And then optionally, you MAY plant the second card on your “out” side.
You have two invisible fields in front of you. A field can only grow one type of bean. So on your first turn, it’s no problem – plant your first and second beans, one in each field, or in the same field if you have two of the sam bean. But when play comes back around to you, maybe the next two beans in sequence are completely different types? A field can only grow one type of bean, and because you HAVE to plant this chili bean, you’re forced to scrap either the soy bean or the stink bean for no money. Now, look: the card says you need to harvest TWO soy beans to earn one coin, or THREE stink beans to earn one coin. If you keep harvesting your beans before they’re worth anything, you’ll never earn any money and you’ll lose the game. That’s where trading comes in!
On your turn, after you plant your first, and optionally your second, bean, you draw two cards from the deck and put them face-up on the table. You’re on the hook to plant those beans on this turn, too, unless you can arrange some trades with your opponents. You can trade cards from within your hand, and/or the two cards on the table. Tradees can only trade with you from their hands. And trades can only happen if the active player is involved. Because the order of your hand is so important, both players have to agree to a trade before you start removing cards from your hand.
If Mindy agrees to give you her soy bean for the green bean in your hand, you each pull out those cards and hand them over. The cards get put aside for the moment. Perhaps Naveen really wants your red bean, and will give you two stink beans for it? That sounds pretty good. So you execute the trade. You’re definitely hanging onto this soy bean that you turned up from the deck, because you have a soy bean field. But this black-eyed bean. Hmm. Beth wants it, but she doesn’t have anything to give you for it. You decide to just donate the black-eyed bean to Beth, which she’s totally cool with.
Now, if you could just get rid of this blue bean from your hand, then on your next turn, you could plant two soy beans in a row. That’s the optimal move that you’re always striving for: arranging trades before your next turn so that you can plant the first two beans in your hand. Nobody at the table wants your blue bean, though, so you decide to donate it to Naveen. But Naveen is hip to your nonsense and doesn’t want your blue bean. You can’t just donate beans willy-nilly – they have to go to willing recipients. So it looks like you’re stuck with that blue bean for now, unless you can trade it away before play comes back around to you.
So with trading finished, everyone (including you) has to plant the beans on the table. None of those traded beans go back into anyone’s hands. At any point, even when it’s not your turn, you can harvest your beans. Check the beanometer at the bottom of the card to see how many coins you’ll get. Two soy beans for one coin, four soy beans for two coins, and so on. When you harvest a field, you flip the cards over to their “coin” side and keep them next to you. Any beans you didn’t convert into coins go into the discard pile.
The one hitch with harvesting your fields is that you can only harvest a field with two or more beans in it. The only time you’re allowed to scrap a single-bean field is if all of your fields have just one bean in them. So in this situation, you need to plant the stink bean, and you’d really prefer to harvest that red bean field to do it, since you’ve got these blue beans coming up next, but because there’s only one red bean in this field, you have to cash in all of your blue beans instead… which really hurts, because you’re one bean short of the next coin payout.
The number near the top of the card indicates how many beans of that type are in the deck. The more rare a bean is, the better the bean-to-coin ratio becomes. But it also means you need to play a bit of a memory game. If Beth cashes in 3 red beans for two coins, she keeps two of those cards a flipped-over coins and the third goes in the discard pile. You know there are only 5 red beans remaining. Naveen has two of them in his field, and maybe you have two in your hand. So there’s only 1 red bean left somewhere, and it might not even be in the draw deck. Mindy might be hanging onto it so she can pull off a sweet trade with either you or Naveen. That’s so Mindy.
At the end of your turn, after all the beans on the table have been planted and the fields have been harvested to make room, if necessary, you draw three cards from the deck, one by one, and add them to the “in” side of your hand. Play continues clockwise. If you go to draw cards and there aren’t enough left in the draw deck, shuffle the discard pile and draw however many cards the deck owes you. If the cards run out and you’re on your third pass through the deck, the game ends. If the cards run out while you’re drawing two face-up cards on your turn, you finish out your current turn before the game ends. If you can only draw one of those two cards, you finish your turn with just the one card.
There’s one more thing to learn about the game. At any point in the game, even when it’s not your turn, you can cash in 3 of your gold cards to buy a 3rd bean field. You can do this exactly once. The coin cards go face-up in the discard pile, potentially re-introducing those rare red beans back into the ecosystem.
When the game is over, count up the coin cards to see who’s won.
To set up the game, the oldest player shuffles the deck and deals 5 cards to each player.
In a 3 player game, get rid of the cocoa beans first. You only have to exhaust the deck twice in a 3-player game.
With 4 or 5 players, get rid of the coffee beans.
In a 6 or 7 player game, toss out the cocoa and garden beans. The oldest player deals out 3 cards to the first player, then 4 cards, then 5 cards, and 6 cards to everyone else. When your turn ends in a 6 or 7 player game, you draw 4 cards instead of 3, and a third bean field only costs 2 coins.
In a 2-player bean duel, remove the garden and cocoa beans from the deck. You can only harvest your beans on your turn, instead of whenever you want, and the money you pay for a 3rd bean field goes into the box instead of into the discard pile.
The 2-player bean duel has some slightly different rules. After you plant one or two beans on your turn, you can discard 1 card from anywhere in your hand. Then, you draw three cards from the deck. If the top card on the discard pile matches any of these cards, you combine them to form sets. Keep going until the top card in the discard pile doesn’t match any of the cards you just drew.
Now, you can plant any of these beans you like, harvesting your own fields to earn coins and make room. You can even leave them on the table if you like. The first decision your opponent makes at the beginning of his or her turn, before planting the first and/or second bean in his or her hand, is to plant or discard the beans that you left on the table. At the end of a turn, you draw two cards. The game ends when you exhaust the deck for the first time.
And now, you’re ready to play Bohnanza!
Get Your Own Copy of Bohnanza
The old adage says “good, fast, and cheap: pick two,” but Bohnanza manages to pull off all three of these in an affordable package that plays quickly and is a good game experience. What are you waiting for? Add Bohnanza to your game collection using the Amazon link below, and i’ll receive a small commission!