Run Your Own Tavern With Tavern Masters

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Guestwriter: Thessaly Chance

Tavern Masters is a card based game wherein each player is running his
or her own fantasy tavern.  Most gamers who play RPGs are very familiar
with the trope of the fantasy tavern, but rarely is the tavern itself
anything but a gateway to adventure.   In the Tavern Masters game, the
tavern itself is the focus, and I found it rather charming to think
about what goes on behind the scenes in the fantasy tavern I have so
often visited.   I was tempted to find ways to bring elements of this
game and put them into my other games!

Tavern Masters box and art © Dann Kriss Games

Tavern Masters box and art © Dann Kriss Games

But onto Tavern Masters itself.   The first thing you notice upon
opening the evocatively illustrated box, is that the components are
beautiful.   The illustrations on the cards are to me superior to those
found in the most popular trading card games on the market.  They really
evoke a fantasy world feel.   There are two decks in the basic game,
tavern cards and patron cards.   All are beautiful.   This reviewer
received the expansions, Dirty Deeds, and the actual metal coin set.
The standard box comes with cardboard currency.   The metal coins
obviously do not change the gameplay, but they very much contributed to
the atmospherics of the game.

The goal of the game is for players to attract patrons to their
tavern.   Points are scored by having and retaining patrons.   Higher
class patrons tend to bring more points at the end of the day when the
till is counted. The tavernmaster must use his initially allotted 5
pieces of gold to purchase items that will attract customers and keep
them in the tavern, preventing them from going elsewhere.  So a
barbarian patron might be attracted to any tavern which serves mead, but
will only remain in the tavern longer than a single round of play if a
sexy wench is present.   A gambler will perhaps enter a tavern for wine,
but will only remain beyond the first round if some form of gaming is

To some extent, winning the basic game is dependent on luck.   When
initial cards are drawn one player might not have anything that will
attract the initial cards drawn from the patron deck, while another
player might draw very well and be able to attract and retain customers
from the very first round.  Some strategy is involved with regards to
what a player might decide to spend his initial coin on, whether elven
wine or plates of cheese, but if the customers drawn from the customer
deck are not attracted by those particular items, that player will be
out of luck.

The youngest member of our circle of gamers, the 10 year old, really
likes this basic game.   It didn’t hurt that he has been lucky in his
initial card draws, and Magnus likes games that he wins.   Despite
however, the beautiful game components and the relaxed gameplay of the
basic game, my group would have set the game aside after a few plays if
not for the Dirty Deeds deck which expands on the basic game.

The Dirty Deeds deck allows players to sabotage the progress of other
players, whether by infesting their tavern with rats, or playing a wily
Halfling thief to steal from their till.   The dirty deeds deck brought
a degree of strategy to our play that did not exist in the basic game.
If part of what you enjoy about games is making the other players groan
in addition to just winning, then the Dirty Deeds deck is the utensil
you need to take this game from a single night’s diversion, to a game
that sees repeated play at the table over the long term.   The Dirty
Deeds deck was the key to making me want to keep this game in my
collection.    In short, Tavern Masters is a beautiful, well thought out
and very playable game  with a fun theme.  Younger players and more
casual gamers will enjoy the basic game straight out of the box, and the
Dirty Deeds addition will make this a game that your more hardcore,
strategy based gamers will reach for again and again.   We very much
enjoy this game, and I believe it will see frequent play once it adorns
your shelf.

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