Tavern Keeper is a simulation game about running a tavern in a fantasy world populated by orcs, elves and halflings and, surprising absolutely nobody, I think it’s flipping great. The campaign starts off simply enough – all you need to do is build a bar, buy some ale casks (from a passing troll) and hire a barman and, just like that, your first tavern is up and running. Soon enough, though, the action scales until you’re running a whacking great inn with all the various facilities and functions required to run a successful business. From tap rooms and kitchens to bedrooms, laundries and larders, there’s a lot to manage if you want to run a tavern worthy of song.
In terms of systems, Tavern Keeper easily holds its ground among its contemporaries like Two Point Hospital. Guest satisfaction can be influenced by all number of factors ranging from the overall cleanliness and food quality to lighting levels and ambient temperature (there are specific overlays to show you where there’s room for improvement, as in other sims). Staffing, of course, is just as important as having good facilities or a sensible layout – you can recruit all sorts of employees from different fantasy races, each with their own quirks to contend with. Halflings, for example, make for very dextrous employees, but their short stature gives them other things to contend with. Skeletons, meanwhile, never need to sleep, but are notoriously clumsy. They may also scare some of your patrons because, you know, skeletons.
On top of each employee’s racial characteristics, there’s a trait system at play in Tavern Keeper that diversifies the action further. One such trait I saw was Darkvision – an excellent nod to Dungeons and Dragons – which allows an employee to perform well even in dimly lit areas. Others, like slowpoke, are less positive. I’m told there will be about a hundred different traits at play in the finished game, so it sounds like the workers of Tavern Keeper will be as varied as the world they inhabit.
All in all, Tavern Keeper strikes me as a really loving, mischievous game. It’s clearly made with a great deal of reverence for simulator games and the fantasy genre, but there’s a delightful sense of humour at play that makes it more than the sum of its parts. Tavern Keeper doesn’t launch until next year, but I’m already certain it’s a boozer I want to visit.
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