Before I begin, I was provided a copy of the game, and its expansions, in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review.
There is a real soft spot in my heart for fantasy tavern games. I love Red Dragon Inn, and I enjoyed Dragon and Flagon (though I could never get it to the table). So when the designer of Tavern Masters reached out to me with this one I was certainly interested.
In Tavern Masters you are running rival taverns trying to bring in the most customers, and make the most money. It is also worth noting that there is a co-op and solo mode which has set numbers you need to meet to win, but the game plays functionally the same. To do this you will be drafting cards into your Tavern, these might be food or drink or employees.
Once the drafting is done you will be able to play patrons into your tavern, assuming your tavern has what they want. As you play you are slowly building up your tableau, of course you have to make sure you can afford everything. Obviously patrons will earn you gold, which you can then use the next round to upgrade your tavern…of course gold is also the victory point condition so if you blow too much of it on upgrades you will still lose in the end.
So what do I think?
I really appreciate the simplicity of the game, and how the card drafting and tableau building does make you feel like you are running a fantasy tavern, along with some of the characters that you can encounter are delightful. Personal favorites are hiring the minstrel and the gnomish accountant. Along with that there is a good variety of savory and unsavory characters that you can come across, which again, feels right. The game also plays quickly, and it is certainly satisfying later on in the game when your tavern is just popping with patrons and you are raking in the gold.
The solo and co-op versions of the game are solidly done. You do get mostly the same experience as you do playing competitive. The game is, as mentioned above not a deep game. There is strategy, and many different directions you can go with your tavern, but it is not what I would call a complex tableau builder. I will also add that the art does evoke the theme of the game, but it is not something that you are going to spend a ton of time looking at. It is solid.
If you have read my reviews in the past you know that I am not a fan of games that have the old 80’s style of female art, with chain mail bikinis and the like. Part of this is because it takes me out of games as it just doesn’t make sense to me. However, I also often play games with my wife, and in the future my niece. I do not want to play games with that style of art with them. Yes, this is purely a personal preference, and that might not bother you at all.
However, this game goes a little further, and again I fully understand what it is going for. The cards have flavor text at the bottom, some are quite cute. The farmer for example “Considered to be out standing in his field.” That is pro dad joke right there. However, many of the female characters have fluff like “Serves the best jugs in town” while being pictured with two huge jugs of beer and huge cleavage. And to be fully fair it is not ALL the female characters, but a significant portion of them.
Bringing it all together
Tavern Masters is a fun, very light, quick tableau builder. It does a good job of realizing its theme, and the variants for co-op and solo are very solid. It is a good option for learning how tableau builder works. My main issue is I find the representation of many of the female characters is problematic, but that is a personal taste.
Less talk more drinking!
* Fast light tableau builder
* Realizes its theme
* Not a deep game
* Solo and co-op does a good job of giving you the full experience
* Solid art, but some of the portrayal of female characters is problematic in my opinion