Mayfair Games, “Grand Austria Hotel” by designers Virginio Gigli and Simone Luciani puts you into the role of a hotelier in early 20th century Vienna. During the game you’ll be keeping your kitchen well stocked, hiring additional staff, catering to guests in your cafe, and racing to prepare rooms for them, all the while keeping in good graces of the emperor. This is great strategy game packed with varied routes to victory. However, the actions a player can take and the limitations on the effectiveness of a given action are constantly in flux. This gives you a nice blend of strategy and tactical decision making in a game that feels different every time you play it.
Each player starts the game with a player board representing their hotel. At the bottom of the board are pictured three empty tables (for guest cards naturally), a kitchen space (for producing and stocking various dishes and beverages), a grid to keep track of money via a wooden token, and of course, the hotel rooms! The color coded (red, blue, and yellow) hotel rooms are laid out in a grid of columns and rows and are also divided into separate groups. During the game you will attempt to prepare rooms for guests by acquiring and placing room tiles of a matching color on your board. Once you place a room tile on your hotel board, you’ve got an empty room ready to be occupied by a guest from your cafe. Room tiles are two-sided. One side shows an open door with a maid to one side to indicate a prepared room, and on the obverse, a closed door with a do not disturb sign hanging from the knob.
The first thing you’ll do on a given turn is select a guest card from five available choices laid out on the board and replace it from the draw pile. There are 56 different guests, each offering different rewards in return for you filling their varied orders and staying at your hotel. The dishes and drinks served in the game are represented by colored wooden cubes. Colored squares on the guest cards mark what beverages and dishes they require before you can move them to their rooms, flip the room tile to occupied and collect their reward.
At the beginning of a given round of play, a good handful (amount determined by number of players) of six-sided dice are thrown by the starting player and placed out in columns of numerical order on an action board in the middle of the table. This action board has six columns, each representing a different action available to the player. Thus, you line up all the one’s thrown in column one, two’s in column two, and so on. The more dice in an action column, the more effective an action will be.
For example, action column two lets a player move wine and coffee into the kitchen, (or directly to a guest’s order). The more dice in the column, the more wine and coffee you can take. Column three lets you prepare a room for a guest by taking room tiles (up to as many as there are dice in the column) and placing them (open door side up) on your hotel board. Other columns let you hire staff, gain Krones (money), pay homage to the emperor, or even (in the case of the sixth column) choose any action.
Regardless of what choice you make, you remove a dice from the action column you chose. This means that particular action will have less dice on it in the following turns. Therefore, a player will get a little less out of taking that action in a proceeding turn and can’t choose it at all if there are no dice left in its column. Were you counting on being able to take an action column only to find little or no dice left in it? No problem. Simply pass on your turn and wait until all other players have gone or passed, and you’ll get the opportunity of re-rolling all the dice in hopes something will come up that’s useful to you. The only catch is, you’ll have to remove a dice from the pool before you roll and place it in the “dust bin” every time you do it.
After taking an action you can then proceed to take various additional actions, such as paying Krones to move food from your kitchen to a guests order, or playing abilities granted by your staff.
Staff cards are another interesting facet to the game. There are 48 unique staff cards featuring different special abilities and costs that you can acquire to help out. Some only have a one-time use, such as the Barista, who can create four coffee for your guests, or the Confectioner who creates four Cakes. Others can be used once per round, have permanent effects or can grant you points at the end of the game.
Grand Austria Hotel is a great strategy game filled with many opportunities to score and rewarding game mechanics. The theme set in 20th century Vienna is presented very nicely by the colorful artwork of Klemens Franz. It’s highly recommended that you book some game time at the Grand Austria Hotel!