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With 3 players, remove the Cocoa Beans from the game.

With 4 or 5 players, remove the Coffee Beans from the game.

With 6 or 7 players , remove the Cocoa Beans and the Garden Beans from the game.

What's the logic behind this? Is there any reason cocoa beans only work with a medium number of players? I can see the potential logic of wanting to keep them occurring at a certain frequency, but how does that 'improve' the game. It they are common, players will scramble to get them due to rarity, and with more players they will be powerful in trade. These are key elements to the game, and I don't see why the rules specifically try to prevent these conditions that are just a natural part of the game. Same thing with coffee beans, why do the most common beans only work with a medium number of players? What effect will changing these rules have on the game?

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Good question, made me think! –  thesunneversets Jan 18 '11 at 20:13
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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It seems clear that the very valuable, very scarce beans will work best when there are neither too many nor too few players at the table. With too many players, these beans are too hard to make work: if you take a risk and plant one, at a competitive table you may never be allowed to plant another! Conversely, with too few players, these beans are too easy to make work: you stand a good chance of just randomly drawing into them on your turn and making a killing.

I suspect the Coffee Beans exist to make up the numbers in games where the Cocoa and/or Garden beans have been removed. They are a pretty generic bean, plentiful and of low value, unlikely to rock any boats. I don't think the Coffee beans would be unbalanced in a 3/6/7 player game in and of themselves; but they need to be removed just because, if you'll allow me to mix my metaphors, too many beans spoil the broth. The more types of bean you have in the mix at any one time, the more random the draws become, and the less easy it is to discern a hopefully optimal strategy. (Equally, of course, too few beans makes it too easy to see the "best" plays.)

Keeping the number of beans in play down to 9 or 10 at any one time keeps it easy, but not too easy, to wrap your head around the numbers of what's going on. If you just want a fun, random, noisy bean-collecting game where you don't really care about the finer points of game balance or cutthroat competitive strategy, I'd suggest that it's probably not worth your while removing and adding different types of beans between every game. Depends entirely on your motivations for playing Bohnanza!

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Nice analysis. I don't think we played with those variants back when I played more Bohnanza. I don't recall ever reading them actually. Taking out some beans is definitely something I'd be willing to do. The game takes a bit longer than it ought to (IMHO). Dropping the deck by 20+ cards sound ideal. –  Pat Ludwig Jan 18 '11 at 20:33
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Ignore them if you like, they aren't mandatory. Those are all listed after the main rules section under a heading entitled, "Variations based on the number of players"

You can find a probable reason for those rules on BoardGameGeek. To sum it up, the original German version of Bohnanza was for 3-5 players. There was an expansion that included support for 6-7 players which added the 4 (Cocoa), 22(Wax) and 24(Coffee) beans. This expansion was included for the english language release of the game by Rio Grande Games.

One can make an assumption that between the release of the expansion in 1997 and the Rio Grande version in English (2000) that it was felt that the additional cards led to a longer, possibly less satisfying game. The variations based on number of players appears to be an attempt to improve, and definitely shorten the game (particularly with < 6 players).

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Well, with 3 players, it is guaranteed that at least 1 player will draw more than 1 cocoa bean, which is a large advantage.

With increasing numbers of players, it seems likely that they would just get thrown away. Not sure if either of these thoughts were what the game designers were actually thinking, but it's a theory.

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Yes, but you still have to wait long enough to get it and be lucky. With a lot of people they would definitely have a different role. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 18 '11 at 19:30
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