Published on February 4th, 2020 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Cards on the table
When does a drinking game become educational? Alastair Gilmour finds out
Andrew McGuigan’s wife supports Gateshead FC. She probably needs something as ordinary and straightforward as that to counteract the never-ending creative processes that fill her husband’s head with ideas, possibilities and solutions.
After writing and publishing a series of horror anthologies set in the Lake District – which other contributors added to – Andrew created a “disaster preparation” card game which teaches people how to survive worst-case scenarios such as nuclear war. Now he has turned his attention to Craft Beer Brewer, another card game under the overall title of Bazcardz that demystifies and lays bare virtually every aspect of making beer.
The fact that Andrew previously wrote a television series to get into Northumbria University to study media production – he now works for HMRC – is now almost by-the-by.
His horror stories were written in the manner of HP Lovecraft which were posted online for other writers to join in and extend the narrative.
Andrew says: “Cumbrian Cthulhu was the start of seven books which are available by on-demand online publisher lulu.com
“There weren’t great profits in them but we gave what there was to the Mountain Rescue in Cumbria as that’s where they were set. Illustrator Andy Paciorek from Durham makes the stories come alive.
“I started Bazcardz to develop card games. Disaster Preparation is not just about zombies. Americans are really into that, so I looked into creating a card game to teach people how to survive in places like Alaska where they have to take that sort of thing seriously.
“I had some ideas for various card games that contained a bit of real life information and education, rather than just goblins and wizards. Nothing wrong with goblins and wizards, though.
“Making a game from scratch involves coming up with a subject, basic game mechanics, rules, creating the artwork, thoroughly play-testing and then finally having prototypes printed and releasing them through an online print-on-demand website.
“I really enjoy the whole creative process with an initial idea of a single sentence evolving into final product based on fifty pages of notes, corrections and re-writes.
“I’m really into my beer and I’m a big fan and supporter of our regional craft beer scene so then looked at a simple card game structure. Craft Beer Brewer took two years of development and I went down a lot of rabbit holes of information along the way. There’s a lot of detail which I knew I had to get right.”
Dogged determination and almost a sense of owing it to himself and fellow beer lovers kept him going. “Early on in the process I thought ‘this is ridiculously complicated’, he says, but kept at it.
Craft Beer Brewer grew into a competitive card game that teaches players about the real processes of brewing. Between one and four players compete to brew the highest scoring beer possible from a deck of Ingredient cards made up of Yeast, Malts, Hops, Flavours and Brewing Techniques.
Players quickly become familiar with creating a host of classic beer styles, each with their own variations of flavour adjuncts and specialist versions.
Andrew says: “After a few games players will understand top and bottom fermenting yeast, base and speciality malts; which hops are chosen for bittering or aroma, and the problems that can occur during brewing. Players will also learn how to name and describe their created beer in terms of strength, taste and ingredient geography.
“There are many hundreds of ingredient combinations and beer styles to create. If you can think of a beer, you can probably make it in game. I’m looking to demonstrate them and sell them at beer festivals like the recent Friends of Anarchy one.
“Craft Beer Brewer could develop into a pub game with the winner getting a pint of something similar to what he’s created through his hand. Some brewers have bought them for their taprooms and I took the game to a beer festival in Hartlepool and met quite a few beer nerds who had the knowledge who really liked it. I thought, ‘great I’ve cracked it’.
“I’m really proud of the variations – around 23 different beer styles and when you add flavours it’s possible to make any beer that’s out there through the game.”
A game winner could end up creating something called Lemony Snicket, a strong Citrus Pale Ale brewed with Caramalt and Maris Otter malts, Galaxy and Mosaic hops, with additional citrus flavourings of lemon zest. You could explain that you had a slight brewing problem with old yeast so it’s not as good as it could be, but it’s still worth 110 points.
Once you master the rules, Craft Beer Brewer is a real fun and competitive way to learn about brewing. Wonder what Andrew McGuigan will spend the next two years developing?
HOW TO PLAY
Players are each dealt a Yeast card representing a beer style, and five random Ingredient cards.
The Yeast card determines the basic beer style (Stout/Porter, IPA, Pilsner, English Ale, Belgian Ale, Saison and Wheat).
The Yeast card also shows what colour roasted malt cards are applicable (Pale, Golden, Amber, Brown or Black) and what type of Hop is appropriate (Bittering, Aroma or Dual Purpose.)
Players then have four turns discarding and replacing ingredient cards to build a beer hand that consists of the Yeast with at least a single compatible Malt and single compatible Hop card. Flavour and Brewing cards to make Strong and Imperial beers.
There is huge creative scope for variation in style, quality and strength.