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Kevin Whitmore
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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TNG Session Report - March 26, 2002

A LA CARTE

With a bit of time left over, Michael requested we play this silly cooking game.  As it turns out this was the first time this has been played on a Tuesday night.  We lost Nan, but Jay opted to play this one with us.

A la Carte is very silly.  I love it.  Each player gets a cardboard stove and a small metal cooking pan.  Players draw tiles outlining what recipe they must prepare.  Each recipe requires a certain heat level, and some seasoning.  Heating is a random die roll, with a couple special results possible. 

Seasoning…

Seasoning is especially silly – making the game.  There are four spice jars in this game.  Each spice jar has seven colored wooden bits in it, along with four white wooden "salt" bits mixed in.  When you want to season a dish, you select a spice jar, remove the cork plug and "shake" it over your dish.  Sometimes nothing comes out, sometimes more spice than you wanted comes out.  If you’re lucky, just the right amount comes out!  It is very possible to "over-spice" a dish thus ruining it.  When this happens you must feed it to the pigs.  Every once in a while you actually successfully finish a recipe and serve it.

There are a few wrinkles that add interest.  The Coffee Klatch is a way to pass off a troubled dish to one of your neighbors.  Sometimes when you roll the die you get to heat the other players dishes (great way to ruin that Waldorf salad their preparing), and sometimes you get to season another’s dish (Here let me "help"…).

We all laughed a lot as we played.  Dianne trounced us, successfully finishing three dishes and only ruining two dishes.  Dianne won with 8 points. Jay scored 4 points.  I finished at zero, and Michael ended up at negative 1.

A la Carte will be hated by serious minded strategy gamers – but for those who love to laugh as they play, I can heartily recommend this one!

Ratings

Michael and Dianne – Excellent

Kevin – Good

Afterword:

A la Carte is a game you will either LOVE or HATE.  I love it.  Players get little cooking plates, metal pans, and proceed to try to prepare outrageous recipes.  The game is entirely in German, but suffers not at all.  Each turn a player attempts to prepare a dish according to the recipe tile he has drawn.  Some recipes are easy and not worth much, others are nigh impossible and are worth a lot of points.

What do you do?  Hah!  The central mechanism of this game is shaking the "spices" out of a jar into your pan.  The spices are four different jars loaded with wooden pellets.  I won't explain the details here, but suffice to say there is a lot of hilarity in seeing four adults trying to shake just the right number of wooden pellets into their little metal cook pans on their little cooking plates.

Every woman who has every played this game with me has declared she wanted a copy of it!  In addition to the wholesale hilarity of the shaking the spice bottles, the recipes have you preparing outrageous epicurean delights...  Hippopotamus anyone?  For even more fun, players must control the temperature on their stoves, avoid "help" from the other players, and beware of the coffee-klatch where poorly seasoned recipes may be given to you.  Once a recipe is truly ruined you get to feed it to the pigs.

A la Carte is a game that I proudly keep on my shelf!
 
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