A majority of the original reviews were submitted by Charles Bahl and Robert Waters...Thanks!!!
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Game: Space Beans (Rio Grande Games)
Submitted By: Charles Bahl (The Quake Coast Game Club, San Jose, CA)
Space Beans is a light, very light, card game by Uwe Rosenberg, the designer of the prodigiously popular bean-trading game, Bohnanza. But despite the presence of the word "bean" in the title, Space Beans lacks the single most important aspect of Bohnanza that makes that game so reat:
free-for-all, vicious bean trading.
The goal of Space Beans, as in Bohnanza, is to collect sets of beans. The space beans come in seven different varieties, including ones that look strikingly familiar to your favorite characters from famous television and movie space epics. Each variety of bean has card denominations valued from 1 through 9. During your turn you first draw cards, cash in (if you want) your collections of beans, expand or start a new collection, and then give away all cards in your hand to the player on your right. At any given time you may possess two bean collections, one face up and one face down (i.e., concealed from your opponents). Collections consist of one or more beans of the same variety. When you are ready and able to do so, you may cash in collections that contain a card whose denomination matches the number of cards in the collections. Thus you may cash in a five-card collection if one of the cards in the collection has "5" as its denomination. You receive one point for each card in a cashed collection. Normally, you can keep adding to the size of your collections every turn, hoping to go for the big score. But you have to be careful, because you are forced to cash a set (often for zero points) if you cannot add a card from your hand to one of your collections. The most intriguing aspect of Space Beans is the rule that forces you, at the end of your turn, to give away all the cards in your hand to the player on your right. (Of course, this also means that you are starting your turn with a handful of cards passed to you by the player on your left.)
The game system allows for some simple strategies. You need to weigh, for example, the pros and cons of cashing your collections. Do you cash now or do you expand a collection, with the risk that you may be forced to cash on a later turn for no points? Also you need to consider your own card play vis-a-vis the cards that you will be passing to your opponent. You'd like to pass him cards he can't use, or even better, ones that will force him to cash at a disadvantage, but this may force you to make less than advantageous plays during your own turn. In general, however, you don't really have to bust your brain over too many tough decisions.
In summary, Space Beans is a somewhat bland game to while away a pleasant half hour or so. But whereas Bohnanza is a game that belongs in everyone's collection, Space Beans is one that you can easily skip without too great a sense of loss.