Tag Archives: Review

Favorites of Gen Con 2016

I promised to share some of my favorite things from Gen Con 2016. Let’s jump right in!

  • Concert Against Humanity – I’ve played some Cards Against Humanity, and in fact, even took part in some of their playtesting at Gen Con. On a whim (which in this case technically means ‘in response to a compelling email from Gen Con) I decided to give the Concert Against Humanity a try. Phwadamn. It was amazing. Hours of music and comedy, a fun loot bag, and just a spectacular evening out. Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, Patrick Rothfuss, Molly Lewis, Aparna Nancherla, and more performed. I would rate this as “Must Do” for me during future Gen Con visits.
  • BGG Hot Games Room – This was an oasis of joy and fun inside a larger oasis of joy, fun, and crowds. The deal here was that, for two hours per tickets, lots of publishers donated games with lots of buzz and you could show up here and play them. BGG did a great job of limited people in the room (so ideally you should reserve your spot through the event system) so you had table and chair space. Games were first come, first served, so you may not get the tippy top one on your list right away, but you could surely find something of interest. It was cool, quiet, and a great way to game in a more low-key environment and try out great new games. Some publishers even had staff or demo crews on hand to help out, but in most cases you were on your own to learn to play the game. Another “Must Do” for me, I’d likely schedule time here every afternoon.
  • Wyrmwood Gaming – I had seen Wyrmwood Gaming items featured in a number of Kickstarters recently and was very interested in some of their dice boxes. They looked beautiful, but I didn’t want to pull the trigger. They were too pricey for me to buy sight unseen. They had a large booth loaded with their items at the show, and it was wonderful to get hands on their items. They look better and are of higher quality than I could have imagined. Truly breathtaking items that should be seen and handled to be believed.
  • Codenames: Pictures and Czech Games Edition – Codenames: Pictures is a wonderful continuation of the excellent Codenames game. Our crew was pleasantly surprised by how different the game was with the pictures. The art is outstanding and hilarious and I would probably buy t-shirts with card art on them. Stegaroo! The pictures are interestingly complicated and I spent a lot of time wondering how so many details were crammed in to the simple, crisp drawings. I should also mention the amazing Broken Token Codenames organizer that lets you neatly fit both Codenames and Pictures in one of the original boxes.

    Codenames: Pictures
  • Deadfall/Pairs – I have been a big fan of Cheapass Games for years, and a fan of Pairs since it came out. Deadfall is another great variant on the Pairs game which incorporates a strong Liar’s Dice style of play with betting to the Pairs world. It is a beautiful deck as well, but the true magic is you can play it with your favorite Pairs deck.

    Deadfall

There were many more things that drew my eye and were great fun to play, but these were the items that left the biggest impression on me. What did you see or hear about that caught your eye?

A La Carte Review

Let’s review A La Carte!

Overview – A La Carte is primarily a lighter dexterity game for two to four players with a listed playing time of thirty minutes. It is recommended for ages 8 and up and both the theme and gameplay work well with children. The 2009 Fantasy Flight Games version of the game was used for this review.

Inside the Box – The components for A La Carte are excellent. As a dexterity game, you might expect that good quality and highly tactile components would add to the “feel” of the game, and that is certainly the case for pretty much everything found the box. From the cardboard stovetops with dials that you assemble to the plastic seasonings and their shakers to the metal cooking pans, the components are high quality and clearly “set the table” for a fun, engaging, and good-looking game experience.  All of the various Recipe and Coffee Cup tokens are easy to handle and the icons are clear and readable. The rulebook is short but clear with examples and illustrations. This game was easy to get on the table with a short, well-written rulebook, a small amount of component assembly, and about five minutes of set-up time.

Gameplay – In A La Carte, you play a chef trying to create perfect dishes. Each completed dish earns victory points and perfect dish earns a star. The game ends in one of two ways:

  1. A chef wins immediately upon finishing their third perfect dish.
  2. A chef prepares five dishes. The winner is determined by number of victory points.
  3. A chef cannot place a new dish in their pan. The winner is determined by the number of victory points.

Gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. First, you select your dish. Each dish token shows the temperature and condiments needed to prepare the dish. The dishes are also color-coded and loosely grouped by difficulty. You then have three actions each turn and can use them to add seasonings or heat your dish.

You season your dish by shaking a bottle filled with colored “chunks” of green, red, yellow, or black seasoning (herbs, paprika, lemon, or pepper respectively). Each shaker also has a few “chunks” of salt. One action can be used for one shake of a particular condiment bottle. The goal is to shake the correct number and type of condiments in to your pan, without overseasoning. A dish becomes overseasoned when it has three or more of the same condiment in the pan. Likewise, three or more salt will also overseason your dish.

You must also heat your dish to the correct temperature. You heat your stove by rolling a die, which will show you how much to change the temperature on your stove. Possible results also allow you to raise the temperature on everyone’s stove, raise your own stove your choice of 1 to 3 units, or get a Coffee Break.

Coffee Breaks are special actions, represented by tokens, that can make your mission to become the top chef easier or perhaps make the journey harder for your opponent chefs. And sometimes both. They may give you extra actions, allow you to switch stoves, add seasonings to another chef’s dish, or simply give you some victory points.

You can “complete” a dish by burning or overseasoning it, in which case it is thrown in the disposal. If the temperature and seasonings match the recipe exactly, you score a perfect dish star token and add the dish to your completed dish stack. You can successfully prepare the dish if you have the correct temperature and condiments along with a few extra condiments, so long as it is not overseasoned. In this case, you still add your dish to your completed stack. All of these empty your pan, and you can then choose a new dish. Your new dish must be of a different color than your successfully completed dishes, provided their are different colors available.

One final gameplay note regarding the Crepe! Everyone has a Crepe that they may choose to cook. In order to successfully cook the Crepe, you must heat your stove without burning the Crepe, but you must also flip the Crepe token to its opposite side with your pan. This can be nailed in the first attempt, or can tie up your pan for many turns.

Impressions – A La Carte when from sitting on the shelf in shrink-wrap to a regular on the gaming table, especially in family or party groups. Why? It is fun and funny. It looks fun and interesting. The theme is accessible and the game just exudes kitchen mayhem. This is in a large part due to the fantastic components. The stoves, pans, shakers, funny recipes with weird pictures all add up to a great looking and fun playing experience.

A La Carte is heavy in both dexterity and luck. Through no seeming fault of your own, you can get two salt crystals and no condiments of interest to come dropping out of the shaker with any given shake. Far more common is to shake and have nothing come out. Some players may find this to be frustrating, but we found the light theme and physical gameplay to simply make for fun and laughs. Likewise, the heating die is still more randomness, but if you burn your dish, then throw it in the disposal and grab another one. Players who dislike chance in their games or perhaps require a little more “gravitas” in a theme may not find A La Carte to their tastes.

Gamers looking for a fun game to play with groups across a range of ages and towards the lighter end of game experience should find A La Carte a good addition to their collection.

Roll of the Dice Rating – 8/10

  • Great theme supported by gameplay
  • Dexterity and luck elements make for light and fun atmosphere
  • Fantastic components take you in to the kitchen
  • Accessible to wide range of ages and gamer experience skill levels
  • High degree of chance may turn off some gamers
  • Dexterity elements may not appeal to everyone and could limit accesibility