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Subject: Review Based on BSW Plays rss

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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
The board depicts several tables with 4 seats each (some shared between tables). Each table is associated with some nationality (a flag). There is also a chart in the center, the bar, with 20 seats. The idea is that people like to sit at the café with others to chat (as long as the male/female ratio is balanced). But they only enjoy the company of people either of their own nationality, or 1-2 others. If they cannot sit with the right person, they will sit at the bar (which is nice at first, but gets louder and more uncomfortable as more and more people sit there). Each player gets points based on how happy he can make his people.

Well, the components on are just wonderful . I have not played the actual board game, so can't comment on those components. The important (simulated) components are: tiles of men and women from 12 different countries, 2 male and 2 female jokers and a board as described above.

1. Everyone gets 5 randomly chosen tiles to start the game (all players’ tiles are public knowledge at all times). The rest of the tiles go into a bag, to be drawn randomly throughout the game.

2. Turn Sequence
A. Each turn, you choose to do one of the following:
- Play 1 or 2 tiles to 1 or 2 tables.
Limits on placement: must match nationality of table (if between 2 tables, may match either one; when playing joker, state nationality); may not leave only one person at table (except for 1st player’s 1st turn); must balance men vs. women - may have 1 more than the other seated at the same table.
- Play 1 tile to the bar.
Rules: start in upper left corner (score 1 point), then fill bar left to right, top to bottom; may not play joker to bar unless no other legal play available.
- Exchange a joker on the board for a tile in hand.
Tile you are playing must be legal according to rules above.

B. Replenish Hand.
- Hand size decreases by 1 for each table of single nationality that you completed with tile placement.
- Draw tiles up to current limit by drawing from the bag of tiles.

C. Score Points
- If you played to the bar, you gain/lose points as shown on board. If your total score becomes negative, you are eliminated (till one player left = winner).
- If you played a tile to a table, score every table at which that person is sitting. If everyone at the table is the same nationality, score 2 point/person. Otherwise, 1 point/person. Exception: 0 points if alone.
- If you exchanged a tile for the joker: do not score

D. Game Over? The game ends when any of the following occur:
- Bar is full
- All tables are full
- A player’s hand size is down to 0
- All but 1 player eliminated (negative scores)
- Only 4 tiles left in bag

4. End of Game Scoring
- Tiles in hand = -5 points each
- Unplayed jokers = additional -5 points each

5. Winner = player with most points.

Huh? What theme? This is clearly an abstract tile-placing game, where you are trying to optimize the luck of the draw in order to control tile placement. It is not really an area-control game, per se, but it has some of that feel: you need to try to control the tables. You would like to limit your opponents’ options by placing tiles so that either they cannot score at the same table after you (for more points), or so that you can come back and score a lot of points yourself. As far as I can tell, that has nothing to do with seating people at a café. And who are you, anyway … a waiter looking for good tips? Hmm … maybe that makes some sense, after all! Nevertheless, the theme works reasonably well, although (for example) I’m not sure why the Italians are so friendly with the Chinese ... but maybe that’s just my ignorance showing!

Game Play
Very simple, very fast. Usually, play 2 tiles, draw 2 tiles. As the game progresses, more likely play 1, draw 1 (to avoid running out of legal table plays, and being forced to seat someone at the bar). Despite having perfect knowledge (except for what’s coming up in the tile draw), it is pretty easy to make decisions quickly. On the one hand, that’s nice – there really shouldn’t be any analysis paralysis here. On the other, it’s really not – the game almost plays itself. The optimum play seems pretty self-evident, and it seems likely that the game, with competent play, would come down to the luck of the draw.

While this is a moderately fun game at first, it doesn’t hold up as well with repeated play. I don’t think it’s boring ... it’s just not very challenging. It is certainly short enough and fun enough to serve as a filler, but I don’t think it will be much more than that (despite being the Spiel des Jahres winner of 1989!).
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