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Subject: I'll have a Cube Burger to go and a side of Special Actions rss

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Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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After reading the rules I nearly put Burger Joint up for trade un-played. I bought the game because it’s about burgers. The games got nothing to do with burgers (or Pizzas for that matter one poor soul has to play the Pizza side).

My purchasing ruminations start with theme and move on to asking: - is it a good game? And what better theme is there than the production of Burgers? (I am not forgetting that one player is on the Pizza side of the table I just won’t ever be that player). Oscar Wilde said 'I can resist everything except temptation', for me you can cross out ‘temptation’ and strike in the round patty of meat. I’m the only person I know who drooled through ‘Supersize Me’ and then had to the leave the cinema to grab a burger it all just looked so good.

So to say I was looking forward to this game is an understatement and this eager anticipation caused my initial disappointment. What do you produce in Burger Joint? Cubes ;White, Black, Yellow, Green, Brown and Red Cubes. Not Cheese burgers, not even a flaming Hawaiian Pizza - just cubes. What special actions can you take with your upmarket bistros? You can draw a cube, you can swap cubes, .Why not, at least, call the special actions something thematic like 'Chef’s Special' or 'Twofers'?. No we just get a diagram for each action with a picture of cubes being turned into other cubes.

That’s’ the bad news. Now I am going to have to reverse my earlier stated mantra and acknowledge that a game can be ok despite the theme and games about food have been the prime cause. My purchasing criteria and love of food led me to purchase ‘Wasabi’ which has theme imbedded in every square inch of card board. I have stopped playing ‘Wasabi’ though because I don’t think it’s a very good game (and every time I play by the time I have seen my initial menu I am on the phone to order some delivery Sushi..).

Now Burger Joint is actually a good game. It would have been much better themed as something to do with building mediaeval castles or the like, because the mechanics would fit that theme like a glove, the cubes could be stone or wood and the up market bistros could have been different types of workshops or markets. It’s a shame because the world (well me at least..) needs a thematically rich game about burgers.

The game

Burger joint is a two player game in which each player races to develop their chain of restaurants until they reach a total of twelve victory points earned from owning restaurants and position on development tracks. The game comes in an attractive small box . The rule book is well written, clear and unambiguous. The art work is fifties diners style.

Components

Each player has there own small board which has four columns. The first column is the ‘Publicity’ track. Progress on this track gives victory points; it also allows you to steal a cube from your opponent. The next three columns contain restaurants, your basic burger hut in the first then diners in the second and upmarket Bistros in the third. Each player starts with a basic burger joint and two diners. The diners produce cubes , each of the six diners produce the six different colours of cubes. Except they don’t they just give you first choice on cubes of that colour drawn out of a bag - More on this latter. Each built diner is worth one victory point. The third column contains the upmarket bistros, these temples of haut cuisine give victory points and special actions the lower the victory point value the better the special action. Above each column is the cost (in cubes) for building a new restaurant of that column’s type or advancing your publicity track.


There is another small board that is placed between the players. This board records victory points and is used by each player to warehouse their cubes and also to allocate the cubes that get produced in the game.

There are also 60 cubes in the six coulours, and development markers to show what you have built

How does it play?

The first thing that happens in a players turn is production. The player blind draws cubes from a bag. The number drawn is equal to the total number of diners and bistros built by both players up to a maximum of four per player. These cubes are then placed on the warehouse board. This board has a central area where cubes that be produced by both players diners and neither player are placed. The remaining cubes are placed on the side of the player who can exclusively produce the cube.

Players then take it in turn to select a cube. On the first turn players can only select a cube from their side of the board or those in the central supply. After each player has chosen one cube they can select from any of the remaining cubes. So if I am the only person who has a white producing diner and there is only one white cube I am guaranteed to get it if I want it. Players take cubes up to their diner production capacity. This part of the game is quite tense; you are always torn between taking a cube need and taking a cube to deny it to your opponent.

The second part of a players turn is taken up with trading and special actions. Trading can be carried out multiple times and involves swapping any three cubes for a cube of your choice and the special actions are the reward for building a particular Bistro. The special actions can be taken once only per turn and they are:-

1) Put a cube in the bag and draw a random cube
2) Put two cubes in the bag and takeout one of your choice
3) Draw a random cube
4) Place a cube in the bag draw a cube of your choice
5) Draw a cube of your choice

The more powerful the special action, the less VPs awarded for the owned bistro.

The third part of the turn involves building or buying publicity. The cost in number of cubes is the same for both players; however the colours required are different, except for Bistros. The diners are progressively more expensive to build. A simple burger joint cots two cubes, a diner four cubes and a bistro six. To build a diner you have to upgrade a burger joint, this has to be the lowest one on the burger joint column. To build a Bistro you have to upgrade a diner, though this can be any one you choose.

Publicity works slightly differently. The column has 10 spaces ranging from 0 victory points to four 4 VPs at the bottom. When you pay the cubes to advance down the publicity track you may also steal a cube from your opponent’s warehouse. If you choose publicity multiple times in a turn, after the first move and steal you have to choose between move and steal.

In the final phases of a players turn you adjust your victory points and discard cubes down to seven. If you have got the target 12 VPs you win.

There a lot of different ways of getting to the magic target. Each of the diners is worth one VP and as these are the engine of your game you are likely to have between four and six of these restaurants. The basic burger joints also give VPs but there are only 3 that do and these are spaced down on the column as you have to add Burger joints to the next available space and use them to upgrade to diners they are easy to lose. The publicity track is a source of VPs but requires some serious investment to get tio the highest possible number of 4. The big VPs come from the Bistros. But the most useful ones have the least VPs. A bistro that allows you to select a free cube of your choice each turn gives you zero VPs. The Bistro with the most VPs gives no special actions at all.

Conclusion

For a small game there are a lot of different ways of winning and in the games I have played so far none of them have evolved in the same way. The ability to produce cubes and thus select them seems key to this game, I lost my first game by jumping to the bistros too early and the special actions not compensating for the lack of cubes. Neglecting the basic restaurants can also cause your production engine to slow down. The publicity track and the choice of which diner to build provides some interaction, though useful they only slow down your opponent they are not going to stop him. I enjoyed the game, and would describe it as a light weight Euro with some interesting choices. It’s a six out of ten for me it might have been a higher if the game actually had any relation to its theme.

Edited for spelling


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Roger Howell
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Lenexa
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A really fun read, thanks!
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