How-Tos iOS & Mac how-tos

Fiz Brewery Management: Tips & Strategies

I do rather love a craft beer (my brewery of choice: Scotland’s BrewDog) so Fiz: The Brewery Management Game ($1.99) recently made its way onto my iPad. As a fan of both unusual craft beers and the Kairosoft classic Game Dev Story (which this very closely models itself on), this looked like it could be right up my street, a brewery management game with no infuriating IAPs. So despite having opened my new PS Vita just hours before, by the evening of Christmas Day I was several virtual months into running FizzBat, my new virtual brewery.

Pretty quickly I discovered the need to strategise, particularly after that cocky swine Blumbrau beat me in a competition to win a bigger brewery. You can’t just churn out whatever colourfully monikered beer takes your fancy and flog it to any old shop, you’ve got to actually plan for the seasons (both sports and weather) and get it into the right shops, priced to beat out the competition but still turn a profit. Um… you did research the competition, right?

So I’ve been making a mental list of Fiz Brewery tips and tricks and thought I’d share. If you’ve come up with any strategies of your own feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

  • Pause the game – if you’ve ever played Faster Than Light (PC or Mac, superb spaceship management game) you’ll know the value of pausing constantly. The first release version of Fiz auto-pauses just once, when you finish a batch, but when you select to sell it time starts again. This behaviour might be made more sensible in a forthcoming update but for now – remember to pause All The Time! It’s easy to get distracted and forget that as you’re dilly-dallying over this IPA or that American Wheat, this tiny beer specialist or that massive supermarket, time is ticking away. Pause!
  • Always be brewing, queuing or selling – time passes constantly, and time is money! If you’ve not got a batch on the go, one enqueued, and at least one on sale, you’re doing it wrong!
  • Level up the correct skills – you should assign brew jobs based on who has the highest appropriate skill levels for each job. When staff level up make sure to spend the points on those pertinent skills, or occasionally on their Craft score. There’s no benefit to spreading points amongst their other skills if they’re not using them in their regular brew job.
  • Skill points versus Craft points – as well as Skill scores, each staff member also has a ‘Craft’ score that you be increased when staff level up. When brewing a new batch the total Craft points across your team are pooled and made available to spend on ‘Yield’, ‘Speed’ and ‘Quality’. However, if you’re planning on pouring all your Level Up points into Craft so you can spend them all on ‘Quality’ it’s worth noting that according to the developer “the way it’s set up, increasing your employee’s required stats for their job will improve their Quality better than increasing their Craft and spending that point on +Quality in the Brew Menu would.” For this reason, I’d advise focussing on getting your staff highly trained in their particular brew role before putting points into their Craft score.
  • At the start go for ‘Yield’, not ‘Quality’ – in the initial stages of the game you just need to make money to stay afloat, and the best way to do that is eke every last penny of potential profit from each batch by pouring all your craft points into ‘Yield’ and not ‘Quality’. And for the most part you can completely ignore ‘Speed’ until you’ve got a few more Craft points to play with.
  • Easy money at the Bodega – whenever you run out of money the game tosses enough ingredients your way to make a quick batch of the bog-standard lager, Grubb’s Lite, and the Bodega owner waives his stocking fee. So if you’re getting started, or you’re flat broke, brew up some Grubb’s Lite, spend the Craft points on the highest yield possible, and flog it all at the Bodega for around 15 coins for a profit of around 350-400.
  • fiz brewery strategy

  • Plan for the seasons – work out what your go-to Summer, Winter and in-between beers are and around 10 months before you’ll need them start on at least one batch to go into storage in readiness. For example, the Surf Shop – once this opens it’s an almost guaranteed summertime money maker, a boon for beginners in the early stages of the game. It’s only open for a few months from month 6 each year, and their customers really like summery lager, so make sure you have batches of Get Off My Lawn on the go from month 10. Get them into storage, then come month 6 send them to the Surf Shop, price them right and they’ll fly off the shelves over summer, netting a huge profit to pour into new beers.
  • Don’t necessarily always sell full batches – proud as you are of your 100-unit batches, the shops you sell to may not have the space to stock them, or enough customers who prefer that type of beer to buy them all within the two month shelf-life. Refer to the research and consider splitting the shipment.
  • Research! Research! Research! – there’s no two ways about it, you need to do research on your customers and your competition. I always select 50 customers (for more detailed results) over four weeks (because it’s cheapest) and I select both customers and competition the first time.
  • Buy & research new retailers in advance – unless you like spending all your profits on costly Instant Research you’ll want to research a new retailer before you’ve got a batch ready to sell there. Buy into new retailers is while batches are brewing, and run research on them immediately. Then when a batch is ready you’ll have all the relevant info about the new shop at your fingertips.
  • fiz brewery tips

  • Refresh your customer research – competitor research only needs to be done once per shop/market and updates itself monthly after that. Customer research goes out of date over time, however, so remember to occasionally run more customer research at the shops you sell to most in case customer tastes have changed significantly. Start research as soon as you buy into a new retailer, and buy into a new retailer at least a month before you’ll want to sell there.
  • Undercut the competition – if there are competing brands of a similar style at the shop you’re sending your new batch to, look at their quality and their markup. Unless your quality is significantly higher, don’t set your markup higher than theirs.
  • Make whatever the competition ISN’T selling – check to see if a beer type popular at any given shop is actually in stock from your competitors; if it’s not, get your own version in there as soon as possible while there’s no competition!
  • Don’t waste money on stiff competition – the game will warn you if you’re trying to sell in a shop that stocks competitor beers with a far higher Quality score than yours. However, as a rule if your beer Quality score is in the lower third of the range for the competition then don’t bother selling unless you’re willing to seriously undercut them (and throw away potential profit).
  • What’s the recipe for (insert beer here)? – all the recipes are randomised every time a new game is started, so you can’t just start making the best ones cribbed off a Wiki page 😉
  • Finally, don’t forget the mice! – if you find yourself with a spare moment while a batch brews, check out the brewery screen and tap the mice that run across from time to time, they’re always carrying something valuable!
iOS & Mac reviews

Star Command review: let-down in spaaaace

A long time coming, Star Command for iPhone and iPad ($2.99) is a triumph of style and ambition over sense, logic and good design. In other words: it’s pretty but I found it painful to play. My quick verdict: don’t bother, and get FTL for your iPad instead, or give the wonderfully compelling Rymdkapsel a go on your iPhone or iPad.

Basically Star Command is what would happen if you took the aims of FTL (command a starship) and rejected all the great design decisions FTL made, and crammed the result into a very pretty façade that features some of the most tedious micro-management of fiddly-to-control characters I’ve played in a while.

What’s so bad about it?

So many poor design decisions:

  • there’s no tutorial that explains how ship weapons are fired, so look forward to spending at least the first couple of battles struggling to get what you’re supposed to do. Clever stuff.
  • crew can only do one job at a time, and in order to switch their skill you have to slooooooowly march them over to the room that matches the skill you want them to have, then sloooooowly march them back to the area that requires attention. When you’re flooded with invaders and need to fight back, enjoy marching your team through the ship just for a change of wardrobe, then back to the invaders. God it’s tedious.
  • rooms that require the production of specific ammo will not just keep making that ammo for you. You have to re-initiate production after each and every unit they produce. If you forget, which it’s incredibly easy to do, you’re stuffed. Why do this?
  • the text style they chose is hideous and really hard to read. Fits the retro-look, but there’s a reason we don’t present screens of text like that any more: it’s horrible on the eyes.
  • and God help anyone attempting to play this on an iPhone. I know plenty of people are doing, but they must have the patience of a saint, or incredibly high tolerance for frustration.

And that’s before we get onto the endlessly repetitive missions (go to a planet, sit through the screens of text, enter battle. Every time. No variation), and the fact that it’s perfectly possible to just send all your crew into one room, ignore ALL the damage your ship is taking, even the hull breaches, and wait it out until you grind the enemy shields down eventually.

But hey, it LOOKS nice…

In conclusion

In my personal opinion, despite lovely(ish) presentation and a whole heap of atmosphere, it eschews sense and logic to produce a game that just throws one frustration after another at you to draw out the play-time. I’ve no issue with hard games in which dying and starting again is all part of the appeal. That’s why I love FTL.

But this is just a mess of frustrations and after a couple of games, neither of which were ever much fun, I have no desire to play any more and an overwhelming urge to fire up FTL and run a starship with proper crew who don’t have to change their jersey just to fire a phaser.

Go get FTL for your iPad, or your Mac or PC, or Rymdkapsel for iOS, and don’t waste £2 on Star Command.