Review of Blend Off!

Blend Off!

  • Designer: Scot Eaton
  • Publisher: Thunderworks Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6 and up
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Times Played: 8
  • Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

BlendOff_Review1

Introduction

Blend Off! is a real time game in which all players are frantically rolling dice to collect fruit, blending smoothies, and filling orders to earn gold stars.  Makes total sense, right?  To best understand the theme and mechanisms of the game, it’s important to know the backstory.  Here it is as told in the rules…

Blend it Like Becca — a small-town smoothie shop sensation!  It’s been a slow night.  Becca the shop owner, Kevin the runner boy, and the Master Mixers – including you! – have started closing up shop.  One minute before close, the door swings open.  Outside, you see parked school buses and a line of people all the way to the street corner!  The high school girls’ volleyball tournament has just gotten out, and everyone is craving a smoothie for the ride home.  Becca cuts a deal: whoever blends the most smoothies tonight gets free smoothies for a month!  The Blend Off has begun, and only one can win.  There’s just one problem: Kevin.  Skittish at best on normal days, he flies into a frenzy, grabbing fruit for you from the fridge at random.  Take the fruit Kevin brings, complete the orders Becca calls back, and blend your way to victory!

In the game, players represent the Master Mixers who are competing to blend the most smoothies.  Each Master Mixer rolls a Fruit Die representing Kevin\ and the random fruits he retrieves from the refrigerator.  The deck of Blender Cards represents Becca who is continuously calling out smoothie orders to be filled.  Unlike many games, there are no individual turns.  Players are all playing and taking actions simultaneously until the game ends (when Becca is out of orders).  The player that earned the most gold stars from blending smoothies is the winner.

Blend Off! is the third game successfully crowdfunded by Keith Matejka and Thunderworks Games using Kickstarter.  The campaign ended on June 9, 2016 and was supported by 485 backers.  The game shipped to backers in December 2016 and was officially released in February 2017.

The game includes the following components:

  • 4 fruit dice (custom engraved)
  • 41 fruit tokens (custom wooden)
  • 8 Blender cards (two each of four colors)
  • 37 Order cards
  • 2 Rules/Spill cards
  • 1 Enduriance card
  • Rules

Blend Off!

Playing the Game

Each player chooses a color (blue, green, red, or yellow) and receives the two Blender cards of the chosen color and one fruit die.  For each type of fruit, put tokens equal to the number of players plus two into the middle of the table along with the single durian fruit token to form the central supply.  Shuffle together the orange Order cards along with the Order cards that match the colors chosen by the players to form the Becca (i.e., Order) deck.  Check that the bottom card is not a Special Order and show it to all players.  Draw and display Order cards faceup on the table equal to the number of players plus one.  If a Special Order card is drawn, place it on the table and draw another Order card to place on top of it, allowing the bottom of the Special Order to show from underneath the top card.  If necessary, keep drawing and stacking Special Order cards until a regular Order card is placed on top of the stacked Special Order cards.

The game can now begin.  One player calls out “Ready, Set, Blend!” and then all players take actions simultaneously until all Orders have been filled and the game ends.  Each player may take the following actions at any time and in any order during the game:

  1. Collect — Roll the fruit die and do one of the following:
    • Collect one fruit token that matches the fruit shown on the die and add it to one of that player’s Blenders; the ‘?’ symbol is wild and allows the player to take one of any fruit token (except the durian) and add it to a Blender.  If all of a particular fruit has been taken (i.e., no tokens for that fruit remain in the central supply), then the player may take the durian fruit token and add it to another player’s Blender, causing them to immediately Dump all of the fruit from that Blender back into the central supply.
    • Ignore the result on the die and reroll.

       

  2. Dump — Dump ALL of the fruit tokens from one Blender back to the central supply or into that player’s other Blender; it is not possible to remove individual fruit tokens as they are all mixed together instantly when added to the Blender.
  3. Blend — When the fruit in the player’s Blender matches a faceup Order card (any fruit except the durian can be used to fulfill the ‘?’ symbol in the recipe of for an Order), the player calls out “Blend!” to claim the Order; nobody can steal that particular Order or sabotage that Blender with the durian fruit.  The player performs the following steps to complete a Blend:
    • Take the Card — Take the Order card and place it next to the Blender, then verify that the fruit in the blender matches the recipe on the Order card.  If the smoothie was made correctly, set the Order card aside to be scored at the end of the game.  If the smoothie was not made correctly and another player didn’t call out a “Blunder” (see below) for it, return the Order card (and any stacked Special Orders) to center of the table.  If multiple players call out “Blend!” at the same time for the same Order, then the player who touched the Order card first gets it.  Note: Special Order cards modify the recipes on the regular Order cards in one of two ways, so be sure to check the following Special Orders when verifying that the smoothie has been made properly:
      • Add — This Special Order adds the fruit shown on the card to the overall recipe required to fulfill the Order.
      • Hold the… — This Special Order points to a fruit symbol in the recipe on the regular Order card and removes that requirement from the overall recipe required to fulfill the Order.
    • Replace the Card — Draw and display a new Order card faceup on the table from the deck.  If a Special Order card is drawn, place it on the table and draw another Order card to place on top of it, allowing the bottom of the Special Order to show from underneath the top card.  If necessary, keep drawing and stacking Special Order cards until a regular Order card is placed on top of the stacked Special Order cards.  
    • Return the Fruit — If the smoothie was made correctly, dump all of the fruit tokens from the Blender back into the central supply. 
  4. Blunder — If a player notices that another player messes up during any of the three Blend steps, the player may point and call out “Blunder!” on that other player who must immediately correct the error(s) and then sit out of the game until another player calls out a “Blend!”; the player may call “Blunder!” on other players while sitting out.

The game ends when all Orders have been fulfilled and there are none left in the deck.  Players then count the gold stars on their fulfilled Order and Special Order cards.  The player with most gold stars is the winner.  If there is a tie, all tied players win.

Blend Off!

Advanced Rules

A couple of optional “Advanced Rules” are included that can be used to add some extra flavor to the game:

  • The “Enduriance” Challenge — Add the purple Enduriance card to the deck during setup.  When this Order is drawn, place it faceup on the table next to the other Order cards and draw again; the Enduriance card cannot be modified by any Special Orders.  To make the Enduriance smoothie, a player must get the durian on their turn (i.e., roll the dice to get a fruit that is not available in the supply and therefore take the durian) and then place it in one of their OWN empty Blenders.  Once this Order is filled, it is not replaced by another.
  • Spills — Spills are meant to be used as an optional handicap when playing with younger children, new players, or players who may feel that they are slower than the others.  During setup, give a Spill card to one or two players (there are only two Spill cards provided with the game).  A player with a Spill card may call out “Spill!” once per game which forces all other players not doing the Blend action at that time to dump the fruit from both of their Blenders back o the central supply.  The Spill card is flipped over to the reference side once it is used so that it cannot be used again.

Variants

There are also two variants included that really blend up the feel of the regular game:

  • The Race! — This is a speed game without the competition in which players have their own supply of fruit tokens and work to fulfill their own orders before working on “Final Orders” in the center of the table.  
  • Blend Off! Jr. — This variant of the game is recommended for younger children and is turn-based rather than real time/simultaneous play.  Fewer Order cards are used and playing with the durian is optional.  On a turn, the active player rolls all four fruit dice, sets aside any to keep, and then re-rolls the remaining dice once.  Fruit is collected for each pair of matching dice.  After rolling and collecting fruit tokens (maximum of two per turn), the player can take any of the Collect, Dump, and Blend actions as many times and in any order desired.  The game ends when all Orders have been filled.  The player that has collected the most gold stars on fulfilled Orders is the winner.

Note: Please refer to the official Blend Off! rules sheet for the full details of Setup, Gameplay, and Game End for the above variants.

Blend Off!

My Thoughts on the Game

Craig V: My parents were in town visiting the day Blend Off! arrived in the mail, so I decided to give it a play with them and with my wife.  None of them are avid gamers, but it was hard for them to pass up a cheery little box packed with colorful fruit tokens.  I read through the rules in fewer than five minutes and explained how to play in even less time than that.  In no time at all we had the game setup and were off rolling…  One game quickly turned into four since we all were having a blast rolling the die like crazy, grabbing fruit tokens, snatching up Orders, dumping Blunders, and occasionally spiking somebody’s mix with the durian.  It was a lot of fun and probably more fun than anybody really thought that it would be.

At first, it might be tempting to dismiss Blend Off! as nothing but a simple little frantic dice-chucking game. In many ways it is, but there is just a little bit more to it than that thanks to the one little “take that” mechanism: the durian.This one piece of overpowering fruit offers an extra strategic option in the game. Using it against a player that’s ahead or one that may be working on the same order as you can be key to getting just a couple gold stars ahead for the win. New players will likely start by just using one Blender at a time and working on one particular Order at a time, but as they play more, they start to see the benefit of looking around the table occasionally and not passing up an opportunity to throw the durian into another player’s Blender. Also, working with two Blenders provides an opportunity to strategize more when taking fruit and when deciding what Orders to work toward completing. Even if another player beats beats you to an Order, another Order one may come up that needs the fruit already in the Blender, so it’s not always a total loss.

Blend Off! is a game of speed which is typically not an attribute I generally like in games. Why? If a particular player is just innately quicker than all the others, then it is highly likely that the faster player will always win. That’s okay for a game or two, but then it just isn’t fun anymore. That feeling is amplified the longer each game lasts. Having multiple Order cards available to fill, working with two blenders, limiting the supply of fruit tokens, and using the durian all seem to create a more level playing field whereby every player is able to stay engaged and have fun, even if they may not be the fastest.  Much of the game hinges on the luck involved with rolling a single die over and over, so that mitigates the speed factor as well.  The game feels balanced overall as a result and so that a player good at speed games may not always end up the winner of Blend Off!

Blend Off!The custom fruit dice are really nice as are the wooden fruit tokens.  The dice are a good standard size (16 mm) with engraved sides that match the colors and shapes of the fruit tokens perfectly.  These are really important considerations when trying to roll the die over and over and quickly interpret the results each time.  The fruit tokens are a good size as well and are therefore easy to differentiate and pick up.  The colors on the cards are rich and the graphic design is pleasing.  They really nailed it all around with the components and their usability during gameplay.  The only thing I am unsure about is why the mango symbol on the Order cards has so much red on the right side of it.  Yes, some mangoes have some red highlights around the top and all of the other fruit symbols on the Order cards have little touches of colored details, but it seems like a little too much for the mango.  Every time I look at the mango symbol on the cards I think “cherry lime” and every time I look at the green mango fruit tokens or the corresponding symbol on the fruit die I think “green chili pepper” – there is something about the shape or placement of the stem that just isn’t quite right for a mango.  This isn’t a game breaker, but it’s a minor disconnect and I wish just a little bit more care was given to the shape of the mango and its coloration on the Order cards.  The other fruit tokens look and feel awesome though – especially that pesky durian!

I don’t have any children, but my wife and I tried the Blend Off! Jr. variant of the game once as well.  The turned-based play definitely slows the game down quite a bit, but the game doesn’t overstay its welcome since the deck of Order cards is greatly reduced.  Rolling all dice, choosing which ones to keep, and then rolling again doesn’t seem overly exciting at first, but it does provide a key decision spot and rolling just the right fruit is always exciting.  This roll and select mechanism is also a good way to teach younger children matching and odds-based decision making skills.  I was initially concerned that getting only one or sometimes two fruit per turn would be agonizing slow and remove too much of the competition to fulfill Orders from the game, but it really worked quite well due to the inherent unpredictability of the dice.  We fought back and forth for the last Order using the durian several times before I finally managed to get a lucky roll to end the game.  Overall, my wife actually preferred this version of the game over the frantic rolling frenzy nature of the regular Blend Off! game.

I’m really happy to see a good assortment of lighter, fun, family-friendly games like Blend Off! becoming available.  In addition to many of them having fresh themes, the games are attractive, well-produced, and attractively priced.  Blend Off! ticks all of those boxes with its tasty smoothie blending theme, great custom dice and wooden fruit tokens, whimsical art, fun smoothie names and descriptions loaded with cute puns, and a MSRP of only $25.  It also comes in a right-sized box (approximately 4.75” square by 1.625” deep) that’s portable and just large enough to hold all of the components without any dead space.

Overall, I have had so much fun playing Blend Off!  Its smooth blend of easy rules, quick setup, fast play, and nice components makes this a game that can really be shared with and played by anybody.  It’s the perfect type of game to introduce new people to hobby games and its lightheartedness will likely melt the hearts of even the most hardcore hobby gamers as a filler game.  I’m typically not great at speed or dice games, but Blend Off! works really well for me and I’m really glad to have it in my collection.  

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y: Blend Off is a fine game for what it is – a speed based dice rolling game.  I have only played it once so far, but my initial opinion of it is positive.  The rules are simple to grasp and we got started with our game in about two minutes.  It’s easy enough to roll your die and then throw fruits into your blenders.  My focus was pretty simple.  I simply picked a card to go for and then focused all my attention on that card.  I might occasionally throw an extra fruit into my other blender – but for the most part, everything was focused on whichever card I  wanted to get.  When it was time to switch gears, I would then see if my extra one or two fruits in the other blender got me a head start on my next card.  

With most speed dice games, you just have to trust that everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.  You really don’t have time to watch anyone else to see if they are collecting what they roll and/or if they have the right fruits when they blend a smoothie.  Pretty much the only time that I’d look up from my area is when someone made the blending noise and I would maybe check out what the new card was.

Component wise – everything is good except for the mismatch between the mango illustration and the wood bit.  Not sure why those don’t match.

In the end, there isn’t too much strategy here – just roll fast and try to collect cards.  It’s a good for a opener/closer or for games with non-gamer friends. I’d play it again when Craig brings it back around.

Karen M: This game will draw attention to itself at any game night for a couple of reasons. It looks great; as Craig mentioned, the components are bright and colorful and perfect for the theme. Who doesn’t love a great smoothie??!! But more importantly, there is a whole lot of hooting and hollering and laughter from playing the game that will surely draw everyone’s attention. It’s a frantic good time…

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Craig V
  • I like it. Dale Y, Karen M
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

Blend Off!

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About Craig V (shigadeyo)

I'm an outdoor adventurer, kettlebell/strength enthusiast, foodie/beer guy, and a touch of geek all rolled together. Some of my many interests include: beer, homebrewing, fitness (kettlebell and barbell), travel, food and cooking, hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), letterboxing and board and card games, of course!
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