Board gaming has been slowing down for me as a hobby, even to the point of selling games from the collection. However, we still have time to play some longer “strategy” games when friends and family members come over. Recently, our game of choice has been Grand Austria Hotel, a new-ish board game that I received as a Christmas gift a few years back.
Life As A Hotel Manager
The general theme of the game is that you’re a hotel manager, serving guests in your hotel café and preparing fancy rooms where they can stay after they enjoy their refreshments. Of course, you have to manage your money, hire the right staff, and keep in favor with the Emperor. Lots going on, but that’s what makes the game so interesting. The theme fits really well and makes the game easy to teach and fun to play. There are many paths to victory, lots of difficult “brain-burning” decisions, and plenty of ways to get points. All things I like in a game.
Keeping the Guests Happy
Guests who come to your hotel are in different “classes”, denoted by the color of the tablecloth at their table. The color also shows their preference for specific rooms (e.g. “red” guests will only go in red rooms, etc). The guests also conveniently stand in line, just waiting to get a table at your cafe. If you’re not interested in serving the guests at the front of the line you can pay extra to entice others near the back of the line to take a seat at your table.
Additionally, you can hire staff that give you one-time benefits or special abilities for the rest of the game. This part of the game works really well with the theme. You’re given an initial hand of staff cards 1, and throughout the game you can either hire a single staff-person at a discount, or some guests give you the ability to hire multiple staff or add cards to your hand.
Turn Order Downtime
One downside to the game is the turn order mechanic, which contributes to the strategy, but detracts from the overall experience. Each player gets two turns per round and play goes in-order for the first set of turns, and then in reverse-order for the last set. This means that the first player effectively gets to take the first and last turns of the round, while the last player gets two turns in a row. Although this contributes significantly to strategy and planning throughout the game, the mechanic does result in lots of downtime between turns, especially if you’re the first or second player. Because the game is somewhat prone to AP (analysis-paralysis), players aren’t as engaged throughout the entire round, which can exacerbate the AP problem.
On the whole, I think Grand Austria Hotel is well-balanced and provides plenty of strategic depth, with a very effective theme. Even though my win ratio is only 27% (out of 11 plays), I enjoy playing the game and would currently rank it among my top-ten favorites. My wife also requests this game a lot when friends/family come over for gaming, and we both enjoy the mental challenge and overall experience. Highly recommended!
- I like to think of staff cards as “resumes” for potential hires ↩