Distilled has an interesting history with Nights Around a Table. The designer/publisher worked closely with various board game communities, including our own Discord server, involving people in rigorous playtests before launching Distilled on Kickstarter. Here’s how the prototype turned out.

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Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and this is a prototype copyr of Distilled, a recipe-fulfilling, mitigate-your-luck board game for 1-4 players. Paverson Games has asked me to teach you how to play, so let’s get into it!

You and your friends have each inherited an abandoned distillery from a distant relative, and are determined to restore it to its former glory.

You’ll upgrade your distillery, research recipes, and buy ingredients to brew booze in your giant vat, which you’ll store in different types of barrels and sell in different types of bottles, in order to brew more exotic and valuable hooch. Each batch of giggle juice you sell earns you cash and points, which you’ll use to expand your operation. Along the way, you’ll pick up points from secret and public goals, special bonuses at the top of y our board, and meta points from the upgrades you purchase. At the end of seven rounds, you melt your remaining cash down for spirit points, and whoever has the most points, wins!c

Here’s your dusty old distillery, and the character you’re playing. Each character has a special ability, and hails from a different part of the world – either the Americas, Europe, or Asia & Oceania. Your character also comes with a special family recipe for distilling a signature type of tipple that no one else in the game can make. That recipe can be enhanced with a special ingredient, which you’ll have to earn by taking a certain action later on.

You’ll improve the distillery itself by adding upgrades and specialists in these three slots. The ingredients you collect go here, and the barrels and bottles you need to brew and bundle your booze go here. Certain types of spirits need to be aged at least one round before you can sell them – that happens here, in your warehouse. You get also this recipe card. Off the top of the game, you only know how to brew moonshine, vodka, and your signature recipe, but you can eventually learn more recipes and expand your repertoire. Your starting money and ingredients vary depending on which character you play, but everyone kicks off with a metal barrel and a generic glass bottle, along with your choice of two secret goal cards to guide your strategy. One player gets this start player marker, which determines turn order.

In the middle of the table, there are two markets: the Basic Market, and the Premium Market. The Basic Market has all the cheapest ingredients and barrels you’ll need just to keep the lights on, while the Premium Market has distillery upgrades, fancy ingredients, and special bottles and barrels that will help you earn more money, perks, and points. The truck next to the market acts as the discard pile for these three rows, and every round, the rightmost card in each row drops off, so get this stuff while it’s hot!

There are four phases in the game: the Market Phase, where you buy stuff, the Distill Phase, where you make your liquor, the Sell Phase, where you hawk it for money and points, and the Age phase, where you add special flavour cards to the liquid courage stewing in your warehouse. We’ll take a look at each phase in detail, but i’m going to flip the script and show you the last three phases work first, just to give more context and meaning to the Market Phase.


After the Market Phase, where you buy all your ingredients, recipes, and upgrades, you get a shot at generating joy juice. So you’ll have some ingredient cards down here in your pantry. This section is your washback, the gigantic wooden vat where the distillation process happens. You need to fill up all three slots with at least one card: yeast here, sugar here, and water here. There are three different types of sugar in the game – grain, fruit, and plant sugars – and we’ll see how those come into play shortly. You just need to have at least one of those types of sugar in your washback to get started. As your distillery grows, you’ll have more options, and you can put as many cards as you want to into these slots – but 1 in each slot is the minimum.

The yeast and water ferments your sugar into alcohol, so the next step is to add one alcohol card from a common deck for each sugar you put into your washback. One sugar? One alcohol card. Five sugars? Five alcohols.

Then, you scoop up all of the cards and give them a good shuffle. If you don’t trust yourself to shuffle so few cards honestly, you can have everyone hand their stack to an opponent to shuffle, and then hand the stack back. However you decide to do it, you need to remove the top card and the bottom card from your stack, which simulates removing the impure foreshots and feints, or heads and tails, of the batch. Those two cards go back into your pantry for a future round. What you’re left with is the heart of your distillation, and that’s what you’ll store in a barrel and bottle up to sell in the next phase. But first, you gotta find out what you made.

That’s where the recipe card comes into play. Off the top of the game, you know how to make moonshine, vodka, and your Signature recipe, but during the Market Phase, you’ll be able to spend money to learn new recipes.

No matter how badly the Distill phase goes for you, at a minimum, you’ll always have made either moonshine or vodka. So check it out: let’s say you put the minimum required cards into your washback: a yeast card, some type of sugar, and a water card. You add the requisite 1 alcohol for your 1 sugar. Then you shuffled them all up, and the forseshot and feint you randomly removed from the top and bottom of the stack were the sugar and one of the other three cards. Your resulting brew has no sugar in it, so you made moonshine, which can’t contain any sugar.

Let’s rewind time and say it went some other way – the foreshot and feint were two other cards, and that one sugar card remained in the heart. That means you made vodka, because vodka requires at least one sugar.

So you splay the cards out like this. Both moonshine and vodka need to be stored in a metal barrel, and neither of them can be aged before you sell them. Add the metal barrel card – which could be the default metal barrel you start the game with, or it could be a fancy metal barrel that you bought at market. In the next phase, the Sell Phase, you need to add some kind of bottle to put it in. Again, this could be your default glass bottle, or it could be a funky one from the market. Finally, grab a label matching whatever kind of batch you brewed.

The recipes get more and more demanding the farther down the list you go. To make Brazilian Cachaça, your stack has to contain at least one plant sugar, and it must not contain any other type of sugar. It has to be brewed in a metal barrel, and you can’t age it. But the way down here near the bottom, the Chinese Baijiu requires at least 3 grain sugars and can’t have any other types of sugar in it. You have to brew it in a clay barrel, and you have to age it in your warehouse for at least 1 round. It’s worth big points, though.

That’s where the push your luck element to this game comes in. Let’s say you learned how to make Baijiu, and you spent the Market Phase buying all the ingredients and the clay barrel you’d need to make it. You spent the Distillation Phase putting one yeast card, 1 water, and 3 grian sugars into your washback. Then you added the 3 alcohol cards – 1 for each sugar. You scooped all your cards up, gave them a good shuffle, and removed the foreshot and feint back to your pantry, and… uh-oh. One of the cards you randomly removed was one of the grain sugars you needed to make baijiu. With only two grain sugars, let’s see… you could have made whiskey, but there are two problems: you don’t know how to make whiskey – there’s no cube there – and even if you did, whiskey needs to be aged in a wood barrel, and you don’t own one. But you do know how to make Soju, which requires at least 2 grain sugars, can’t be aged, and has to go into a metal barrel – you’ve got one of those. So you make Soju, right? Well… the problem with that is that the product labels are limited – there’s only 1 label per player for each type of spirit, and 2 per player of moonshine and vodka. There’s only1 Soju label left, and one of your opponents just made Soju, and is earlier in the turn order than you are – so now all the Soju labels are gone! You can still make Soju – you just won’t be able to put a label on it, so you won’t be able to claim one of the powerful bonuses at the top of your board.

8:30 If you desperately need one of those labels, that means you have to fall back to making urn-of-the-mill vodka instead, and miss out on that pile of points making baijiu or soju would have brought you.

To avoid this situation, you could have added more cards than you needed to your washback. Maybe you could have added a bunch of water cards, or a bunch of yeast cards, or a bunch of grain sugars, because each card you add to your washback decreases the likelihood that one of the cards you remove is gonna be one you really need. To guarantee that you make Baijiu, you’d need to add five grain sugars, because if you’re extraordinarily unlucky and you remove two sugars, you’ll still end up with the required three sugars to make that spirit. Of course, guaranteeing your success by adding cards to your washback can be costly – as we’ll see when we learn about the Market Phase, ingredients don’t come cheap.

If you have all the right stuff to make multiple types of devil’s bevvies, you choose the one you want to make. You can only distill one variety of grog in this phase.

And now, it’s time to sell some swill!


Everyone figures out the distillation step simultaneously, but you sell your stuff in turn order, beginning with the starting player and going clockwise. When play comes to you, you can either sell something, or pass. Since some recipes need to be aged, it’s possible that you’ll have multiple products to sell, but you can only sell one thing at a time when it’s your turn. Then when play comes back around to you, you can sell something else.

Look at the money symbols on all of the cards in your stack, and on the recipe – moonshine is worth an extra 2 bucks, while vodka is worth an extra 1 – and take that amount of money from the supply. Then, collect your spirit points by counting up any yellow icons on the cards… and on the recipe. This time, it’s reversed: moonshine is only worth 1 point, while vodka is worth 2. Move your barrel along the spirit points track by that amount. Finally, send all the cards in the stack back to where they came from. Alcohol cards go back to that stack, basic ingredient cards go back to the basic market, and any fancy ingredients you used go on the truck, along with any fancy barrels from this row. If you sold your booze in a fancy bottle, hang on to that card in your bottle collection off to the side of your board – the bottle’s not reusable, but it may be worth points to you at the end of the game. If you used your basic metal barrel and/or basic glass bottle, those cards ARE reusable. They go back to your storeroom.

You keep the label too, because it lets you unlock a bonus at the top of your player board. There are seven bonuses here, and you get the perk or points from whichever one you choose to cover up with your label. You can claim any of these bonuses just once per game. Covering this spot is is the only way you can get that special ingredient into your pantry to help make your family’s signature recipe.

If you made the type of spirit that needs to be aged before you sell it, here’s how that goes. After sending the top and bottom foreshot and feint cards back to your pantry in the Distill Phase, you put all the cards in empty slot in your warehouse, put the required barrel on top, and the product label on top of that. The age phase goes in turn order. You take a random face-down card from this flavour deck, and slip it under the stack. Your firewater takes on different notes as it ages in your warehouse, and you won’t know what it tastes like until it’s time to crack open the cask and sell it to the public. Every time you reach the sell phase and you decide not to liquidate your liquid, then in the Age phase, you add another flavour card to the bottom of its stack to age it even further. Each flavour card you add will earn you extra points when you finally do decide to sell, and some of the better flavours will make your drink more valuable. It’s a surprise!

When you do decide to sell an aged cask in a later round, you bust open the barrel and count up the money and points you earn as usual, but you get the added joy of seeing how your booze turned out. Some flavours are favourable, and could earn you extra money – like a whiskey with nutty, coffee-like notes. But maybe your warehouse is a little bit dank, and your rum ends up tasting like… salty manure? It happens. Count up the extra points those flavour cards give you… and then put them into the discard pile after you’ve sold.

If you need to age a stack and both of your warehouse slots are full, you’ll need to sell one to make room for the new batch. If the type of alcohol you made has a no-aging symbol on the recipe, you have to sell it in the same round that you make it. You’re not allowed to age it.

Aged spirits are great because they get you more points and money in the long run, but each round you age them, you’re not earning the crucial income you’ll need for the Market Phase, where you need to buy ingredients and upgrades to help your little business along. So there’s definitely a risk/reward balance to be struck.

If you managed to snag the special ingredient by placing a label on this reward in a previous round, and you distilled your family’s signature recipe, you get whatever points and perks are on that recipe card. You can only produce your signature recipe once per game, so make it count. If you aren’t able to snag the special ingredient, you can still make the recipe with a generic version of that ingredient. So you can make the Single Malt Scotch signature recipe using this special bere barley for extra points, or you can just substitute some regular old barley that you bought from the Premium Market – which is worth fewer points. Signature recipes that have to be aged need to have a certain number of flavour cards beneath them before you’re able to sell. If you make your signature recipe, you get the 1-time-only signature recipe label in your player colour that’s sitting here on the edge of the scoreboard.


Once the Sell Phase ends and everyone who wants to sell has sold, you check these public goals to see if anyone has met them. These Spirit Awards are drawn randomly at the beginning of the game, and they can earn you extra spirit points on the score track. If multiple players achieve the same Award in the same round, you divide the points evenly among those players, rounding up. Then, you flip the award, so that no one else can earn it. Your signature recipe label is kind of its own thing, so it doesn’t count towards earning you any label-related awards.

Some of the private and public goals play around with locality. This one give you points for collecting three labels from the Asia & Oceania region. That means you can brew three batches of Soju, or some Soju and two barrels of Baijiu, or if your character is from the Asia & Oceania region, any recipe you brew with this symbol on it means that product comes from your region. So if your character is European and you brew some moonshine, you’ve made European moonshine – maybe some Finnish pontikka. If your character is from the Americas and you make Whiskey, that’s where the whiskey is from too.

It’s the same story with the empty bottles you collect – if the bottle has this symbol on it, then the bottle is from your character’s region, for the purposes of winning awards and earning a bottle collection bonus at the end of the game. Watch for clarifying language on the goals, though. This award excludes any regional labels.

If you didn’t manage to sell anything this round, whether by choice or by circumstance, you can offer a tasting at your distillery to avoid falling too far behind. Cash in up to 4 points for up to 4 dollars, just so you have some spending money going into the next round. If you don’t have the points to spend, you’re hosed.

In any case, advance the round marker, and pass the start player token on clockwise.

Now that you understand what you’re aiming for, let’s circle back to the first phase of the round, the Market Phase!


In the market phase, you get to go shopping with your starting money, or the money you earned from selling spirits in the previous rounds. Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, everyone gets to buy one thing – either a card from the Basic or Premium Markets, or a cube to learn a new recipe. Or, you can pass. But once you pass, you’re out for the rest of the Market Phase. Once play gets back around to you, as long as you haven’t passed, you can buy another thing. And so it goes, round after round, until everyone has passed, and you move on to the distillation phase.

The basic ingredients are here – yeast, water, grain sugar, plant sugar, fruit sugar, clay barrel, and wood barrel – and their prices are on these little red price tags. But the catch is that in any given market round, you can only buy two cards total from the Basic Market. Put them up here as you buy them to remember. And remember, you need to fill these three slots with one compatible card each, at a minimum, to make a viable product.

If you’re a little more well-heeled, you can buy a card from the Premium Market. Distillery upgrades are along the top row. Some are building upgrades, and some are personnel, but all provide you a perk that you can start using right away – except for the ones that give you something off the top of every round. If there’s no room at the inn, you can discard a card to make a spot for the one you just bought. That card is now gonzo, and it won’t help you earn any private or public goals. Whenever you buy a card from the Premium Market, you slide the other cards over and pop a new one out to fill the gap. If you ever run out of cards, shuffle the discards from the truck.

In this row, you can pick up ingredients to make better booze. These cards are souped-up versions of your standard yeast, water, and sugar cards, but maybe they give you more points or more money when you use them to distill your next batch, or they may even have special perks on them – you just have to read the card.

Along the bottom row are special items you can buy – barrels and bottles – that, again, improve your product and make it worth more money, perks, and points, and may help you fulfill public or private goals.

Finally, there’s the recipe and label board, where you can buy the knowledge of new recipes. The recipes are split into different standards – bronze, silver, and gold. To learn a new recipe, you have to buy the appropriate cube to check off the box. So to learn how to make whiskey, you’d need to pay 4 bucks for a silver cube… and place it here. Doing that unlocks that recipe for the rest of the game, so you can keep making whiskey as much as you like.

At the end of the Market Phase, after everyone has passed, you churn the Premium Market by discarding the rightmost card in each row to the truck, sliding everything over, and dealing out new cards.


That’s the whole game in a nutshell, but there are a few fine points to learn that can have a big impact on your game.

First, if you buy yeast from the basic market, you get 1 dollar to go with it. If you buy water from the basic market, you get to turn up the top card from any draw pile in the Premium Market, and optionally, buy it. This can help break up any logjams where the ingredients have gone stale and nobody wants them, but you desperately need, like, a fruit sugar card to make your recipe. Or maybe you’re fishing for a certain type of upgrade, or a bottle from a certain region.

It’s possible that at the end of the Distill Phase, you wind up with one or two alcohol cards that you removed from your stack as the foreshot or the feint. In later rounds, you can put alcohol cards in either the yeast or water slots to help you distill your next product, so it’s semi-wild. Incidentally, if you distill a stack and it doesn’t have any alcohol cards in it, it doesn’t mean you made non-alcoholic near-beer or anything. Everything you make is presumed to be at least somewhat alcoholic, just like your Uncle Larry.

Now just before you’re about to distill, you can trade one card from your board in for a card of equal or lesser value from the Basic Market. And the card you trade in can be an ingredient, an item, or even an upgrade! So let’s say you messed up, and you realized you need another plant sugar to make rum, but you didn’t buy enough duvring the Market Phase. Well, you can take this 6-dollar bunch of grapes that you bought in the Premium Market and trade it in for this 1 dollar hodgepodge of plants. It’s a costly error, but at least that rule gives you a little wiggle room. But you can also use this rule strategically: maybe the recipe you’re shooting for requires 3 or more grain sugars. You grabbed 2 of them from the Basic Market, and you need a third, but you’re only allowed to buy two things from the Basic Market, and there are no grain sugars in the Premium Market. You could have taken a water card and pulled a card from the top of the premium ingredients deck, hoping it was a grain sugar, but that’s a pretty big gamble – and even if it worked that would still only get you 2 grain sugars – the water and sugar from the Basic market makes you hit your limit of 2, plus the card you got from the Premium Market.

So here’s what you do: get your two grain sugars from the Basic Market, and then buy the cheapest ingredient you can find in the Premium Market. Then, during the Distill Phase, trade that in for the extra grain sugar card you need from the Basic Market, and hope and pray you don’t pull out one of the required sugars after you shuffle your stack!

And finally, this reward at the top of your board that you can earn by covering it with a label lets you trade one of the ingredients in your pantry in for any card in the truck. That’s any discarded card from any row – so you could trade in this crappy mixed plants card to hire this Market Buyer specialist. Well, she did say she’d work for peanuts…


After the end of the 7th round, you distill various things on your board down to points.

If you have any spirits aging in your warehouse that you didn’t sell in the final round, you count up the points on that stack’s cards, including its barrel and recipe. You don’t get to bottle it and earn anything from the bottle, and you don’t get the flavour rewards, because nobody got a chance to taste it.

Then, check out the region icon on all the bottles you collected. Two bottles from the same region gets to 2 points, then on up according to this chart. Remember that any bottles with this symbol on them are from the same region as your character. If you have at least one bottle from three different regions, you earn 5 points.

Your distillery upgrades usually give you endgame points, so count those up.

Then, claim any points you earned from the private distillery goals that you started the game with. If you have any goals involving labels, your special signature recipe label doesn’t count towards them.

Every 5 money gets you a point, rounding down. So 32 money divided by five is 6 points when you cut off the decimals.

Whoever has the most spirit points wins, and money breaks ties. If there’s still a tie, all tied players claim the title of Master Distiller.


You can play Distilled solo, too! i won’t go over all the details, but you’re trying to chip your way through this barrel shaped tree of goals, and every goal you achieve increases the number of points you need to score at the end of the game. You flip over cards to change the market state, to simulate other players buying cards. The cards in the barrel are marked A, B, and C, and you can modify the solo mode difficulty level by using different combinations of cards in the tree.


To set up the game, lay out the Basic Market and its cards, the Premium Market and its cards – 4 per row with the truck at the end, and the recipe and labels board with bronze, silver, and gold cubes, and one label per player in every category except vodka and moonshine, which get 2 labels per player. So in a 4 player game, it’s 4 of all of these, and 8 of each of these.

Randomly draw player count plus one spirit awards, and place them face up. Money goes nearby, along with the stack of alcohol and flavour cards.

Everybody picks a colour and gets a busted old distillery board, a recipe card, a couple of reference cards, and three private distillery goals. You get a choice of two different characters. Pick one, take the starting resources on the back of the card, and flip the card to this spot on your board. Then take that character’s signature recipe and special ingredient. Remember, you don’t have this ingredient – you need to sell something and cover this bonus space with a label in order to claim it. All the other characters, signature recipes, and special ingredients go back in the box.

Finally, discard one of your private goal cards and keep the other two. You start with a standard glass bottle and metal barrel.

Lay down the score board and put a barrel in everyone’s colour next to it. Add the round marker, and the signature recipe labels.

The first player is whoever volunteers to sit next to Uncle Larry at the wedding next weekend. That player gets the start player coaster.

And now, you’re ready to play Distilled!

Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh – hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff! [Music – Board Game Boogie by Ryan Henson Creighton]

Get Your Own Copy of Distilled

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