Ron Olivier, Sr.
When I go to a board game convention, I go looking to try new games that I may want to add to my collection in the future, and to play some meaty games that I don't get a chance to play otherwise. Stir-Fry Eighteen falls into neither category because I played it and decided to buy it that same weekend!
Each player is dealt 3 random ingredient cards to start the game. Some ingredients are plentiful (i.e. 5 Noodles cards), and some aren't (one of each protein - Chicken, Pork, and Shrimp). On your turn, you draw a card into your hand, and the goal is to try and create a stir fry that contains between 3 and 5 DIFFERENT ingredients.
You may (but aren't required to) perform two actions (one time each) during your turn. You can trade in a matching pair of cards (face down) to draw 3 cards into your hand. You can also trade in a protein card (face down) to gain the number of cards stated on the protein card.
The reason you trade in the cards face down is because you can decide to bluff. For instance, you can place down a 'Noodles' card and say you're trading it 2-for-1 (as a chicken card would allow you to do). If no one calls your bluff (called 'taste testing', you draw your cards. If you get caught, however, you lose the card you traded and the person who called your bluff gets an extra card at the beginning of the next turn. If a taste test is performed on a valid trade, then the person who challenged forfeits his hand. You must discard down to 3 cards at the end of your turn. That's a 'nutshell' explanation of play.
The Good - This is a tiny game of 18 cards that you can take anywhere, fitting comfortably into a shirt pocket. It's very affordable at $10, which may sound like a lot for 18 cards, but it's worth it IMO. IT's easy to learn and quick to play.
And, oh yes...IT'S LOTS OF FUN!!! The bluffing element really makes this game unpredictable and a riot to play. Seeing that protein cards can be traded in by themselves, you have the opportunity to do something even with one card in your hand (even if it's NOT a protein, heh heh!). This game can be downright addictive!!!
The Bad - If you regularly play with the same person, you might be able to make educated guesses as to when they're bluffing or not.
The Ugly - All the reshuffling of these cards could easily wear down these cards pretty quickly, even thought the laminate used seems to be pretty durable.
Final thoughts - My collection really doesn't need another quick filler game, but after just a couple of hands of this at Templecon, I couldn't resist getting it. And I'm glad I did. If you like the element of bluffing in a game, you really can't go wrong with SF18.