If you’re anything like me, you’ve been leaning a lot on comfort foods throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Eating a few too many potato chips, baking a few too many cookies, and drinking an extra pot of coffee each day. It’s that last one that I’d like to focus on in this article – tasty hot beverages, and the games that feature them!
Kickstarter game creators must have sensed our cravings for a comforting cup of tea, or a safely distanced visit to a favourite barista. As of this writing, there are currently two tasty games that have either just finished funding on Kickstarter, or are just a few days away from wrapping up – Latte Throwdown from Analog Game Studios, and the High Tea expansion for 2018’s Chai from Steeped Games. Both titles look excellent, and are well worth your consideration!
For the list below, I polled both the DWP team of writers, as well as my local gaming hub, and the results bring us 10 games that feature hot beverages, regardless of significance. We did not include games that only featured coffee beans or tea leaves without turning it into a steamy cup of happy (sorry, Bohnanza, you didn’t make the cut). Some of the titles may only include a minor element related to our theme, while others swirl around like a splash of cream in our favourite mug!
#10 – FINISHED!
Year Published: 2017 BGG Rank: 2488
Designer: Friedemann Friese Artist: Harald Lieske
Time: 30-45 minutes Players: 1
No list of all-time accomplished game designers would be complete without including Friedemann Friese. After bringing such beloved titles such as Power Grid, Fauna, and Fearsome Floors to the world, Mr. Friese has had recent success with smaller box games, including the Fast Forward series (Fear, Flee, and Fortress), and the solo gaming gem Friday. Our first entry on this list is another solo-only title, which DWP Editor in Chief David W. tells us about:
It’s a solo game about sorting–exciting, right? So exciting, in fact, that every time you pass through your deck you have to drink a cup of coffee! (Okay, spend a coffee mug token, but you could drink a real one, too.) You only have seven cups-worth to solve the puzzle on easy level–fewer as you tackle higher difficulty.
In addition to being one of David’s favourite hot beverage games, it also holds the distinction of being the least expensive one on our list. Brew yourself a hot cup of yum, and sort away!
#9 – ALUBARI: A NICE CUP OF TEA
Year Published: 2019 BGG Rank: 2669
Designer: Tony Boydell Artist: Cécile Guinement
Time: 60-120 minutes Players: 1-5
Although Puerto Rico wasn’t eligible for this list, British colonialism still pushes its way onto this list with Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea.
Originally envisioned as an expansion for 2012’s Snowdonia, this game was eventually developed into its own standalone title. Alubari is all about tea and trains, and is set in the mid 1800s, in the Indian state of West Bengal. Simultaneously, players are building the famed “Toy Train” route (aka the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway), while also developing Tea Empires of their own, and seek to have the most points by engaging in each venture most effectively. For this article, however, the most important element is Chai – players can offer a hot cup of it to their workers to boost several of the available actions.
For players seeking a crunchy, complex experience, this might be your best pick from all the games on this list, if you are comfortable looking past the historical context.
#8 – COFFEE ROASTER
Year Published: 2015 BGG Rank: 1120
Designer: Saashi Artist: Andrea Boekhoff, Takako Takarai
Time: 30 minutes Players: 1
First published in 2015 by Saashi & Saashi, with a widely distributed reprint from dlp games and Stronghold, Coffee Roaster is a solo-only game that puts players in the role of (surprise, surprise) a coffee roaster. Via a brilliant push-your-luck bag building mechanic, beans are slowly broiled to perfection, in search of that perfect cuppa, as determined by a stack of roast recipes. Each round of the game ends with a taste test, sampling the roast with a quick sip of brew. However, too many burnt beans can ruin the most delectable roast, making it destined for the bin, represented by negative points.
Coffee Roaster offers some of the most tension I’ve ever felt in a solo game, and with the recent reprint, it’s now available to purchase at many local game shops. To read David W’s thoughts on the original 2015 release, check out his review here!
#7 – THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY CARD GAME
Year Published: 2018 BGG Rank: 5179
Designer: Steve Ellis, Tyler Tinsley Artist: Josh T. McDowell, Katie O’Neill
Time: 30-60 minutes Players: 2-4
Tea Dragon Society is a good introduction to deckbuilding. The object of the game is to score the most points by making (ie buying) items from the central market as well as special seasonal memories from a separate tableau over the course of four game seasons. Each player starts with their own tea-flavoured dragon (Rooibus; Jasmine; Chamomile; Jinseng) which has its own special power and a unique starter deck tailored to that power. Rooibus, for example, loves to Entertain, so it has an extra Entertain card in her deck, and she can never get Bored. On the other hand, she can be Grumpy, Picky, and is known to Bite–each of which is represented by a Mischief card of that name in her deck.
The titular Tea Dragons grow actual leaves on their horns, which are harvested to make an extra special cup of tea. I’m not sure my words could capture the adorableness of the graphic novel properly – and as the web comic is free to enjoy on the Tea Dragon Society website, it doesn’t take long to be immersed in that word, and wrapped up in the theme of the game!
#6 – CHAI
Year Published: 2018 BGG Rank: 3886
Designer: Connie & Dan Kazmaier Artist: Mary Haasdyk, Sahana VJ
Time: 60 minutes Players: 1-5
Offering actual tea cups, player pieces in the shape of tea leaves, and positively gorgeous components, Chai hits the spot for many players, including our own Kimberly T:
I recently played this game and think it’s a great 45-minute card and set collection game in which players make delicious teas! The market with all the ingredients needed to complete the customers’ requests has a truly unique purchase mechanism that includes an adjacency bonus. You can also buy as many ingredients as you can afford, but you can only keep a total of 12 mint, jasmine, lemon, ginger, berries, and lavender in your personal stash. There are also tea additives like milk, sugar, honey, vanilla, and chai that make those tea combinations that much more challenging to accomplish. It’s a tasty-themed and fun game to start the night out with.
As previously mentioned, Chai is currently seeking funding for a reprint and expansion. The quality of components and gameplay is only bound to improve with this new content, which is mostly definitely worth a peek!
#5 – VIVAJAVA: THE COFFEE GAME: THE DICE GAME
Year Published: 2014 BGG Rank: 1785
Designer: TC Petty III Artist: Christopher Kirkman, Jarek Nocoń
Time: 30 minutes Players: 1-4
Releasing two years after its hefty older sibling (VivaJava: The Coffee Game), this dice-based game was a great roll-and-write title long before it was fashionable. Unlike other games in the genre, players are restricted from re-rolling the dice in their early turns. Instead, the ability to roll dice a second or third time must be unlocked, along with several other attractive research options, making for some surprisingly crunchy decisions in this relatively short experience.
Along with Tiny Epic Galaxies, this was the game that lured me into the world of solo gaming, offering a truly enjoyable and unique challenge from the multiplayer game. Roasting, brewing, and selling that perfect cup of hot joy is a wonderful experience that should not be overlooked!
#4 – MACHI KORO
Year Published: 2014 BGG Rank: 944
Designer: Masao Suganuma Artist: Noboru Hotta, Jason D. Kingsley,
Ian Parovel, Mirko Suzuki, Taro Hino
Time: 30 minutes Players: 2-4
Since its release in 2014, Machi Koro has arguably gone on to become the most popular gateway game of the last decade, achieving the rare feat of eclipsing the popularity of that year’s Spiel des Jahres winner (Colt Express). To further demonstrate its massive popularity, BoardGameGeek users have logged more plays of this game than the top three games on this list, combined!
Of the 15 structures that can be built in the game, the one most notable for this piece is the Café, which allows players to collect a coin from opponents (representing a coffee sale) every time they roll a 3. And let’s face it, if there was a local café that looked like the one in Machi Koro, we’d be rolling a 3 every day!
Offering interesting decisions, an instantly accessible art style, and a decent balancing of luck and strategy, it’s no surprise that our #4 ranked hot beverage game has landed on so many game shelves.
#3 – THE GRIZZLED
Year Published: 2015 BGG Rank: 373
Designer:Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez Artist: Tignous
Time: 30 minutes Players: 2-5
Given the prevalence of cooperative games in today’s marketplace, I’m a bit surprised that The Grizzled is the only coop game to make our list of hot beverage games! Here are Sean J’s comments:
The Grizzled is a war game where you don’t fire any shots and don’t conquer any territory. It’s a cooperative game with the goal of surviving the First World War and all of the hardships that come from it. To win, you must communicate with and support your fellow players. One of the small luxuries soldiers might’ve had on the front lines was a cup of coffee. In The Grizzled coffee can be given as a Support Token that will help a teammate during a future round.
To read Sean’s extended thoughts on The Grizzled, follow this link to find his DWP review!
#2 – DINOSAUR TEA PARTY
Year Published: 2015 BGG Rank: 3088
Designer: Virginio Gigli, Simone Luciani Artist: Klemens Franz
Time: 90 minutes Players: 2-4
Many of the games on this list are beautiful and adorable, but perhaps none is more charming than Dinosaur Tea Party. A reworking of the 1976 Parker Brothers title Whosit?, Restoration Games has taken the cringe-worthy stereotypes from the original and transformed them into delectable dinos with varying degrees of decorum.
Only the fanciest dinos have received an invite for high tea at “Dinoton Abbey”, but embarrassingly, you can’t remember anyone’s name! Players are assigned a secret dino card, and take turns asking each other questions (in their most ridiculously pretentious English accent) to help jog their memories. Each time you successfully identify a dino by name, you receive a tasty sugar cube to sweeten your tea. Three sugar cubes wins the game!
Although it’s often described as “multiplayer Guess Who”, that simply doesn’t give this wonderful title the credit it deserves. If a group of players are willing to dive into the absurdity with both feet, gut busting laughter is a guarantee!
#1 – GRAND AUSTRIA HOTEL
Year Published: 2015 BGG Rank: 90
Designer: Virginio Gigli, Simone Luciani Artist: Klemens Franz
Time: 90 minutes Players: 2-4
Our top game on the list is one of the greatest dice drafting games of all time – Grand Austria Hotel! Back in 2016, Adam M. reviewed the game for the DWP, and here are the delightful first paragraphs of that article:
Nowadays, if you want to stay at a hotel, it’s a rather pedestrian affair. You make a reservation, show up, take all the free soap, leave towels strewn on the floor, pay, and leave. Hotel managers ensure their customers are happy enough to return, while still maximizing profits. But Grand Austria Hotel harkens back to a time when the business of being a hotelier was refined and artful. The men donned doublets, the women wore frocks, and artists were somehow able to afford both room and board. It was no surprise when the Emperor would come to visit. After all, no one appreciates quality lodging quite like the sovereign ruler of the Empire.
Grand Austria Hotel puts you in the shoes of the once flaunted hotelier, asking you to attract desirable guests, feeding them their choice of strudel, cake, wine, or coffee, and finding a room that suits their disposition. Mechanically, it’s a sort of set collection game, driven by action selection and shared objectives. You can acquire staff with various strengths to help your operation run more smoothly, and the guests themselves will often lend a helping hand once they’re fed.
And that ends our list of the Top Ten Hot Beverage Games! Did we mention one of your favourites? Did we leave off an obvious selection? Let us know by commenting on our social media posts about this list. If you’d like to browse a wider list of hot beverage games, head on over to this Geeklist, which sorts the games by BGG rank!