The Iterative Collective is both an indie games incubator and a publisher, but what does…
Kelsey’s Pick – Tavern Master
Do you long for the bar scene but have gotten used to never leaving your house? Do you want to manage a business without having to get out of your pajamas? Do you want to send adventurers on dangerous and life-threatening missions to bring you back a mere handful of peas or a wheel or two of cheese?
Don’t we all?
That is where Tavern Master comes in. The game, developed by Untitled Studio and released last year, is all about the management and upkeep of your medieval tavern. You start with very little to offer guests, but through shrewd business decisions—from budgeting to menu choices, staffing decisions, decoration placement, party planning, and more—you earn enough income to grow and expand, turning your modest one-room bar into a bustling, multi-floor tavern with hotel rooms, bar games, patio seating, and tons of possibilities.
The game somehow manages to give you the power to make the smallest decisions—What grade of wax or oil will you use in your tavern lighting? Cheaper options are more likely to start fires, but the safer choices start to drain your wallet quickly!—without making the gameplay feel tedious or overly nitpicky. You get to choose the placement of every decoration on the floor, the salary of every employee, and what kind of security to post at the door to ward off thieves, but the game still feels like it moves quickly and each day of gameplay feels satisfying and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment.
Tavern Master doesn’t have much I haven’t seen before, but it does what it does very well. The research tree isn’t a new invention in gaming, for instance, but Tavern Master’s incorporates multiple criteria and makes use of in-game requirements to make the process of completing the tree uniquely challenging. This also prevents you from flying through the game too quickly, which ensures gameplay feels satisfyingly lengthy, even when you know what you’re doing. New upgrades and requirements come regularly still, and just when you get settled into the flow of the game, you open up a new floor or new feature that causes you to recalculate and adjust, which keeps things interesting.
Overall, Tavern Master is a fun management game that lets you scratch the building/decorating itch that lovers of Sims games (like myself) often suffer from, while also giving you control over impactful decisions that keep you engaged every in-game day. It’s satisfying to sit back and watch your tavern run smoothly, but it’s even more satisfying, perhaps, to iron out the kinks that arise naturally as your responsibilities and business offerings expand. Tavern Master manages to balance style decisions with hands-on management in a way that has yet to get stale for me, and, as it was just announced new updates are coming (A take-out stand? Sign me up!), I can’t wait to continue to find new ways to play and manage (or master!) my tavern.
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