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Game Preview: Dim Sum Jam, or Fast Food

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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SPIEL has always been my favorite game convention because of the vast range of titles available. Convention organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag notes that SPIEL '19 will have more than 1,200 exhibitors from 53 countries, and while other conventions I attend — particularly Gen Con — have been expanding their international presence, none of them come close to SPIEL.

The benefit of this variety is that you find things that you might not ever see on retail shelves at game stores, with one example of this being Dim Sum Jam, from designer Liu Xiao and Hong Kong publisher Broadway Toys. I met with Broadway's Michael Lau at Gen Con 2019, and he gave me quick overviews of this title and the company's version of Guess Club, both of which will be for sale at SPIEL '19 along with their new versions of 10 Days in the USA and 10 Days in Europe.

At Gen Con 2019, Lau met with publishers to see whether anyone would be interested in licensing these games, but he worried that Dim Sum Jam might be too culturally specific. For me, though, the look and setting of the game is part of the appeal. Part of the reason I play games is to experience new things, things that are not part of my existing life, so I appreciate Dim Sum Jam for being something aimed at an audience that's not me, while simultaneously being a design that I can enjoy no matter where I grew up.

In terms of gameplay, Dim Sum Jam is a real-time co-operative game in which players try to deliver food dishes to customers with the overarching goal of feeding the VIPs since they could destroy your reputation should they badmouth you online. Every other customer you serve is secondary, although you'd never state that in public.

Your restaurant serves seven dishes, and you have seven tables, with each dish having tokens numbered 1-7. Each table starts with regular customers who want four dishes. The starting player places a dish on any order card, but the number on the dish token that they play determines the table where the next player must play, with that player's token then determining where the subsequent player must play, and so on. You're racing against time, with you being able to flip the sand timer only after supplying all four desired dishes to a table. Instead of flipping the timer, you could acquire a tea token, which serves as a joker item that can get you out of a jam if someone directs you to a table where you don't have a matching dish.

Once the VIP card comes out, your goal is to finish serving them before you run out of "regular" order cards — because the VIPs quail at the thought of being served after everyone else, I guess — and before you receive three complaint tokens for either running out of time or not having a desired dish for a specific table.

I've played Dim Sum Jam six times on a review copy from Broadway Toys, and I have more to say about the game in the video below:

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