March 14, 2012

Bohnanza & Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians: Book & Boardgame Match-Up

The Game (from Rio Grande Games): As card games go, this one is quite revolutionary. Perhaps its oddest feature is that you cannot rearrange your hand, as you need to play the cards in the order that you draw them. The cards are colorful depictions of beans in various descriptive poses, and the object is to make coins by planting fields (sets) of these beans and then harvesting them. To help players match their cards up, the game features extensive trading and deal making. --Board Game Geek Description

The Book (by Brandon Sanderson): A hero with an incredible talent...for breaking things. A life-or-death rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network...the evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry doesn't seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them! infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness. --Amazon Book Description

I've played a lot of Bohnanza.  It's wild.  There's last minute trading, tight negotiations, and plenty of giving stuff away for free, depending on the circumstance (I wouldn't want to harvest my soy beans early, after all, to plant a lame wax bean).  The art's all bright and funny.  This game doesn't take itself too seriously.  It is, after all, about beans.

And yet, there's a surprising depth of strategy to this simple game.  There are trade-offs.  Alliances.  Opportunity costs.  All wrapped up in pictures of soy beans wearing peace signs and coffee beans jumped up on java.  It's also deceptively simple to learn.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, is likewise wild.  I mean, the first line kind of says it all: "So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians."

I probably don't need to say more, but despite the hilarity in these books, there's also a fascinating and complex magic system and a lot of depth of character.  And teddy bear grenades, but they don't show up for a few books.  In short -- it's a lot like Bohnanza.  Lots of delightful levity wrapped around something with surprising depth.  These two could only be more alike if you were farming rutabagas instead of beans.

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