Image by Frank DiLorenzo
I was compelled to write this review after being surprised by this game. I read the rules a while back so I could enter the contest here at BGG. The game sounded unique, but, well, boring. It sounded convoluted and the actions seemed imbalanced. I didn’t expect much when I was invited to try this game.
I was really taken by surprise by how fun this game is and how well its elements go together.
Image by Jason Root
Genre and Vocabulary: It’s a card game. Card games are played with cards.
Overview: I’m going to assume you are playing a four player game. You play as partners with the person across from you. You start the game with a stack of 12 dishes in front of each player. The team to empty their stacks first wins. You can help your partner in three ways: You can “unblock” their pile, serve dishes off their pile and, if you empty your stack – you can take some of their stack.
Each turn, you play a combination of TWO cards. You start with a hand of 6 cards and one card trapped under a stack of dishes. The first card tells what action you will play and the second card will indicate what color that action effects. Green cards allow ALL players to serve (discard) the top dish off a stack if it matches the targeted color (which is determined by the card played with this card – so to target a green dish you’d need to play two green cards.) Blue cards allow you to split a stack into two stacks or move a stack onto another stack. The targeted color is the color of the dish on the bottom of the stack (or part of a stack that you move). It’s important to note that making a new stack lowers your hand size by one because you store a card under a stack until the stack clears. Red cards let you move the cover, which blocks stacks from serving dishes, either onto a stack or off of a stack belonging to any player. White cards are more difficult to explain. They can do a couple of things. First, they can REMOVE a cover from one of YOUR stacks if the cover is of the targeted color. Second they trigger one of four different bus boy cards in front of you. There’s one of each color. Each bus boy does the same thing though, you must trigger them once to “prime” the card by flipping it over. The second time (on a future) you trigger the same busboy, he then resets and allows you to serve the top dish off of ONE of YOUR stacks.
Sounds more complicated than it is. And it sounds less interactive than it really is.
Image by Frank DiLorenzo
Theme: Is the theme tacked on? Yes, but this game would be unappealing as an abstract. The covers. The stack of dishes. The little illustration that makes it look like a waiter is carrying dishes. They all make this game much more accessible.
Variability: Decent. The random stacks you start with will shape the game. I think this game has about the amount of varying experiences you would expect from a card game.
Player Interaction: High. You are playing with a partner and hoping they follow your lead. It’s necessary to block other’s stacks so you can serve your dishes without advancing the other team. You want to “piggyback” off your opponents actions when possible.
Depth and Time: Not a huge amount of depth, but not a huge amount of time either. Really great choices every turn. Do I start a new stack and have more dishes ready to serve, but “lose” a card? Do I block my opponent or just serve a different dish? Is it better to trigger the busboy and slowly serve off dishes or let others benefit from a shared serve action? Can I split my stack so it matches my partners dishes? Or my opponent’s?
Strategy or Tactics: Mostly tactics. You have to constantly respond to what other players do and the cards in your hands.
Diversity of Strategies: There’s a little. You might be able to focus on serving your dishes or more on blocking your opponents, but there’s really mostly one path to victory.
Interesting Mechanics: The ‘double card’ play is interesting, though the card’s illustrations make thing look more complicated than they are. The sequenced stacks of dishes allow you to see at a glance what is in your stack and the stacks themselves are fun to manipulate. They create little logic problems to consider. This game is unique, yet it feels a lot like other games, like rummy or euchre. This is a plus.
Fun Factor: Oh yeah! It’s really a thrill when you line up a play and pull off serving a series of dishes or force another player to serve your dishes. It’s fun to block and even more fun to “parry” a block with a well-timed busboy card! It’s neat to find a way to split a stack and create “combos”!
Image by Jason Root
Who’s This Game For?: Almost everybody! Kids will like playing with the stacks and serving dishes, though I think older kids will get more out of the game. Families will find the blocking playful and not TOO cutthroat. But, here’s the thing, serious gamers will find enough to like here too. The play provides enough cleaver play to keep them engaged. Far from a brainburner, but it does require thought.
Hey waiter! I think I’d like a second serving!