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Reviewer: Chris from Essex
GRAND HOTEL AUSTRIA: Mayfair Games 2-4 Adult (12+) Players @90 minutes
Designed by: Simone Luciani & Virginio Gigli
Hopefully you have access to a computer and a printer. Then the first thing to do when you get this game is to go to www.boardgamegeek.com, locate the game (in Search) and scroll down until you get to the Files section. Find these English pdf’s (see the BGG Pages below) and print them off, one for each player. You can thank me for this later. If you don’t do this you will find the game lasts a lot longer, even after you know the rules, because there is the need for a fair amount of referencing the cards. Unfortunately, at this time of writing, no-one has made a reference sheet for the Guests, and at least one per two players would be very helpful.
2 game boards 4 hotel boards (double-sided) 9 turn order tiles 116 cards 56 guests 48 staff 12 politics 4 overview cards 84 room tiles in three colors 24 wooden disks 120 dishes and drinks (wooden cubes) 12 emperor tiles 14 dice 4 victory point marker 1 garbage can 1 round marker Rulebook
Make sure you read the rules thoroughly. I know you should always do this with any game but if you skip or speed read it is likely you will miss some of the little things; such as the Guest cards are in 4 colours, Blue, Yellow, Red & Green. You will see this when the cards are laid out on the display. However, there are only 3 colours for the Hotel Room doors, Blue, Yellow and Red. Experienced Gamers will immediately understand that the Green guests are a kind of Joker and can stay in any colour of room, but players who do not play games that often, but, say they bought this game because they once stayed at the Grand Hotel in Austria,yes it does exist, in fact there are several Grand Hotels in Austria, which is good as each player owns one. For the record (and nothing to do with the game-play) the Grand Hotels in Austria are: Grand Hotel Zell am See, Salzburg (Austrian Alps), Grand Hotel Wien, Vienna, Grand Hotel Europa, Innsbruck, Tyrol (Austrian Alps), Grand Ferdinand - A Boutique Design Hotel, Vienna, Grand Hotel Panhans, Semmering, Lower Austria, may not realise this. It is in the rules but is easily overlooked as it isn’t prominent.
Error in typing: In the description of the first dice action we are told that the Brown cubes are Strudel and the White cubes are Cake and then told we cannot take more Cake than Strudel but can take any combination of Cake and Coffee. As Coffee isn’t available in this action it should read “Cake and Strudel”. Again, gamers will realise the error immediately and just play past it. It’s not a biggie, but it’s worth noting so there is no confusion.
GRAND HOTEL AUSTRIA is a game about filling your Hotel with Guests. You score Victory Points (VPs) by placing the correct guests in the correct rooms, by colour (room door and guest card), other than Green guests (Tourists) who will stay in any room available. Each guest brings something of use to you, extra resources, more money, room availability etc. (Staff also bring special advantages, some similar to that of the guests, but more on those in a moment).
The Guests can be taken (or bought) from the display; there is always a full display of 5 guests to choose from. They cost from zero dollars to 3 dollars depending where they are in the line. Each time one is taken a new one arrives at the far end (the left side with the $3 cost) and pushes the others down to fill the gap left by the guest who departed to an hotel.
Players do not have to take a guest each turn, in fact if they have three guests sitting at their dining tables (each Hotel has 3 tables) then they cannot take another guest until one has left their table and gone to their room. To send a guest to a room you need to have a room of the right colour available and you need to have given the guest what they wanted by way of refreshment. You give them Cake (White cubes) Coffee (Black cubes) Strudel (Brown cubes) or Wine (Red cubes) according to what is printed on their guest card. You can use resources from your Kitchen or from the Dice action taken. We found this a little odd that resources taken from the Dice action (presumably these are the suppliers) can be placed straight onto a guest card without having to be prepared in the kitchen first.
Each player has two actions each turn, to be taken one at a time. Turns are determined by the Turn cards; there are specific Turn cards (they are marked 2, 3 or 4 players on their backs) depending on the number of players. With 2 players, two cards are used, the 1& 4 and the 2 & 3, with 3 players use the 1 & 6, 2 & 5 and 3 & 4 and finally with 4 players the turns are 1 & 8, 2 & 7, 3 & 6 and 4 and 5. The numbers on the turn cards are the Turn order, so for example, in a 3 player game the player taking the first action will also take the last, the 6th. Going 3rd means you get 2 Turns on the trot 3rd & 4th.
After taking or declining to take a Guest, the player at turn has to roll all the dice, 10 dice in a 2 player game, 12 in a 3 player game and all 14 for 4 players. The dice are placed on the Action Board, placing them under the Action for the result of the dice. Example in a 3 player game 12 dice are rolled and give the results 3 x 1s, 4 x 4s, 2 x 5s and 3 x 6s. No 2s or 3s. The player puts 3 dice under the 1 Action, 4 under the 4 Action etc until all dice are allocated.
Now the player selects one of the numbers where there is at least one dice. They do whatever is required by the action they take, the number of dice allow for the same action multiple times. For example the 3 x 1s allow the player to take Strudels and Cake. Now the rules say they may not take more Cake than Strudel, so this means they can take 3 Strudel or 2 Strudel and 1 Cake, they cannot take 3 Cake or 2 Cake and 1 Strudel. The Wine and Coffee action (2s) are similar to Cake and Strudel, you cannot take more Coffee than Wine. The other actions, the 3s, 4s and 5s do not yield resources but do give new Hotel rooms, VPs, Cash, Play a Staff card (or cards) from your hand or the 6s allow you to do any of the other actions by choice whether there are dice there or not (the 6s dice count as if they were on the chosen Action. The player then takes one of the dice and places it in the space on their Turn card. This is an easy and good way of knowing how many Turns each player has had. If they decide not to take a dice Action, they pass and can come back to the dice later, rerolling them (minus one die) and maybe getting different options for Actions.
As only one die is taken from the pool when a player ends their turn it means that the next player can do the same action as the previous player if there are dice still on it, though naturally they will have one die/action less.
The Hotels are arranged differently on one side of the board and all the same on the other side so you can play a game where all players have different Hotels or all players have the same. The differences are the way the Rooms are arranged by colour. The accommodation is laid out in blocks of Rooms; blocks designated by colour and can be of 1 or more rooms. You get a bonus for completing a block, opening the rooms and having them occupied by guests. The Hotel is also constructed of floors, 1st floor (this would be the Ground floor in the UK), 2nd, 3rd and 4th. To open a room up on the 1st floor costs nothing, but from the 2nd floor up there is a Dollar cost per room. If you can open rooms in a column, one directly above the other, and install guests in each you also get a bonus.
Apart from the Victory Point track there is an Emperor track which gauges the quality of your hotel, this also gives (or takes) VPs. One other track not mentioned yet is on each Hotel card, the money/cash track. You move a token up the track when you gain money and down it when you lose or spend money. This is a quick and easy monetary system and saves on the game cost as no notes or coins are required
I don’t wish to just relay how to play, that’s in the rules. The rules and the mechanics along with the theme or chrome can often be the decider as to whether people play the game, but it’s whether you enjoy playing that makes a game good or not. Grand Hotel Austria is about resource management and card placement, mixed with clever, sensible and logical decision making. It’s also about which Guests you choose, what special effects they have, which Staff cards you play, what special effects they have, and which Actions you take. Some Staff cards are one use per Round (not per Turn) while others may have permanent use effects - these are kept face up in front of you. Most cards have a cost to bring into play but not to activate once in play.
Grand Hotel Austria is a very playable game, thoroughly enjoyable and with longevity. It is one that you will probably still be playing years from now.