I'm Really Hungry For Strudel And Wine Now! - Grand Austria Hotel Review

It feels like a while since I did a review on a proper Euro game. I suppose you can count 7 Wonders: Duel, but that's quite light. Before that though, looking back on my blog, yeah it's been a while since I got a pure Euro into the works. Well, better sort that out hadn't we? After all I don't hate Euro's at all, I love them as much as Amerithrash games. They test your brain cells, incorporate some good themes and can be a good laugh as well at times. Of course there are exceptions to this rule <cough cough Power Kingdom Grid Builder>, but generally I like them. The more theme they pack the better, but again I love Terra Mystica as well as Tigris & Euphrates, but do you spot a theme there? I own quite a few solid Euro titles on the shelf and am always keen to add others providing they have what it takes.

Grand Austria Hotel is the newest venture from Lookout Games / Mayfair depending where you're from. Now their history has been pretty good in the past with Caverna & Snowdonia making it to my collection and Agricola and Patchwork being solid games also. Of course they've done a lot more, some of which I want to try (anyone near me want to show me Murano?). They seem to have a knack for making clean Euro's and by that I mean, ones that aren't all fiddly and flow nicely from start to finish. That's a good quality in a Euro game and one that makes me intrigued to try this new one out . . . plus it brings back memories of sitting on top of Schmittenhohe in Austria after walking up it on a hot summer's day eating strudel and goulash! Best holiday ever!



Designer: Simone Luciani & Virginio Gigli
Publisher: Lookout Games / Mayfair
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Time: 60-120 minutes
RRP: £47.99


What? No Goulash?


You are in charge of running a hotel in Austria, the best that can be, pulling in customers of all kinds and getting them to stay in your hotel rooms. First you will invite them to your cafe and serve them exactly what food and drink they require and then they will spend the night in one of your many rooms (because apparently that's how it works in the hotel industry). Fulfilling both of these tasks will grant you victory points, which of course is the crux of all Euro games. As well as pleasing your guests, there is also a need to appease the Emperor of your deeds. Impress him enough and you'll be rewarded, but ignore him and expect some punishment.


To achieve this you will acquire food and drink (cake, strudel, wine and coffee) for your kitchens, open up rooms in your hotel and hire staff who provide you with useful bonuses or end-game scoring opportunities. Of course all of this requires money as well which you'll have to manage carefully. The actions that allow you to do this are dealt with by rolling a collection of dice and allocating them out. Each action will yield greater benefits depending on how many dice are currently placed there so you will need to plan your turn. If you don't like what you see, you have the chance to wait and gamble on a re-roll once everyone else has finished their turn, but you may end up with a worse selection than before.


Play continues over several rounds with interim scoring opportunities throughout from the Emperor. Once the end is reached, everyone tallies up their points from objective tiles, food stock, money, staff bonuses and occupied rooms and have a guess who is the winner!


Teach Yourself German


Most of Grand Austria Hotel consists of boards and cards, but they're of a decent quality and should last a while without having to sleeve. However all the boards does mean that the game is a bit of a table hog. The dice are big, but pretty basic in their look and I wish that the food/drink wasn't represented by little cubes, but that's a typical Euro trait. Annoyingly I can't think of a decent way to represent the cubes using Stonemaier's Resource Treasure Chests, after all it's not like we asked for a Strudel token!


Credit has to go to the rulebook for the most part, it's well laid out, has pictorial diagrams including setup and is very easy to follow. I was actually quite surprised at how easily I had the game down after only 2-3 full rounds of doing a solo walkthrough. For what it gives you in depth it's surprisingly straightforward. However there is a small niggle that has to be addressed in regards to the index list for staff. Normally such lists are very useful and here they go the extra mile in including every single staff card description which is appreciated. . . BUT. . . like some other publishers they went that tiny bit too far into the thematic camp and used a special calligraphy font for the names, which incidentally as a nice touch are all written in their German translations on the cards. This creates a problem for anyone with normal sight trying to decipher them in the rulebook index, let alone anyone with bad eyesight. It's frustrating though thankfully most of the iconography can be figured out without too much issue, but seriously, don't sacrifice function for form.


Actions Always In Flux


I'm quite a fan usually of games where your choice of actions change every round and Grand Austria Hotel gives us that in the form of dice allocation. There are only six actions to choose from and the amount of dice on each action will influence your decision to take it or not. You may have a staff card you really want to get out, but there's only one "5" there and no "6"s, are you really going to pay the full cost? Suddenly there's a massive influx of cake and strudel up for grabs, maybe it's worth grabbing a load now in preparation for later? You're constantly weighing up these options in your head and when you remember that in essence you've only got 14 turns in total throughout the game, every one of them matters, but not to the extent that if you get it wrong at the start you're screwed for the game like some die-hard Euro's.

That being said, that can lead to a little analysis paralysis at times, but nothing that can't be mitigated. . . with one exception. Unless I find a group of exceptionally fast players I'll be reluctant to ever want to bring this out with 4 players again. The downtime can be too long to deal with at that point and as such the game length drags on past the point where I'm comfortable. Even though there's a decent amount to think about, it still boils down to 14 turns and you don't want the game to go past 90 minutes at that point. But 4 players will take you to 2 hours plus pretty easily and Grand Austria Hotel isn't involved enough to warrant that. Play this game with 2 or 3 players however and it will go down very well and wrap up in 60-90 minutes depending on rules checking.

And that's a decent enough length to ensure it hits the table often. Which is a good thing as you get a lot of politics (though why are they called that?) and emperor tiles to select from each game and different combinations will determine how the game might play out, but going for them is not essential to winning. There are enough paths to victory to explore to give you a good few games on their own and that's before you even consider the end-game tiles or even the staff cards you might obtain.


Verdict


Grand Austria Hotel sits nicely in the medium weight Euro category whilst being a fairly easy game to teach to others minus the fact that the staff card font will drive you crazy trying to check them up in the rulebook. The components are decent quality and you should expect this to be a bit of a table hog with 3 or more players and ideally, never play it with 4 players anyway due to the extended downtime.

You don't make a huge amount of decisions during the game, but each one matters and you'll always be considering your options based on the dice available. Games will play out differently based on the boards you use, the dice that are rolled, the staff cards and the politics/emperor tiles that are in play so there is a decent scope for replayability.

It doesn't bring anything new in terms of innovation or unique ideas, but it's a good, casual Euro game that doesn't blow your mind and does what it says on the tin. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either (as my bad points are mainly nitpicks), it's a good, stable design that continues Lookout Games's solid lineup of Euro's.

If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want depth combined with a simple learning curve.


You enjoy the dice allocation mechanic - it's the focus of how this game operates.


You like games where end-goal variety is high.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You believe there's not enough decisions to warrant the game length.


You wanted a stronger theme of running a hotel - it works here, but you won't really feel like a hotelier.


You intend to play this with 4 players and don't like long games.

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