Ah, welcome to Chez Meeple. I’m your host for this evening. Thank you for dining with us. Today, we have eleven different specials on the menu guaranteed to whet your gaming appetite. Shall I tell you about them?
Let’s start with some vegetabless. Bohnanza (1997, Uwe Rosenberg) is a 2-7 player game about the cultivation, trading, and selling of beans. Each player begins the game with a hand of five cards that they cannot rearrange. On your turn, you must plant the first card in your hand, and you may also plant the second. You only have two fields in front of you, and each field can only hold one type of bean. If both fields are full when you plant, you must harvest, turning in the cards for money (if you turn in enough). After planting, you flip over the top two cards from the deck. Other players may then attempt to trade with you – this is how you get cards out of your hand so more valuable cards are in a better planting position. Once trading is complete, you must plant the two cards you had offered, or whatever you traded them for. You end your turn by drawing three cards, placing them at the back of your hand. The game ends after you play three times through the deck, and the player with the most money wins.
On the surface, Bohnanza seems like a very dry and boring game. But its simple genius is the interactive possibilities it introduces. This small mechanism of not being able to rearrange your hands really creates pressure as you try to get useless beans out of the way so the beans you want to plant move to the front. You’ll find yourself saying the word “bean” more than you ever though possible in one sitting. It’s a great game, and a good way to start off your gaming meal.
Or perhaps you would like a different type of vegetable. These have been flown in directly from Farmageddon (2012, Grant Rodiek). In this game, 2-4 players are trying to grow corn, wheat, squash, and melons and make the most money. On a turn, a player first draws two crop cards. They then may take actions. You can plant a crop from your hand, as long as there is an available field (there are three in the game). You must fertilize with a face down crop card at some point during your turn. You can harvest a plant as long as it is fully fertilized and you didn’t plant it this turn. And you can play up to two action cards which can steal fertilizer, steal plants, destroy plants, get you more money, get someone else less money, protect yourself, give you another field to use, and so on. You end your turn by drawing two action cards. When the crop deck runs out, everyone gets one more turn, and then the game is over. The player who has made the most money from harvested plants wins.
Farmageddon is a game that shows the cutthroat side of farming. You can’t be nice and be successful as you play. It’s very simple to pick up, and there are a number of different strategies to pick up as you play. The art on the cards is very fun, and each action makes sense based on its title. There are also 10 Frankencrops included, different crops that provide different abilities as you plant/harvest them. It’s a confrontational game, so that might be something to take into consideration if that type of game does not sit well with you. However, I do recommend it.
Perhaps you are in the mood for some fruit. Finca (2009, Wolfgang Sentker/Ralf zur Linde) is a game all about the collection and delivery of fruits on the island of Mallorca. The game plays with 2-4 people, and features a windmill that has blades placed randomly at the start of each game. At the beginning of the game, players take turns placing farmers on a blade, collecting that type of fruit. Once all players have placed all of their farmers, your turn consists of moving your farmer a number of spaces equal to the number of farmers on your current space (collecting fruits equal to the number of farmers on the ending space); or you could turn in fruits to different regions of the island. Fruits can only be delivered if you have collected a donkey token. When six regions have been cleared, the game ends and the player who has collected the most fruits wins.
Finca is a game I have only played online, at yucata.de. It’s simple to grasp, and has a lot of depth. The windmill mechanism is kind of a mix between the rondel mechanisms used by Mac Gerdts and the mancala mechanism used in Trajan by Stefan Feld (though Finca came before Trajan). It’s got some beautiful art by Franz Vohwinkel, and it succeeds in being a very accessible set collection game. I recommend it.
I see that you have noticed that we have fresh-picked Morels on the menu. Morels (2012, Brent Povis) is a two-player game about collecting and coking mushrooms. It’s a set collection game that simulates a walk through the woods to find the best mushrooms available. A line of eight mushroom cards are laid out representing your walk. On your turn, you can either take one of these mushrooms, or take all cards in the decay (an area where cards go when they get to the end of the line). You could also cook a set of mushrooms, or trade them in for walking sticks (which allow you to take mushrooms further along in the line). When the mushroom cards run out, the game ends and the player with the most points from cooking mushrooms is the winner.
Morels is really a very good game, one I wasn’t sure about at first, but have come around on since. The ever-changing market is an intriguing aspect of the game, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly things move. Mushrooms are not a favorite food of mine, but the theme here is very unique and really serves the game well. I think you’ll be satisfied if you make this choice for your gaming feast.
If I could, I’d like to direct your attention to the entress. Our pizza specialty is called Mamma Mia! (1999, Uwe Rosenberg) This is a memory-style game for 2-5 players. It’s all about throwing pizza ingredients into a mix and trying to fulfill eight orders. On your turn, you play as many ingredients of a single type as you like into a common pile, as well as (optionally) an order card. You refill your hand by drawing as many cards as you played. When the draw pile is empty, the common pile is flipped over, and ingredients are sorted out until an order is reached. The player who owns the order can turn in ingredients from the sorted piles and their hand to fill it. If they can, they claim the order. If not, it is returned to their order deck. Either way, the round continues until all cards have been sorted out. After three rounds, the player who has filled the most orders wins.
Mamma Mia! is more fun than a memory game should be. At the same time, it doesn’t take long to figure out that it’s a fruitless effort to try and remember everything. You just have to do the best you can, and get your orders out when you think you have the best shot at filling them. It’s a very appetizing game, and one I highly recommend.
I see your eye has wandered to our Japanese cuisine. Might I direct your attention to Sushi Go! (2013, Phil Walker-Harding). This 2-5 player game is all about grabbing the best sushi dishes as they sail past. It’s a drafting game in the style of 7 Wonders, though considerably lighter. Players will have a hand of 7-10 cards (depending on the number of players), and choose one to play before passing the rest. Cards will combine to give you big points (you hope) – lots of sushi rolls could get you 6 points, two tempura score 5 points, three sashimi score 10 points, dumplngs score increasing points depending on how many you have, wasabi triples the score of a dish, and so on. All cards will be played, and when one hand runs out, a new one is dealt. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
Sushi Go! gives the same feel as 7 Wonders in a smaller and less complex package. 7 Wonders itself is not very complex, so that should tell you something about this one. It plays very quickly, and is highly engaging throughout. Gamewright will be publishing the second efition soon, and I would suggest you check it out.
If you want something a bit spicier, might I suggest Wasabi! (2008, Josh Cappel/Adam Gertzbein). It’s a game about preparing a sushi meal, though this one has specific recipes for you to fill. The game is played on a 6×7 grid, and players are trying to create recipes by getting certain combinations of ingredients. On your turn, you must place an ingredient on the board and can also play an action card. If you complete an uninterrupted sequence of tiles in a horizontal or vertical line that matches one of your recipes, you score the recipe by assigning a challenge token to it. If you complete ten recipes with challenge tokens, you win. You can also win by having the highest score (challenge tokens plus wasabi cubes) when the board is filled.
Wasabi! is an absolutely beautiful game. The components in this thing are AMAZING. Josh Cappel, one of the co-designers, is also the artist, and did an amazing job designing the look of the game. The play can bog down with the decisions to be made, but it is very puzzly and has some good interaction. If you can get a hold of a copy, check it out.
Moving away from the Japanese cuisine, how do you feel about Chinese? Wok Star (2010, Tim Fowers) is a cooperative game for 1-4 players where you are trying to run a Chinese restuarant. A reprint was successfully Kickstarted in 2013 by Game Salute, but I think it has not yet arrived in the hands of backers. It is played in real-time, with players rolling dice and trying to collect ingredients to fill orders before too much time goes by and customers get to eat for free. At the end of each round, players can spend money to purchase upgrades to help them work more efficiently, but if they haven’t reached a certain income level by the end of the final round, they lose.
I had the good fortune to play Wok Star in its original form a few years ago. It was a very fun game, and I’ve been looking forward to the reprint for a while. It has been streamlined a bit, with fewer rounds and less bad stuff to worry about. It does a very good job of representing the frantic nature of trying to prepare dishes for impatient customers, and uses the food theme very well. Definitely one I would recommend for all to try when it comes out.
If you are interested in the preparation of meals, you might enjoy A la carte (1989, Karl-Heinz Schmiel). Its reprint in 2009 was nominated for a Spiel des Jahres in 2010. This 3-4 player game is all about trying to prepare dishes just right, with the added twist of trying to get the seasonings just right. On your turn, you get three actions, but there are really only two choices of what you can do – heat the stove, or season the dish. Heating is accomplished by rolling a die and moving the heat dial up that many numbers. If you go too high, the dish is burned. To season, you take one of the condiment shakers and give it a shake. You are looking for specific condiments indicated on your recipe card – get three or more condiments of the same color and your dish is over-seasoned. Ruined dishes are discarded, but completed dishes score you points. When someone has completed five dishes, or if you run out of recipes to make, the player with the most points wins. You can also win by having three perfect dishes (completed with no salt present).
A la carte is the only game on this list I personally have not played, but I didn’t feel like I could do a list of food games and not include it. The game is simple, and by all accounts, very fun. The components are top notch – each player gets a stand up cardboard stove and an actual little metal pan. The dispensers are also very cute. This seems like a very fun family-style push-your-luck game, and has been one I’ve been interested in since I first heard about it. Give it a look, and hopefully it will be one you like.
I see you have reached the back page of the menu. We don’t discuss these options very much, but I feel that I should mention Guts of Glory (2012, Zach Gage). This 2-4 player game is one of the oddest playing experiences I have ever had. The basic idea is that you are living in a post-apocalyptic world where all food has gone bad, and you are in an eating competition to be the world’s greatest eater. Your board is a giant grotesque mouth, and on your turn you must shove one card into your mouth. If you don’t have room, you must spew something at another player, who can then put it in their mouth. After eating (frothing), you can chew two different items by putting chew tokens on them. If you have reached the toughness rating on the item, you swallow. The cards all have effects that happen when you eat, chew, or swallow them, and some card score you glory points. The first one to seven points wins.
This game was a Kickstarter project that took a year and a half to get to backers, but is out there now. It is completely bizarre – I’m not exaggerating when I say this is probably the weirdest game I have ever played. The concepts are strange the food you eat is strange (tires and motor oil for example), and the idea of spewing is frankly kind of gross. But in spite of that, I kind of like it. It’s certainly unique, and I would suggest you try it out at least once if you can.
Would you care for some dessert? We have a special tonight on Piece o’ Cake (2008, Jeffrey D. Allers). In this game, 2-5 players are dividing up slices of cake. First, you create a cake of 11 random slices. This means your cake could possibly consist of plum, apricot, cherry, blackberry, kiwi, gooseberry, strawberry, and chocolate. The first player then divides the cake into at most a number of pieces equal to the number of players (you can go up to 4 in a two-player game). The other players then take turns choosing a piece, then eating it for points or collecting it to try to earn big points at the end. After five cakes have been fully consumed, collected pieces are compared and the player with the majority in each type scores. The player with the most points (collected plus eaten) wins.
The big appeal of Piece o’ Cake, as I see it, is that one player gets to divide the cake, but is the last player to choose a slice. You have to cut it so that you’re not helping your opponents much but still giving yourself the best chance to get what you want. It ends up having the same feel as a game like Coloretto as you’re trying to set collect, but you have to wait for everyone else to go before you get the set you want. Piece o’ Cake is an easy game to learn, a difficult one to master, and a beautiful game to look at. Please give it some consideration
Thank you for coming to Chez Meeple tonight. We hope you have enjoyed your meal, and hope you will consider dining with us again in the future. Tips are accepted…thanks for reading!