The right blend of luck and skill
As I was browsing in my local game store the other day, I noticed they had the new edition of Coffee Roaster on the display table, and immediately grabbed it to study the box. In the end I decided to buy Zeppelin Raider, and proceeded to the counter to pay. The store owner then gave me Coffee Roaster as a Christmas gift. It may be the best thing that happened to me in months...
Before acquiring it, I thought that the Japanese edition looked better. It seemed to have more personality and charm whereas this one was too serious and, like a fellow solo gamer said, too instagram-friendly. Now that I have played it a few times, I must say that I like the design. It has a no-nonsense, compact and functional style. It looks good.
Every cup is a puzzle. Difficulty scales from beginner to expert level, and on each turn the game asks you to make decisions. Luck of the draw can be mitigated by taking advantage of flavor tokens. These help you unlock special abilities like dispensing of mouldy beans, re-drawing from the bag, and having a better chance at serving a drinkable coffee.
I did relatively well with the easier blends, but of course messed up the expert cups. The coffee from Yemen, for example, is an organically farmed variety that has a lot of defective beans. I tried to get rid of them but in the end my cup was probably sip and spit.
I did have better luck with a Guatemalan blend (easy level), and scored a perfect 10. Even if you use your bonuses wisely, randomness cannot be entirely avoided but it also helps the game stay fresh and challenging. Component quality is excellent: the tokens you pull from the bag are thick and sturdy, and the insert keeps everything organized and tidy.
You can just play one cup and treat the game as a 10 minute filler, or play a full series of three cups. My sweet spot so far is two: after one cup I want to go for another, but three take a bit too long. I love the fact that it's not just a beat your own score, but gives you a scoring goal to achieve so you can advance the level.
If you like the theme and resource conversion, run to the shops and pick it up. It is well worth the praise it has received from the solo community, and a nice companion to your afternoon hot beverage.