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Subject: Nasty Drinks rss

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Jarrett Davis
United States
St. Louis
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Okay, I know the title is pretty bad, but you'll get it soon enough.

I love fantasy games. The hobby is inundated with them, so they have to be really good to rise above. When I saw this one after the Kickstarter ended, I was instantly drawn to it. It has a cool theme: you are working in a fantasy tavern, serving drinks to patrons. You spend dice in various ways to gain ingredients to meet the demand. In typical worker-placement fashion, when you play with others, you may get blocked, forcing you to pivot. Sound intrigued, too? Well, prepare to be disappointed.

The Good
This game looks really cool. The art is pretty unique and board is rich with detail. It's a top-down view of the tavern, complete with patrons sitting around the table.

The game also feels good. The cards are nice feeling, not too thick or slippery. The player boards, while big (more on that later) are thin, but made well. The meeples are plastic and you get stickers to put on them to make them look... Unique (also more on that later).

The Bad
Okay. Bear with me. This is going to be a bit... Lengthy.

Let's start with the gameplay. What I described earlier sounds good and compelling, but that only scratches the surface of what you actually do. First, you don't own the tavern, you just work there. You work for Mr. Nasty. That's his real name. For real. And as you can guess, he's a huge help to you and your fellow employees! Nope. He's nasty. Just like the name. But he actually is Mr. Annoying. If you don't complete a drink order in one turn, you move down the Mr. Nasty track. You get negative VP and an opportunity to meet Mr. Nasty. He will force you to do something like turning in precious ingredients, all while not allowing you to complete orders until you complete his challenge. Annoying, right?

Let's talk about the orders while we're at it. Most orders have maybe 5 or 6 ingredients. They range in value depending on the value of the ingredients. They have a track where if you don't complete the order in the same turn, you get less VP for completing. That's not so bad, but the orders are pretty much the same. And getting ingredients is, again, annoying. You have three opportunities to get ingredients. One track where if you use one die, you can get the ingredient depending on value. But, in a two player game, you could get blocked. The next way are two areas where you have to combine dice to meet the number. One is odd numbers, the other is even. BUT! What if I told you, the ingredients are sort of slapped on either or, but none overlap. So if you want beer, you need to get a 5 or a 15. That's it. If you never roll enough to get that, you're screwed.

The two areas where you combine dice don't only just give you the ingredients but other things like the 1st player, VP, or opportunities to trade or steal. That makes things a bit better, but again, you need to roll exactly right to get those things. And in the base game, there are two ways to manipulate dice: go down two tracks that each allow you do manipulate dice, but only when you're using that action. Kind of pointless.

There was an "expansion" in the box. It essentially helps fix the problems mentioned above. You can get tokens that will negate the Mr. Nasty cards, also tokens that have ingredients on them, and also give you more options for getting ingredients. Like stupid things. If you can combine for 14 with your dice in the base game you get an ingredient that would have cost you 6 and 5 VP. With the expansion there's a card that costs 14 that gives you two ingredients and an item, and an option to move down a track that will give you VP and manipulate your dice, and a token. That's so much! This expansion also allows for you to get tokens that manipulate dice. Everything I didn't like was pretty much addressed in the expansion. But I wish it was in the base game, because there are 22 worker placement spots, and you have 4 (sometimes 5) dice. 14 spots require you to use 2 or 3 dice to use. The expansion adds 4 more spots. I found myself completely ignoring any spot that didn't give me ingredients because it seemed superfluous.

Next, the size and components. The board is awkward. It's really tall, which makes it difficult to use. The player boards are gigantic, which adds to the space. There are 13 ingredients, all of which are represented by small cards that need to be put out for everyone to grab. The expansion uses tokens that are meant to be secret, but there's no bag in the box to grab them... So you either have to get your own or lay them out, face-down, taking up more space. Not a great use of space.

Also, the dice. This is a Kickstarter games, and it shows. All the art that features the dice feature the really cool Kickstarter dice. But my retail game came with basic, colored dice. I feel left out because I came to the party late.

And finally, the meeples. They are useless. You use them to claim orders and block other players from using those spaces. That's it. I could have done without the meeples and it would have been just fine. Ingredients are hard enough to come by, you don't need the added annoyance of getting less choice when it comes to your turn.

The Solo
I thought the game would have an in-depth, dice-powered AI that would present interesting challenges. But... I didn't get that. You roll a dice over every color and place a die in a specific spot on the board to block you. That's it. It's really more annoying than challenging. Not dynamic at all.

The End
Overall, the game is entertaining. It was super promising, but just missed by trying to be over-complicated. It seems like the designers wanted to introduce a lot of good mechanics, but it's just too much. I found myself without an option to do anything on a lot of my turns. I couldn't use some dice. I mean, I could have, but it didn't really do anything for me.

I have been thinking of variants that might make it more interesting. There is a group of 3 spaces called the Wizard's Workshop which is the only place you get items (in the base game) and magic potions (a wild ingredient). It's so expensive (magic potions require you to spend 3 dice!) That I never really think to use it. It would be better served as a spot to turn ingredients that you aren't using (you'll have a lot of those) into other ingredients. It would be super helpful. But that's for another forum.

I would honestly say pass on this game. I'm not upset I bought it, but I definitely should have played it before buying. I will try to be more discerning in the future, and so should you.
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Justin Gan
United Kingdom
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Couple of things:

But, in a two player game, you could get blocked.
This is a worker placement game, blocking spots is part of the strategy. And ingredients, being the key resource in this game, are tight, and should be hard to come by. There's also an implicit increasing rarity in the ingredients themselves. The 5 and 6 ingredients are harder to come by (the chore/kitchen track alternatives are 15+ combined) because they generally cost more dice.

Player order is hugely important - bagging the ingredients you absolutely need early in the round is crucial to minimise the chances of being blocked out.

The kitchen/chore tracks provide you with a means to mitigate the dice rolls with the +/- modifiers, but they do only apply to other kitchen/chore actions.

The catch-up white dice mechanism is also a great way to get extra worker placements, or let you get the higher kitchen/chore track items. So sometimes, being last in points order (but first in player order) can net you a lot of extra stuff.

One track where if you use one die, you can get the ingredient depending on value.
You can place more than one die on a single ingredient spot to make up the value. E.g. a 2 and a 3 to make a 5.

Additionally, Magic Potions - they're wild ingredients and should definitely not be overlooked.

Similarly, don't overlook the item cards, they can be hugely powerful (particularly given that you get one for free when you pick up a magic potion). And the wizards office action lets you draw 3 items and keep one (more if you have a certain special character ability). Given that some items let you swap out ingredients required for drink fulfilment, or keep one ingredient that you spend on completing a drink, it's usually well worth the 2 dice it costs.

And finally, the meeples. They are useless.

They're simply markers to indicate that a table is currently being served so you don't accidentally refill it with a new order. So not entirely useless. In a 5 player game, it would be very easy to get this wrong. I do agree, it's a fiddly mechanism (as is the tracking of time), but it does the job.

With respect to the custom KS dice, they are nice and do add to the theme, but the problem I have with them was that the runic font that was used means that the 2 and the 5 look almost identical.
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