Bohnanza The Duel Review

By Chris / February 7, 2018
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Are you the best bean farmer in all the land? 

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Platforms

Android & iOS

Game Length

 20 Minutes

# of Players

1 - 2 

Game Publisher

Amigo Games

App Developer

@Digidiced

Our Rating

Multiplayer Options
  • Cross-platform
  • Asynchronous play
  • Random matchmaking
  • Local pass and play

Overview

Bohnanza The Duel is a two player set collection, hand management card game from renowned designer Uwe Rosenberg. The game is a two player variant of his popular Bohnanza game, pitting players against each other in a battle to build their bean farms and collect hard earned coins. Players draw, gift, bluff, play, and score their way through a game of competitive bean farming until the deck is empty, at which point the player with the most coins wins, this usually takes about 20 minutes.

Bohnanza The Duel has players planting bean cards in their fields to earn coins either through “Bohnuses” or by harvesting beans. Fans of the original Bohnanza will find many familiar aspects in The Duel. The bean cards are numbered six through twenty in increments of two and may only be played on top of an empty field, a card of matching number, or a card immediately preceding it in order. For example, a 12 card could be played on an empty field, another 12 card or a 10 card, but not an 8 card as that would be skipping or a 16 as that would be going out of order.

Players begin Bohnanza The Duel with a hand of five cards ordered from left to right. To begin a turn, the leftmost card must be played to the player's tableau in one of three available fields, either as the first card in the field or on top of an existing card. The player may optionally play the second leftmost card after playing the first. The next step is to draw three bean cards from the deck. After they are drawn, the player must gift one bean card of any number to their opponent, it may be one from the newly drawn cards, their existing hand, or a card they don't have at all (for a bluff). The opposing player may either accept the gift or counteroffer with a different bean card. This continues until a gift is accepted. No bean card may be offered twice so gifting can't go in endless circles. Should one player be caught in a bluff, they pay the opposing player a coin from their supply. After gifting, players must play any card they acquired during that phase, either from drawing or gifting. The player who drew cards may optionally discard one of those cards, but the gift card must always be played. The player then draws two bean cards and may optionally discard a Bohnus card. Finally, the player draws to make sure they have three Bohnus cards to end their turn. This continues until the card pile is depleted, at which point some final scoring occurs and the game ends.

The main points of Bohnanza The Duel are managing your ability to play the cards you must play, scoring your Bohnus cards, and harvesting at the right time so as not to waste cards. Since certain cards are forced to be played, it is important to keep your tableau flexible to accommodate what may be coming up next, or to offer up cards you don’t want to play as gifts to avoid the problem altogether. If you can't play a card you are forced to harvest a field for coins, which empties that field so the new card may be played. Harvesting rewards you with coins based on how many cards are in the field. Each type of bean has a different card-to-coin scale on the bottom which determines the payout for harvesting a field, the last card on the field is used for scoring. The numbers have large gaps between them, such as getting one coin for having three cards but needing six cards to earn two coins. Harvesting this field at five cards is inefficient as you will only receive one coin. Being cognizant of this and making sure you have a spot in your fields for your next card or have fields ready to be harvested is a key strategic element of the game.

The other major element is the Bohnus cards. These define a pattern of cards and when that pattern shows up on either player's fields, the Bohnus is scored with one coin plus however many cents displayed on the cards (100 cents rolls over to one coin). A Bohnus card might have two blue triangles followed by three red circles. To score this Bohnus a field must have two matching beans of any number, followed by three matching beans of the next number. The numbers don't matter, just the patterns. In this example a field of 8-8-10-10-10 would score the Bohnus. This pattern can occur anywhere in the field so there may be cards before that 8 or after the 10, it still scores. The best part about Bohnus cards are that each player's three cards are kept hidden. And since the pattern can show on either player's fields to score, you will often find yourself gifting cards to your enemy in an effort to trick them into scoring one of your Bohnus cards. Bohnus cards are automatically scored by the app and will even be scored immediately after drawing if the pattern is always out on the table.

That's a lot of explanation for a simple bean farming game. This is one that took me a little while for it to start clicking. The basic rules are simple to explain but it is more difficult to start to understand the strategic elements of how each aspect of the game plays off the others. Once it did click, however, I came away quite impressed with the depth this game offers. It's a treat to try to match wits with an opponent and bait them into finishing your Bohnus, pull off a bluff, or force them to harvest a field before they want to. For a game with only one direct player-to-player interaction per turn, Bohnanza The Duel can pack some bite.

Barrier to Entry

Bohnanza The Duel has a tutorial and a link to download the PDF for the physical game. The tutorial does a fine job stepping through the basic gameplay elements but it took a few games for the full picture to really start clicking for me. Initially I was confused as to what the different turn phases were. The app does a great job of signaling the current available/required options, but there aren't distinct phases called out in the game which led to some early confusion. Once I fully understood the rules, the strategy fell into place somewhat quickly, but between some confusion and a fairly odd theme, it did take a while for me to get there.

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Select a game type

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Main menu

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Start of a game

Look and Feel 

Fans of previous Digidiced ports will find the surroundings of Bohnanza The Duel quite familiar. The game borrows the same menu and matchmaking system from other Digidiced games, which is good as they are clean and easy to navigate once you know the layout. The game graphics are fine, albeit not the most exciting. The cards look good and the game has bright colors throughout which make for a pleasant visual experience.

The controls are a bit of a mixed bag. Most things are drag-and-drop as you would expect from a card game, but there are some oddities. Choosing which card to gift is a press-and-hold which was confusing at first as it’s the only action in the game that is controlled that way. Not a big deal, just odd. On the more nagging side, some of the drag-and-drops have odd or small target areas which are easy to miss when you first start playing. There are also some cases where you can’t see the entirety of your fields when making a decision. These are fairly minor annoyances, but they do seem like they should have been avoided and can cause some frustration while playing.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer has a few different options. You can play Ranked or Casual, which are either random matchmaking games or friend invite games, respectively. You can also play asynchronous games with a 24 hour timeout, or you can play a faster game with a short time limit for a real-time game. Like other Digidiced games, you can join up to five async games at once, you are placed as matches become available, we continue to love this feature. I have been able to find games on a consistent basis but sometimes the matchmaking takes a little while. You don’t have to wait around in the app unless you want to play a real-time game, so this isn’t a big deal, but don’t be surprised when you aren’t matched immediately. The game features working system notifications as well as online stat keeping and leaderboards. All in all, the multiplayer here is great, it’s super simple to start games and they play out as you would hope.

Bohnanza The Duel also offers a local pass-and-play option. It works fine, but the game really isn’t suited that well for this mode, in our opinion. The back-and-forth in gifting, in particular, requires too many device passing moments which really disrupts the game. It is enough to let you try the game out with a friend to introduce them, or even play in a pinch, but it seems unlikely that this will be a heavily used feature for many.

Single Player

Bohnanza The Duel has three difficulty settings to play against: Easy, Medium, and Hard. The game doesn’t use such boring labels though, instead opting for Billy the Kidney, Napolean Bohnaparte, and The Leguminator. We here at Pixelated Cardboard always enjoy some silly wordplay, so we fully support these AI names. Billy the Kidney is more difficult than most easy AIs, it will keep you challenged not only while you are just learning the rules, but a bit beyond that as you start to understand strategies. For my skill level, Napolean Bohnaparte is a fun challenge. I lose more often than not, but the games are close enough to remain fun. Maybe one day I will work my way up to excellently named Leguminator, but for now he simply destroys me like the pathetic bean farmer I am. The game does have stat/record keeping but only for online games, so I can’t tell you exactly how many games I’ve lost to the AI. Single player in Bohnanza The Duel is straightforward and well implemented, you will most likely find a challenging AI to play against which will provide a long supply of great games.

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Bean gifting

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Victory over the easiest AI bot!

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Should I take the 8?

What Else?

There’s not much else here, the game has no expansions so there are none in the app. The app doesn’t offer and any bonus features, it’s a straightforward port with some good AI bots to challenge you.

The Wrap Up

Bohnanza The Duel offers a strong port of a fun head-to-head game. The gameplay took a little while to really sink in for me, but I’ve found myself really enjoying the game after the initial hurdles. The odd theme and slightly confusing gameplay might turn off some, but if you stick around Bohnanza The Duel will reward you with a really smart back and forth game experience. The primary downsides of this app are the pestering control/display issues. The positives are a great, polished online matchmaking system and a great set of AI bots to keep you challenged.

Bohnanza fans and new players should find a lot to love about the well made Bohnanza The Duel app, although it might take a little time to get there.

What we like


- Very fun head-to-head game with surprising depth

- Great set of AI bots to keep you busy for a long time

- One of the simplest, most well implemented matchmaking systems out there

What we don't like


- Some control/display issues


- No single player stat/record keeping


- Took some for me to really get into the game


Our Rating

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