Good morrow, weary travelers! Welcome to our humble tavern. We have ale, mead, wine, plenty of food, and more here, and we are happy to have you! Rest up, enjoy, and please feel free to stay as long as you’d like! And never you mind the other taverns in town, I promise, they can’t even try to compare to my wonderful pub!
Players, get ready to put your business skills to the test! Well, kind of. You’ll need to hire staff, stock your tavern, and make sure your incoming patrons like what you’re serving up so that they’re in for the long haul! Ready to try it out? Let’s go!
What Is It?
Tavern Masters is a tableau building game where players purchase goods and hire staff to stock their taverns and generate interest among the locals. They need to have what the patrons want to get them come in, and have what they like to get them to stay.
There is also the ability to trade tavern cards with other tavern workers to get what you need for success! Players want to make sure, though, that they aren’t spending too much gold because once someone collects 20 gold, it’s all over but the drunken dwarf’s crying!
Who Is It For?
This game is pretty approachable, in my opinion, so I think it’s good for a wide range of players. The box says 13+ for age, and I’d say that’s probably pretty accurate, since you’ll need to keep track of a bunch of different cards and combos.
Tableau building fans will definitely like this one, because it does it well, as well as fans of quick and light games with some strategy, because it hits that nail on the head.
Variants and Expansions
1. Co-Op/Solo Variants – Instead of the competitive mode where you race to have 20 gold first, you can play co-op or solo, where you try to earn that much gold within a certain number of rounds instead. These were pretty similar overall, and not bad, but not as interesting as the competitive. You don’t see enough cards in solo, so it can be pretty difficult no matter how many rounds, and co-op defeats the purpose of drafting at the start, and just makes trading overly powerful, because why wouldn’t you trade?
2. Tavern Menu Variant – This deck of variant rule cards adds a handful of changes to each game depending on how many the players choose. These can change the difficulty or just add new elements (like dice rolling!).
3. Dirty Deeds Expansion – This expansion adds a take-that element to the game in the form of a “Dirty Deeds” deck, which is a fun and thematic addition. It allows you to steal from opponents or make them discard cards from their tavern to help you gain the advantage. The downside is that they are restrictive; you can not play them unless you have certain things/symbols in your own tavern. So, a player can definitely get unlucky and not draw any that they can play (I saw this happen to a player for several rounds, and it was frustrating, to say the least). This also adds in a few more tavern and patron cards.
4. Dockside Expansion – This small box expands the game with a bunch of new things, and is a great addition to the game. There are now sailors, and new drinks, food, staff, to go along with them. It adds a bunch to the original decks, and Dirty Deeds deck, but also adds in two new decks – “Songs” and “Port.” These add new features to the game which give players more options for earning gold.
Contents and Quality
The game is primarily cards and all of them across the base game and expansions (that I looked at) are good quality, and consistent.
The gold coins, reference cards, and round/server tokens are all really nice quality, thick cardboard, so those are sturdy across the board.
Finally, the base game box is great quality and big enough to fit plenty of expansions inside (if you remove the original insert that is).
- I had the pleasure of using the soundtrack (CD still being manufactured) which is a fun addition to the game; very thematic
- Rules are clear and concise
- Expansions are great to increase variability and replayability in the game
- Trading works well (with more than 2 players) because of patron wants and likes; there’s solid reason to trade
- Nice art
- Fun theme; works well with the gameplay
- You can end up playing a lot of cards to the table (I was shocked at how many during my first play) so it can be hard to keep track of how much gold you get
- Loosely defined abilities on a few cards
- I’d almost say it ends too quickly, if you’re able to get a lot of cards out at once, but this can vary a lot
I think I’m going to have to go middle of the road for this one, so a 3 out of 5 for difficulty. It’s easy to learn and smooth / straightforward to play overall, but there is a lot of strategy and meaningful decisions in the trading process, what to spend your gold on for your tableau, and when to play patrons to get the most benefit from them. There’s also added strategy with the expansions because of everything that they can add, which is why I want to leave this in the middle.
I often feel like tableau games are super hit or miss, and I don’t really play a lot of them (Everdell was the only one I even owned before this), but I really enjoyed this, so it was a great addition to my collection! I love how much it offers in such a simple and short game, and how easy it was to teach to my friends. I definitely recommend this one, and hope to check out the expansions that I don’t have yet eventually too!
My Final Rating: 8/10
*I was provided a copy of this game/these expansions to do this review*
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