Café Card Game Review

Essentially some of the game will try to simulate the real life experience, simplify them into a gameplay. The subject can be taken from work or daily life.

The next game tried to capture what happened in coffee industry from cultivating the beans until delivering them to coffee shops. Specifically, based on the designer’s background, it takes the settings of several countries with Portuguese culture.

Café or Coffee in Portuguese, is another card game in a small box that uses card layering mechanism. It is a competitive game but it can also be played in solo mode.

So, what is this Café card game? How do we play the game? Is there any expansion for the game?

In this article, I’m going to share with you my Café card game review based on my experience and what I can find from the internet.

Hope this helps. Is Café going to be the best card game out there?

Click or tab on any sections from the table of contents to jump right to that part. Use the red arrow button on the bottom right corner of the screen to head back to the top.

Overview

Game’s Title: Café
Genre: Card Game, Card Drafting, Auction, Engine Building, Tableau Building, Action Points, Coffee Theme, Industry Theme, Competitive
Designer: Róla and Costa
Artist: Marina Costa
Publisher: PYTHAGORAS (pythagoras.pt)
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Official Website:  Café (BGG)

Release Year: 2020
Initial Price: $25

Contents:
2 Rulebooks (PT/ES and EN/DE)
54 Cards (81 x 121 mm):
Initial Cards (4)
Company Cards (4)
Unique Plan Cards (48)
1 Master Token
4 Player Cubes
140 Coffee Cubes (35 for each 4 colors)

About Café Card Game

In Portuguese, the word Café means Coffee, not like a cafeteria. The game offers a bit of historical story related to the origin of coffee industry in Portuguese culture.

In this game, we are playing as a company that produce, process and deliver coffee to either our warehouse or coffee shops. We start very small, which we can only produce 3 types of coffee bean and limited way to dry and roast those beans.

As the game progresses, we can expand the company that allow us to increase the production or the processing output. Some allow us to become more productive and efficient which in the game terms, we get more action points to spend each turn.

However, at the same time, expanding will require us to sacrifice some of the existing part of the company. Maybe we can produce less number or just less types of beans in order to increase the drying or the roasting output.

Sometimes, we have the chance to add our own coffee shops which we can deliver our production to and make some profit. In the game terms, that means we can score more points.

It is like we are creating an engine which we have to balance the efficiency of each 4 aspects, Producing, Drying, Roasting and Delivering. The whole process is linear. If we only focus on one, the entire production chain will get stuck and become inefficient.

We are doing this using the melding and splaying card game mechanism. Each card will have 2 x 3 grid with each box will have an icon that indicates one of the process in production chain.

Each round,  we will take one new card and add that card to our existing tableau. The rule is, we have to add a new card by placing on top of the existing one and we need to cover between 2 to 4 of the existing boxes.

The ones we are covering are the aspects of the production chain that will be sacrificed. The idea is to make each aspect more efficient by adding the same icon right next to each other.

Managing the spatial elements of each aspect is just to make the process become efficient. That is also just half of the game. The other half is we have to activate the engine we have created along the way.

We can only activate one aspect, not the entire engine for each action point we have. The amount of action point can be increased over time by adding a cup of coffee icon to the tableau.

Another thing that we have to manage is to manage the goods that we have been producing. If we can deliver the right type of coffee beans to coffee shops, we can score points immediately.

Otherwise they are stuck in our warehouse. From the 4 type of coffee beans, only the two types with the lowest amount in our storage will contribute to score.

Overall, Café is just a small, filler game. We can play very fast but has a lot depth for each action we can take.

The game was designed by Portuguese designer duo, José Carlos Santos (Róla) and Luis Costa. This is their 3rd game.

I don’t know why but the publisher doesn’t have an official webpage for this game on their website. We can still contact the designer on BGG and they have been very active answering questions, not just in English.

They do have a YouTube channel with some introductory video for their game. This next one is for Café.

Components

What are the components to play Café card game? They come in a small box with the size of 18.3 x 13.1 x 4.5 cm.

Inside the box, there is a paper insert which create two asymmetric compartments. The slightly bigger one is for the big size cards and the smaller one contains three plastic zip lock bags for cubes and a big token.

Clearly we cannot switch components between both sides. The insert from my copy got torn a bit for the middle part but it is not a big deal. They also include some silica gel for each plastic bag.

The game only uses cards of one size, which is 81 x 121 mm. Some people say that the sleeve for Dixit size card (80 x 120 mm) will fit. However, I think they will be very tight and only if we use non premium sleeve like Sleeve Kings.

I have not tried this but it seems they can fit but we may have trouble putting the cards with sleeve into the insert. So far, without sleeve, I have to dump all of the cards from the box because it is already hard just to pick a single card at the bottom of the insert.

Also, some concerns about using sleeve. Usually it will be easier for cards with sleeve to slide with each other. Considering that this is a game where we have to lay one card on top of each other, maybe with just a single bump and it can ruin the whole tableau.

There are 2 rulebooks but each book has two languages. The game itself is language independent.

The Rulebooks

As mentioned before, there are 2 rulebooks but each of them are the same just with different languages. The first book is Portuguese / Spanish and the second book is English / German.

We can see the flag to indicate the language at the middle top of the first page for each version. Unfortunately, we cannot separate each book into two without cutting them.

We can find the digital file for the rulebook here. To download, we just need to create a free account on BGG. Aside from the four official languages from the printed version, other users have also uploaded  the French and Dutch version.

Essentially, the rulebook has just 12 pages. Here are the table of contents.

Game Description (Page 1). This explains a brief story about the setting of the game which we can find from the back of the box as well.

Game Objective (Page 1). This is the summary of what the player will be doing in general.

Contents (Page 2). This page describes the components and the explanation of each attributes of the cards with illustrations.

Setup (Page 3). This page explain the step by step setup for the game with illustrations as well. We can find the different number of cards being used for different player count from 1 to 4 players from this page.

Game Round (Page 4). This page explains the step by step overall gameplay that will happen each round. There are 4 steps each round and the game will end after 8 rounds.

Card Placement (Page 4 to 5). These are the rules of how we can place a new card, add them to the existing one. The second page gives some examples with illustrations.

Action (Page 6 to 9). This section explains all of the 4 possible actions that the player can take by spending an Action Point. Each action has several examples with further explanations.

General Rule (Page 10). These are additional rules of what may or may not be done after placing a new card or taking any of the action.

Game End and Scoring (Page 10 to 11). Since the game will always end the same way, this is more how to count the score from either the coffee shop or the warehouse. The second page also gives some example.

Advanced Variant (Page 11 to 12). This is a variant for multiplayer mode that introduce auction mechanism for deciding who will be the next master. This will affect the turn order of drafting the card..

Credits(Page 12). We can find out the team who develop this game and some contact info about the publisher.

I think so far the rulebook does a great job explaining maybe almost everything essential from the game.

The questions from the player so far are mostly about the Deliver action which is a bit different than the rest of other possible actions. There is an explanation for that in the rulebook Page 9 at the bottom.

One of the missing explanation is when a player cannot afford to pay the new plan card with a cup icon. The designer answered that here.

Master Token

Other than the card, this is probably the biggest component of this Café card game. This is a wooden big pawn with gold color which is called the MASTER TOKEN. The diameter is about 2 cm and the height is about 4 cm.

Of course the token itself is not necessary. It is more about production value. The size is big enough, which is good, considering that it will be handed over multiple times. We can always replace it with other game piece if we need.

In other games, we might consider it as the first player token. However, from the basic rule, the player who has this is actually become the last player to take cards and actions. In the advanced rule, it actually does make sense to be considered as the first player token.

Rahdo says he asked the designer the reason for that. The intention was so the one who has this token can make sure that the other player can take their actions properly.

While the game start with rather simple, as the game progresses, the action we can take can become very complicated. We can do up to 8 actions in this game and it is very easy to forget how many actions we have done.

How we process the coffee bean is a linear process from producing to delivering but the order of the actions we do here doesn’t depend on that.

I have to admit that when I play the solo mode, I wish there is another player that can help me track my actions. Especially when I take back after taking some actions.

We will not use this token for the solo mode.

On the other hand, that also means, that we don’t perform the action simultaneously. Otherwise even the Master will be very busy taking his or her own actions.

The rule doesn’t say anything. In fact, it only suggests that the idea of checking the other player only happens during the card drafting. There is no statement about whether players taking action is done simultaneously or not.

I think I like the idea from the designer, if that is true. But they definitely need to explain that a bit.

Player’s Action Tracker

Each player will get one big white wooden cube. This is to track the action points that the player have. We will be placing this cube on the player mat or COMPANY CARDS (see below), moving the cube to indicate that we have spent the action points.

The size of the cube is about 1 cm. It is a generic piece which we can buy probably from local game store. Not that it is necessary but each cube that I got is not perfect. One seems to be slightly bigger than others.

I do think we need this piece to play but not necessary about the size or the color. If we want to use different pieces, it must not exceed the footprint of 2.5 x 1.5 cm and preferably not using a brown color or similar. That is the size of the tracker from the Company Card.

If we only play solo or 2 players at most, then we will not be using all of these cubes.

Coffee Bean Cubes

The game also comes with 140 smaller wooden cubes. Each has the size of 0.7 cm with four different colors, RED, GREEN, YELLOW and BROWN.

For thematic flavor, the designer says that the red represents Liberica, green for Excelsa, yellow for Arabica and brown for Robusta.

While the thematic touch is nice but I think the brown color can be a bit of an issue for the gameplay. Especially when we place the cubes on the coffee shops icon. Not really a big deal though.

Every coffee shop icons has a great illustration but all of them are monochromatic in brown color. So, from certain angle, the cube can actually blend in. We might want to place the cube in the white blank area instead on the illustration.

The issue is if we have to move all of the cards from the tableau because we have not enough table space to expand. Some cards may have some cubes on them. Maybe the brown one can get knocked off from other grid and landed on the coffee shop.

For other icons, they have enough white space to place the cubes without having the brown cubes blended in. It could happen with the roaster but very less likely.

We definitely don’t need that many cubes for each color, especially if we play mostly with lower player count. However, the game suggests and provide a way where the game may not have enough cubes for 4 players.

The cube itself is also a generic game pieces that we can buy from local game store. However, I’m not sure we will get the same exact color as them. I think the choice of color scheme is great to make the game rather monochromatic like instead of just red, they use a rather raspberry or crimson.

I want to say that we can also replace these cubes with other game pieces but it will require the same amount of cubes. The size has to be as small as these though or we will have trouble using the multiplier.

Like the white cube before, none of the cube will have the same exact size. Some can be slightly bigger than others, not that it will affect the gameplay though.

Another issue with the use of these cubes is that we cannot play the game  just anywhere. The chance of losing them is very high. This is also what makes the game not suitable for kids under 3 years old.

In the box, if we want to keep the insert, we have a space of 12 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm. If we can find small plastic box or boxes that can fit that size that would be ideal to replace these zip lock bags.

Maybe a container for jewelry, sewing kids or medicine. I suggest using the one where the lid can be separated from the base.

In this game, we have to place these cubes on the cards. We also have to move them from one part of the card to another as a result for activating an action.

Because we have to place these cubes on top of the card of this melding and splaying card game, we can only add new cards on top of the existing one. This is different from similar games where in those games we can add cards from the bottom as well.

It will be a big mess if we have to lift a lot of cards with cubes on them just to add card below the existing one.

Company Cards

In other games, this is like the player’s mat. There are four of them to support 4 players. Each has its own name, BRASIL, ANGOLA, TIMOR and SAOTOME E PRINCIPE.

These are the name of the countries with Portuguese culture. Other than the name, the other part of the card remains identical from one to another.

However, the 4 initial cards which the player will use one with the same name as the company, will be slightly different. More about this later.

There are 2 main parts we can find from the Company Cards. The top has numbers from zero to 8. This is the action point trackers.

In the game, each round, the player will count the number of action points they get from their tableau. Then, the player place the white cube on the corresponding number. This indicates the number of actions the player can activate for the given round.

The lower part of the card is the multiplier that was mentioned before. We can see the 4 different coffee beans and the “x5” multiplier icon. What it means is, any cubes we place on this part represents 5 cubes of the given color in the warehouse.

If we have less than 5, the game suggests to place the cube right below that part, outside the card. So, each player will need extra room in front of them aside from this card.

Initial Cards

These are the four cards that a player will start building their tableau with. At the front, they are like the Plan cards with 2 x 3  grid and six icons, which we will discuss later.

At the back, each card will have one of the 4 Company’s logo. The game suggests that a player should take the one that match with their Company Card.

Regardless of the Company, we can actually say that these 4 cards are almost identical. Each starts with 3 types of coffee bean icons, a cup icon, a drying icon and a roasting icon.

The roasting one is always in the corner, right next to the drying and a cup icon. In this type of game, we can expand our tableau in any way. We can even rotate the card so the icon will look upside down to us.

So, even if we rotate two of these cards, they have the same icon placement as the other two. What makes them different is then more about the type of coffee beans but it is not that different.

That means, it really doesn’t matter which card or which company we use. This is not like a different starting power. They only use different names, so they are not going to add a replay value to the game.

I can almost certainly say, it really doesn’t matter if we use the Initial Card that doesn’t match with the Company Card. Once we start the game, we cannot find out because the logo will be facing down.

In this game, on each round, we will get one additional Plan Card similar to this Initial Card and we need to place them on top of the existing card. We have to cover at least 2 squares up to 4 squares from the existing one.

At the start of the game, the existing card is only the Initial Card. Then the new card will become part of the existing during next round.

So, what makes the game different between each play is what the next Plan Card will be and how we are going to add them to our tableau. Each round player will take one of the three face up Plan Cards out of 48 different Unique plan cards.

Even though we have almost the same Initial Cards, the other player can take a totally different Plan cards than ours.

Unique Plan Cards

These 48 cards are the ones that we will take and add them to our tableau to expand our Coffee Company. Similar to the Initial Cards, each has 2 x 3 grid with icons.

The difference is that some of them may have empty squares. Some will have icons in all of the squares, some will have 1 up to 3 empty squares. Another different thing is that the Plan Cards will have 2 additional icons that the Initial Cards don’t have.

The first one is the SHIP icon. Any of these cards will only have 1 square with 1 ship each. In the game, if we can have 2 of these in our tableau, we can get a discount when adding a card with a cup icon which give us extra Action Points.

The second one is the SHOP icons. This allows us to score points if we can deliver the right type and number of roasted coffee beans and we can keep them there until the end of the round.

Each SHOP icon can occupy one up to 2 squares on the card, vertically or horizontally. If we want to get points at the end of the game from these icons, we are not allowed to cover them, even if just one square.

Other than those 2 icons, we will find up to 3 coffee beans, a cup, a roast or a dry icon, and up to 3 empty squares on each card.

In this game, to add a new card to our existing tableau, the new card must cover at least 2 squares. That means we have to sacrifice some of the existing functionality.

It is not just what icons we can get from the new card that we  need to consider but what we will be losing as well. The next thing we want to aim is to put the same drying or roast icons next to each other.

By doing so, we can activate two or more of those adjacent icons with a single Action Points. We can also get the same benefit with Bean icons but they are probably the first thing we should sacrifice other than empty space.

We don’t get the same benefit for the Cup icon. However, getting more Cup allow us to gain more Action Points. Moreover, if we can keep those Cup in later rounds, we can get up to 8 actions during later rounds.

At the bottom right corner of each icon, except for CUP and SHIP, we can see a letter of either A (Produce), B (Dry), C (Roast) or D (Deliver). These letters indicates the type of action we can do if we have the corresponding icon from our tableau.

In this game, we can do any action in any order. However, we have to process the resource, in this case, the coffees in linear alphabetical order.

We start with A or producing the beans, then B, dry them then C, roast them, and finally deliver them into either the Coffee Shop or Warehouse.

I guess the Company Cards should have a letter D to indicate the warehouse for Deliver action.

Just a reminder, these cards can be very heavy, considering we have to shuffle them for the setup. Of course we don’t really need to shuffle them thoroughly like in set collection card game.

Also, I don’t know if this is on purpose but all of the cards have some beige spots so the white background is not really clean. I think the same goes for the rulebook but on the rulebook they are less apparent because the background is not white.

Star Icon

At the back of some of these cards, there is a STAR icon. There are 8 of them.

For lower player counts, we will be removing these cards from the game. We will not be using them at all unless we play with full 4 players.

I think they are just to make it easier to setup. Maybe these cards are considered as not that interesting.

Some have a lot of empty squares, or just a combination of CUP and beans. There are some exceptions but I can see that these cards are less likely to be picked out of 3 available ones for each player.

That means the real replay value comes from the other 40 cards. In solo mode, we will only use 24 of these each time, 32 for 2 players, but all 40 for 3 players. For 4 players, then, we also add the 8 cards with the star.

Even if we will see all of the cards, we will not know the order of how they come out. Maybe we will start immediately with those that have Coffee Shop or we will not find them at all until the last round.

It is still possible that from the three that any player can draft, none of them will be very good while the other player may have all 3 good cards. This is a typical issue for any card game with just a single deck.

I think this star icon is not really a good idea. For one thing, when it is face down, that means we know that the next card is probably not that good when we see a star icon.

The other thing is when we want to shuffle the card, maybe to play again. The front side of the card is not orientation dependent. However, if then when we want to separate the cards from the ones with stars, it is hard.

Eventually I have to rotate all of the cards to the same orientation to make sure I can see the stars from the same spot. This is a big card. We cannot just like spreading the cards hoping not to miss any of those stars if we don’t put them in the same orientation.

What I want to say is that they should have used bigger signs or just totally different back side. Alternatively, they can put the sign at the front side replacing one of the empty squares which will have no meaning in the gameplay.

The Numbers

Here are some numbers about each icons. This is just from the Unique Plan Cards not the Initial Cards.

There are 16 cards that have ROAST icon on them. Six of them also has a CUP icon. Only one card with ROAST icon will have a DRY icon as well.

Five of these will have a COFFEE SHOP which 2 of them will also have CUP.

Five of these cards with ROAST, also have a SHIP icon. One of them has both SHIP and CUP icon.

For DRY icon, there are 16 cards. Five of them will have a SHIP icon as well. Six of them will have a CUP. One card of these will also have both CUP and SHIP.

Five of these will have a COFFEE SHOP.

For CUP icon, there are 25 cards that have this icon. Only 4 of them will have nothing but beans. 10 of these will also have COFFEE SHOP which 1 of them will also have a SHIP.

There are 12 cards that will have this SHIP icon. 2 of them will have a COFFEE SHOP and 1 of these will have a CUP as well. Five of them will have either ROAST or DRY from which 1 of them will have a CUP as well.

23 cards or almost half the Plan cards will have COFFEE SHOP icon. More about this next.

Icon Placements

Not only we have to consider the icons we are getting from the new cards but we also need to consider two things. How easy it is to add the new card to the tableau and how easy it is to expand later.

That means, the placement of the icons within the 2 x 3 grid is also important. Regarding how easy it is to expand later, the easiest card should be the one where we don’t really mind if the icons are covered later.

This can comes from either empty squares or for me, beans as the next one to cover. It is not impossible to cover the other non bean icons but then we will have less possible actions.

The game forces us to cover at least 2 squares up to 4. Obviously we want to cover as little as possible. Sure, sometimes covering other type of icons can be a better move.

With that in mind, there are 14 cards with just exactly 1 spot where we will be covering either empty squares or up to 2 beans. 18 cards allow us to have 2 placements with the same criteria and 8 cards for 3 placements.

The next thing we need to consider is how to make each action more efficient by placing the same icon right next to each other. This is mostly for Drying and Roasting action.

I think, it is easier to expand if the existing one is in the middle grid. On the other hand, it will be easier to add new one if the icon is on the edge of the grid.

If this is true, I think the placement of Drying and Roast from the initial card can be a trap because the two of them are on the edge of the grid. The first one we can get rid is probably the drying because the roast icon has Cup icon right next to it for all of Initial cards.

Coffee Shop, Cup, and Ship don’t need any adjacency.  We can place them anywhere. It is more about how can we make sure that they will not be covered later when we want to expand.

I feel like it is easier if these 3 icons are on the edge of the grid. We then place them towards the center of the tableau and the other end is to expand.

Another consideration is how to get multiple icons from a single card while at the same time making sure that those icons will not be covered later. The game will always end after 8 rounds. Getting just one icon is wasteful even though that would sometimes be the best choice out of 3.

I think the best combination would be either Dry or Roast icon in the middle and other important icons gathered at one end. If both important icons are at both ends, we usually have to sacrifice one of them.

I think by understanding this, we can look at the cards differently. Instead of just 2 x3 grid with 6 squares, we can consider them as more like tetris pieces.

The possible combinations are: 4 -2 (can be both ways), 3 -3 long, 4L – 2 (can be both ways as well), 3- 3 corner, 2 x 1 which only the middle column is important. It is easier to branch out with 4L-2 or 3-3 corner or with 4-2 where the 2 is the important icons.

Combined that with trying to get the same icons of dry and roast adjacent, It is easier if we can get dry or roast icon in the middle column but they both have to be the end. If it is an L shape, we will end up covering the one additional icon.

At the start of the game, branching out is probably a good play. Trying to get 4 important icons early will only block our way to expand later.

All of the Coffee Shops

Shop: Loule 1929
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Yellow x1
Other Icons: Roast, Cup, 3 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1868
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Red x1
Other Icons: Ship, Cup, 2 Beans

Shop: Guimaraes 1953
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Yellow x 1
Other Icons: Cup, 1 Bean

Shop: Porto 1947
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Brown x 1
Other Icons: Cup, 3 beans

Shop: Viana do Castelo 1948
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Red x 1
Other Icons: Roast, Cup, 2 Beans

Shop: Vila Real 1925
VP: 2
Occupied Square: 1
Coffee Beans: Green x1
Other Icons: Dry, 2 Beans

Shop: Braga 1871
VP: 3
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Yellow x1, Brown x1
Other Icons: Dry, 1 Bean

Shop: Evora 1942
VP: 3
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Green x1, Brown x1
Other Icons: Cup, 2 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1937
VP: 3
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x1, Yellow x1
Other Icons: Cup, 1 Bean

Shop: Portalegre 1936
VP: 3
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x1, Green x1
Other Icons: Cup, 1 Bean

Shop: Tomar 1911
VP: 4
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Yellow x2
Other Icons: Cup, 1 Bean

Shop: Porto 1933
VP: 4
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x1, Brown x1, Yellow x1
Other Icons: Cup, 2 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1922
VP: 4
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Green x2
Other Icons: Roast, 2 Beans

Shop: Porto 1921
VP: 4
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x2, Green x1
Other Icons: 3 Beans

Shop: Porto 1909
VP: 4
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Brown x2
Other Icons: Ship, 3 Beans

Shop: Braga 1907
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Brown x 1, Green x2
Other Icons: Cup, Bean

Shop: Faro 1908
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Green x1, Yellow x2
Other Icons: Dry, 2 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1782
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Green x2, Yellow x1
Other Icons: Dry, 1 Bean

Shop: Lisboa 1829
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x1, Brown x2
Other Icons: Cup, 2 Beans

Shop: Coimbra 1923
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Red x1, Brown x2
Other Icons: Roast, 2 Beans

Shop: Amarante 1920
VP: 5
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Red x2, Yellow x1
Other Icons: Dry, 2 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1905
VP: 6
Occupied Square: 2 Vertical
Coffee Beans: Yellow x1, Brown x1, Green x2
Other Icons: 3 Beans

Shop: Lisboa 1935
VP: 6
Occupied Square: 2 Horizontal
Coffee Beans: Red x2, Yellow x1, Brown x1
Other Icons: Roast, 3 Beans

Coffee Shops with 6 VP always require 4 beans and always 3 beans for the 5 VP. That means, trying to get the 5 VP is always better than the one with 6. Each beans will worth more points.

Those that are worth 4 VP can require either 2 or 3 beans. So, if we can, we should try to get the one that require less. 2VP per bean is probably the highest rate, which is tied with the 2VP coffee shop.

For the 3 VP, the coffee shop always require 2 beans and a single bean for all of the 2 VP. The 2 VP will grant the highest VP per bean and they are very easy to build, deliver and to keep them.

Between the 6 VP and the 3VP coffee shops, the bean is worth the same. It is a matter of keeping a single coffee shop but takes longer to deliver. Or, we can choose the shorter one but 2 coffee shops.

None of these cards with a coffee shop has a STAR at the back of the card. That means with lower player count, we will more likely to find these cards

Also, apparently there are not much of variety for the name of the coffee shops. I guess that is more of the name of the city rather than the coffee shop itself.

So, there are a lot of things we need to consider just from the card draw. This is the important aspect of the game. How we take action is another thing but this part can help how we activate the action later.

We eventually have to sacrifice something and we just need to make sure we are covering the least important icons from the card.

Those are all of the components to play a card game of Café.

How to Play

Café card game is a competitive game that supports up to 4 players. However, we can also play solo with the same rule.

It is basically competitive multiplayer solitaire. For the solo mode, we play like multiplayer mode just to beat our own score.

The only difference is the setup. Different player count will use different number of Unique Plan Cards.

The next video is from Before You Play YouTube channel. They will explain the rules and playthrough the whole session in 2 player mode.

Setup

First, place all of the COFFEE CUBES into 4 supply piles. We then place them in the reach of all players.

Second, each player will take a COMPANY CARD. We then place the card on the table in front of us, leaving some extra room for the WAREHOUSE below the Company Card.

Third, we then take an INITIAL CARD that has the same logo as the Company card. The logo can be found at the back of the card. This will be the starting tableau or as the rule call it the player’s business area.

We place the card in front of us or the player. Since we will be expanding this tableau in any direction, we have to make sure there is enough room around the card.

Fourth, each player will take a PLAYER WHITE CUBE. We then place it on the Company card on the space with number 1 from the action points tracker.

Fifth, each player then take one COFFEE CUBE of each color from the supply. We add them into our WAREHOUSE area, which is right below the Company Card.

Sixth, we now need to setup the UNIQUE PLAN CARDS. We will be using different number of cards from the game depending on the player count as the following rule:

4 Players: use all of the 48 cards.
3 Players: Remove all of the cards with a STAR ICON at the back of the card.
2 Players: Remove all of the cards with a STAR ICON at the back of the card plus another 8 cards chosen randomly. That means we remove a total of 16 cards.
1 Player: Remove all of the cards with a STAR ICON at the back of the card plus another 16 cards chosen randomly. That means we remove a total of 24 cards.

We can return the unused card to the game box. Then we shuffle the other into a single deck and place the deck face down right near the cube piles. We also need to spare some table space for 3 cards that will be displayed each round.

Seventh, finally we can decide who will be the first player or the Master and give that player the MASTER TOKEN. The rule suggests the one who recently had a cup of coffee or just randomly.

For the solo mode, we don’t need to use the Master token.

That is the setup and we are ready to play.

Gameplay

Regardless of the number of players, the game will be over after 8 rounds, or when the deck no longer have any card. Each round, players will do two things.

First, they draft one card from the display and add that card to their own tableau. Each player will take turns doing this part.

Second, that player can perform one or more actions, up to equal number to the action points they have and that is the end of their turn. This part can be done simultaneously.

After all of the players has done, that is the end of the round. The MASTER TOKEN will be passed to the next player on the left and a new round begins.

Here is how each round works.

Step 1 – Drafting Card

The Master will draw 3 cards from the deck and put them into the display face up. Then, the Master will instruct the next player to choose one of them and that player can put them into their tableau.

Right after that, the Master will draw one more card to replace the taken one and instruct the next second player to choose from the 3 again. The Master will also draft a card from the three as the last player of the round.

After that, the remaining two will be discarded.

In Solo mode, there is no other player so we can draft immediately and discard the rest.

Step 2 – Pay a Plan Card

If any player choose a card from the display that has a CUP ICON, they will have to pay with a single Coffee Cube from their warehouse. This is a one time payment.

It doesn’t matter which color but what we have in the warehouse at the end of the game will affect the scoring later. See below.

To pay, we simply return the coffee cube to the general supply.

If we don’t have any cube from the warehouse to pay, we simply take the card from the display and immediately discard.

DISCOUNT. We can get a discount if we have 2 visible SHIP ICONS in our tableau. That means we don’t have to pay again the next time we take card with  A CUP ICON as long as the ship icons remain visible.

The ship icon from the new card doesn’t count for the current round. If it has the second ship icon and the cup icon, we still need to pay.

Step 3 – Add the Plan Card to the Tableau

Each player can add the new card to their tableau by following several rules.

One. All of the cards are considered to have 6 squares even though some icons may occupy more than one square from the grid. We can cover those icons partially.

Two. The new card can only be placed ON TOP of the existing one. We are not allowed to slide the new card from under.

Three. The new card has to cover at least 2 VISIBLE squares up to 4 squares of the existing cards from the tableau. The covered squares can come from several cards.

Four. We can rotate the card and place it in any direction.

Five. If the new card will cover any square that has cube on it, the cubes will be removed and returned to the general supply.

Six. We are NOT ALLOWED to have NO VISIBLE CUP ICON at all from our tableau right after we place the new card. That means, we need to have at least a single Action Points each round.

Step 4 – Adjust the Action Points

After we are done placing the new card to the tableau, we need to adjust the Action Points we get. Each VISIBLE CUP ICON from the tableau means a single action point.

We move the WHITE PLAYER CUBE on the Company Card to the space with the corresponding number.

The maximum action points we can get is 8.

Step 5 – Perform The Actions

As mentioned before, this part can be done simultaneously. We don’t have to wait for the other players but they can help us keep track later with more complicated actions.

There are 4 possible actions that we can do in this game. Each action will require us to spend a single Action Point.

Player can choose not to spend any Action Point during their turn. However, this will not be carried over to the next and considered as lost.

Since the action can be complicated, remember to DO THE ACTION and ADJUST THE ACTION POINTS TRACKER. If we mix the order between each action, it is very easy to forget.

Once every player has done taking actions, they can proceed to start a new round or go to scoring if there is no card left from the deck.

Here are all of the possible actions.

A – PRODUCE

With this action, we activate one square with a Coffee Bean icon or letter “A” by spending a single Action point. We simply take a Coffee Cube from  the general supply and put it to the matching square from our tableau.

If there is a cluster of orthogonally adjacent bean squares, we can produce all of them with just a single action point. Later in the game, there is a chance that one of these clustered square will already have a bean on it.

In that case, we are not allowed to add more cubes on the square that already has one. We can still activate and produce for the other squares.

That means, each square with a letter A will always have at most a single cube. Any cube from these squares can either go to DRY or back to general supply.

ADJUST THE ACTION POINT TRACKER after spending an action point.

B – DRY

With this action, we can put the produced beans into the drying process. What it means is we simply take all of the cubes of a single color or bean type from all the A squares in tableau and put them on the B square.

That means, the B square or Drying icon can have more than one cube but always from one color. However, if the square already has some cubes, we cannot add again in later actions.

We need to move those existing beans to the Roast icon first, see below. Then, we can use the DRY action again to the empty DRY square with new cubes from any one color.

If there is a cluster of orthogonally adjacent DRY squares, we can activate all of them using a single action point. That means, with a single point we can dry more than one type of coffee beans.

Any cubes on B squares will either go to Roast or get discarded back to general supply. If we think that we need to use the dry square right away for another color, we can discard the existing cubes. That is not considered as spending any Action Point.

ADJUST THE ACTION POINT TRACKER after spending an action point.

C – ROAST

With this action we can roast the dried coffee beans. We take all of the cubes of one color from one or more dry squares and put them into a single roast square.

That means any Roast square can have one or more cubes of the same color. Similar to Dry square, if any roast square already has a cube on it, we cannot add more even if the cubes are from the same color.

We need to deliver the roasted beans first and then we can roast a new set of dried beans of any one color. Also, if there is a cluster of orthogonally adjacent Roast squares, we can activate all of them using a single Action Point.

Each of them will roast a set of coffee beans of one color.

Any cubes on these C or Roast squares will either go to WAREHOUSE, COFFEE SHOP or back to general supply. If we think that we need the roast square right away for another color, we can discard the existing cubes. That is not considered as spending any Action Point.

ADJUST THE ACTION POINT TRACKER after spending an action point.

D – DELIVER

With this action, we can deliver the coffee beans from Roast squares to either our own warehouse or coffee shop of our own tableau. We simply move those cubes. Deliver action is a bit different than roast or dry.

As long as any cubes of any type are ready on all of the ROAST squares, we can deliver them. However, once they have gone to Warehouse, we cannot spend them for the Coffee Shop later.

Which is why, sometimes we want to wait before activating this action. If we send to the warehouse it will either become scoring later or to pay for a Cup icon in the next round.

For the Coffee shop, the shop has to be completely visible if we want to send the beans there. If it requires more than one cube, we can do one at a time and add the rest in later rounds.

By completing the required coffee beans for the shop, we can score Victory Points at the end of the game. However, we still need to keep the whole shop visible until the end of the game.

Covering the shop partially or completely after we have delivered all of the beans will not get us the point during scoring.

ADJUST THE ACTION POINT TRACKER after spending an action point.

Game End and Scoring

The game ends after all players have performed their actions of the 8th or final round. We can then enter the scoring phase.

The score comes from two parts, the COFFEE SHOPS and the WAREHOUSE.

As mentioned before, if we want to get score from Coffee Shops, we need to deliver all of the required coffee beans and keep the shop visible until this phase. If we cover the square partially or completely even after we have delivered all of the beans, we will not score any point.

The number in orange star from the Coffee Shop square is the Victory Points.

For the WAREHOUSE, we will only score from 2 types with the least number of beans. This includes the type or color that doesn’t have any cube in the warehouse

The color with the fewest cubes will score 2 points for each cube of that color. Then the next color with the second fewest cubes will score 1 point for each cube of that color.

If the other color also have the same number of cubes with the second fewest cubes, we don’t score that, just choose one of them.

The player with the most points wins.

For the tie breaker, the player with the most cubes on Roast squares wins. If it is still a tie, then the player with the most cubes on dry square wins.

Then if it still a tie, both players share the win.

For the Solo mode, the designer suggests the following scoring group to achieve. We can find this from the forum here, nothing in the rulebook.

0 – 14: Poor
15 – 22: Average
23 – 29: Good
30 – 35: Very Good
36 – 40: Excellent
41+: Master

Advanced Variant

The rulebook also suggests an advanced variant which adds an auction mechanism to determine which player to be the MASTER at the beginning of each round.

So, this is just for multiplayer. In this variant, there will be no replenishing the display. We will use less number of cards compared to regular rules for the same player count.

Each round there will be a number of cards drawn from the deck equal to the number of players plus one. Whoever wins the auction become the Master and the first one to draft.

The current Master will start the opening bid and followed by other players going clockwise. Each player can pass or bid the same or higher.

To bid, we need to spend a cube from our Warehouse and go straight to the general supply whether we win or lose the bid. The next player doesn’t need to overbid, they can bid the same number of cubes.

There is no second place. The draft simply starts with the winner and going clockwise. If no one else is bidding, the Master remains the same.

By using the bidding mechanism, the fee to buy a card with a CUP icon is removed. On the other hand, the SHIP icon can be used to store  a single cube which will be count for the auction.

Cubes on any SHIP squares will stay there until the end of the game. Or if we cover the square, the cube is removed. Either way, the cube goes back the warehouse and will be counted for scoring.

That is it with how to play Café card game.

Experience and Thoughts

First, about the advanced variant. I haven’t tried this but I think the idea is interesting but somehow it doesn’t seem like a very well thought variant. It feels like it is just going to prolong the game.

The cubes we can get in our warehouse is already limited at first. Then the cards can also become very luck swing. If one player is lucky enough, they can become the Master for the whole game.

Based on the printed rulebook, the Master Token will remains in one player even if all of the players decide to pass. I think they should at least move the token to the next player in the next round even if that player will not win the auction in the following round.

How the SHIP works in the advanced variant is more interesting though. I kind of wish that it is something that can be storing for a bit which can be used to supply the Coffee Shops in regular mode instead of the Warehouse.

For the regular mode, I mostly played the Solo mode. I think Café is mostly a competitive multiplayer solitaire. There is almost no player interaction.

The only interaction I can think is when the first player choose a card, the remaining card will be taken by the next players. There is a chance on deeper consideration there.

We can either get what we want for our tableau or trying to deny the other player to get what they want. However, I think, for the most part, players will be busy enough to care about what they can do with their tableau instead of messing the other players.

For the solo mode, I’m not sure about the score challenge from the designer. Either I play the game poorly or it is rather impossible to reach the Master level with higher than 41 points. I mostly got less than 30.

I think it can also depends on the order of the card from the deck. There is no card that really stands out where we can do way better if we get them than others.

Like any engine building type card game, if we get the right card early, we will do better. Otherwise, the game ends before we can run our engine at all. The SHIP icon can be very handy in earlier rounds.

For the Coffee Shops, we need them to score higher. We can take them early in the game and try to score later. However, this can prevent us to build an efficient engine. We might end up fail to deliver the required beans.

I think there are several strategy we can pursue in this game. Somehow, any of them will give the similar result or maybe we can consider it as balance.

First, I think the easier one would be to always get a Cup icon every round. This way we will get 8 Action Points for the last round. Of course we should still try to make the other action more efficient along the way.

Getting more actions points rather than focusing on efficiency will give us more flexibility. I once tried to make Dry and Roast very efficient.

We just need four of them each and if we can make a cluster, at the end of the game, we can get a complete coffee process from production to deliver with just 4 action points. So, we still need to have at least 4 Cups along the way.

The problems are that I had only 5 action points and I don’t produce enough coffee beans because beans are my first to sacrifice when adding the card. So from 5 action points, I used 2 for productions from 2 clusters of beans which is not that many as well.

For that session, I ended up just a bit over 20 points at the end of the game. It is fun though to make the engine works efficiently but sadly not as effective as I thought. I guess, we still need to get every aspect balance.

Of course, we don’t want just to get a card with just a Cup.

A key of tactical play is definitely the deliver. Unlike other action, we can activate at the end, and collect the beans from every roast squares with a single action points.

Maybe we should just get a lot of Roast squares and let the cubes stay there. If we really want efficiency maybe for the Dry actions.

My issue with the game is really how the actions we can do can be very complex. There is always a time when I forget how many action points that I have used so far. I ended up have to recount again, what was the first, second and third action.

The issue becomes worse if we try to take back the actions that we have done. Sometimes maybe there is another way that is more effective. We might want to really take some notes.

I do like the idea of the Master to help keep track the actions of another player. Yet, the rulebook suggests that the action can be done simultaneously. Still, it doesn’t really help for the solo mode.

I guess even though this is a multiplayer solitaire game, I can appreciate to have someone help me track my play and I can do it for them as well.

This is definitely a filler. We can play it fast but there will be a point where we have enough of it. However, I can see where I can come back to this once awhile. The experience is still a satisfying one looking how the we build the tableau and can run the engine.

Most of the cards are rather equal so even if it is possible to have bad random card draw but very unlikely we get 3 bad cards in a row. That could happen with cards that has star maybe but not all of them. Having 3 choices can mostly mitigate that.

At this time there is no expansion nor there is any announcement for upcoming one. If they want to add more cards, the game needs more interesting new icons. But for that, we may have to play the game longer.

Maybe they can do something like Oh My Goods! card game which I have written a review previously. They can add some kind of story campaign from the expansion that gives player some objectives to pursue during each session.

Maybe like we for one story, we need to focus on storing red and yellow beans in our warehouse. If they can do that, they can increase the replay value of this game. It is also a good one to improve the solo mode.

The game has decent replay value with the random order of the deck but it does have the potential to go that way.

Conclusion

Café card game is one of many games that has the melding and splaying mechanism to play. We’ll be using cards that has 2 x 3 grid with several different icons on them and build our tableau using those cards.

In this game, we are company of coffee industry that will be producing, processing and delivering the 4 different beans to the coffee shops to score points. Along the way we have to expand the company and making it more efficient by using these cards.

To add new cards, we have to put the new one on top of the previous ones. We also have to cover 2 of the 6 squares up to 4. So along the way, we have to sacrifice some existing part of the company to grow. It is not going to be an easy choice when choosing the new card.

That is just the first half of the game. The other half is that we need to manage the operational of this company. Each round, we can have one or more action points and we can spend them to activate one of 4 possible actions.

Each of these actions allows us to either produce the coffee beans, dry them, roast them or eventually deliver them. We will be using small cubes of 4 different color to represent the beans.

These beans will be placed on the cards and moved from one square for one process to the next square with different process. This makes the game unique compared to other melding and splaying card game.

To increase the productivity of our company we need to choose the card from the first half with the right icons that represent each of these actions.

We have to keep all of the coffee processing aspects balance because the coffee has to go through a series of linear process. Since we will have more from one aspect and maybe sacrifice the other for a while, the production chain may get stuck if we don’t manage them well.

We can also increase the efficiency of the process by gathering the same icons in our tableau. By doing so, we can spend a single action point to activate more than one process.

Café card game is mostly a multiplayer solitaire game with almost no player interactions except if we play the advanced variant. At the end, we just compare our scores so there is a solo mode of beating your own score.

Still, the process of building our tableau as an engine which we can run it is a very satisfying process. As the game progress and our engine has improved, the actions can be very complex.

The game always ends after 8 rounds. It is a filler which we can play the game under 30 minutes but with more players, that can add the playtime.

I think the replay value is a bit low for this game but there is a potential for expansion. We get random of 3 cards which we can choose one each round. However, most of the cards are a bit equal. What really matters to win the game is how we play the card.

Players will start with almost identical cards. The overall strategy will be the same but the tactical play because of different order of cards from the deck will give a different feel between each game.

For its size, I think Café is a nice game to try.

More Games

If this is not  game for you, there are still a lot of these great tabletop games whether card games or board games. We can find more alternatives from the forum like Board Game Geek or other websites about tabletop games.

Here are some that I think are similar to Café that I have played so far. Check the links to my review to find out more.

From the game that I have played, I think Oh My Goods, would be the closest one that is similar to Café. Both of them are engine building type and competitive game but this one has push your luck mechanism with industry as a theme in medieval setting.

The next similar games that I have played would be Fleet. It is also a card game with cubes, and some engine building experience. Auction is actually the main mechanism here. Instead of coffee, we get a fishing boat for the theme.

Peloponnes the Card Game has also a tableau building part with auction and civilization as the theme. However, the main focus of gameplay is to mitigate the disaster that can ruin the progress.

For a bigger game, I only played Imperial Settlers. This is a civilization themed engine building game where each player will start with different faction with its own unique power.

Tybor the Builder and Villages of Valeria are two card games with tableau building element and civilization as a theme but different settings. I think both of them offer better player interaction.

The rest of my list below are just card games. Most of them come in a small box.

Adventure of D, 2nd Ed. (Fantasy Adventure Card Game, Multi Game Modes)
The Big Book of Madness (Cooperative, Deck Building, Wizarding Theme)
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (Competitive, Civilization Building, Set Collection)
Hero Realms
 (Competitive, Card Game, Fantasy Theme, Deck Building)
Finished! (Solo only, Puzzle, Card Game)
Goblins vs Zombies (Tower Defense, Card Game, Fantasy Theme, Card Game)
Mandala (Area Control, 2 Player only, Abstract, Set Collection)
One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows (Dice Rolling, Fantasy Theme, Cooperative)

I will keep updating my website with more games. Find out the latest update from this Complete List.

Final Words

That is all I can share with you about Café, a card game. This is my first game with melding and splaying mechanism which is very popular at this point of time.

I probably have missed something. Please don’t hesitate to point that out and share what you know related to this game and I will update this article.

I keep saying that these tabletop games can be a good way to spend some time without looking at the screen of our gadget.  If we do have someone close, that we can play with, there are other games where we can play cooperatively or competitively but with more player interaction.

The game can be very fast or like a filler type or it can take hours to play.

So, what is your experience on playing this game? If you know other games similar or even better than this, please do share via the comment section below. I would love to learn and play that game, assuming I can get a copy.

This article is just my notes about what I can find from the internet. Hopefully this can help anybody who reads it.

Thanks for reading.

 

Mark M.

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