- Designers: David Turczi with Vangelis Bagiartakis
- Publisher: Artipia Games
- Players: 1-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: ~30 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Artipia Games
So, this year, my ability to prep for Essen was compromised by a number of factors – most of which aren’t important to list here… But, I didn’t have as much chance to read up on as many games as I would have liked prior to getting on the plane to Germany. What this meant was that I was kind of back in 2002 (around when I first starting going to Essen) – in that, I was going to just have to wander the halls and see what caught my eye! Of course, I did have the advantage of being able to attend the press show on Wednesday where there is a much less cluttered atmosphere to see the new games.
I was surprised to see so many games that used sand-timers, and all of them looked quite interesting. Kitchen Rush was on display there, and based on the 45 second elevator pitch I got there, I was immediately interested in playing the game. In this cooperative game, players work together to try to get a restaurant to work efficiently. The sand timers serve as the restaurant employees. It was essentially described as an analog version of Overcooked – a great electronic co-operative game that my family has enjoyed playing together.
The game board is an overhead view of the restaurant with most of the space allocated to areas to store food, prep food, clean dishes, etc. On the right, there is a place for tables where you can see the food ordered by your patrons. Each of these areas has one or more green circles that serve as places where your sandtimer workers can stand and perform the action. Each player also gets his own mat and two timers in his color. Depending on the level of difficulty that you choose, you place the corresponding difficulty card next to the board to use as a reference. There are also specific setup rules based on the number of players – as far as what areas are in play, what starts locked at the beginning of the game, etc. The order cards are shuffled and placed near the tables. All of the ingredients are placed near the board and the spices are all placed in the spice bag. Someone needs to set the timer on their phone for 4 minutes.
The game itself is played over 4 rounds, each of which lasts 4 minutes. In each round, you are free to take any available actions. There is a cleanup phase after each of the four minute rounds to give you a minute to catch up, to evaluate orders, pay your workers and possibly earn some prestige bonuses. At the end of the fourth clean up phase, you then evaluate whether or not your team met the requirements for victory based on the objective card.
So let’s start there – there are a set of objective cards – and they are split up into four levels of difficulty. Before you start to play, the platers should agree upon which level they would like to play, and then choose a matching objective card for that difficulty. The requirements should be discussed so that everyone understands what they need to do…
There is first a preparation phase. The round marker is moved to the next space, and then an Event card is flipped up. The Events are generally negative events, and they give an added challenge to the particular 4 minute round. (It is recommended that beginners not use these cards as they are learning the game). Once this is known, the team has time to discuss their strategies for this particular round.
Then, when everyone is ready, you move into the Action phase. The player in charge of the timer starts his phone, and they everyone is free to take actions. In general, taking an action is simple. You take one of your timers and place it into an empty green space that corresponds to that action. As soon as you place the hourglass there and the sand starts draining, you are free to take the action. The timer, however, limits when you can move it to a new space to take a different action. You are only allowed to move your own colored timers or the neutral Helper timer (if it is in play). When the four minute timer runs out, you are not allowed to move your timer any more, but if you had already placed your timer in an action spot, you are allowed to complete that particular action without a time limit.
The actions are:
Maitre D’ – Two options here. You can put up to 2 new orders out. Gain a coin (place in the Office) for each new order placed. You can instead discard up to 2 orders and put new ones out. However, when you choose this option, you do not gain any coins.
Waiter – Also 2 options here. You can choose to take an order. Take an order card and place it face up in front of you. Take a clean plate that matches the size shown on the card. If it is not available, it is OK to take a plate one size larger. This place is placed on the first row (the “0” row) of the player mat. You could instead use the waiter to serve a plate early – turn an order card sideways. You will get a coin as a tip for this.
Shopping – This is the one area that doesn’t have a limit on the number of workers. When you go here, you pay a coin from the office and then go shopping. You have three options. You can get 5 tokens of any single ingredient – they can be split up amongst the storage areas as you wish. You can get 3 cubes of common spices, or you can get 2 cubes of special spices. In this case, they all must go to the spice bag.
Storage – When you go here, you can take as many ingredients as you wish out of the Storage area that you are in. You can place as many ingredients as you wish on as many plates as you have. As long as you stay here, you can continue to take ingredients. For instance, you can grab some, and then if someone else goes shopping and drops off new things, you can also take those. This action ends when you move your sandtimer out of Storage.
Ovens – When you go here, you cook one of your plates by one step. Once you start cooking a plate, you can no longer add any ingredients to that plate! Note, that you are allowed to continue to add spices once the cooking process has started. Each action here moves a single plate down your mat for a single step.
Spices – Look in the bag of spices. You are free to take as many cubes as you like while you are looking around. Simliar to the Storage action, as long as your hourglass is here, you can continue to take spices; even if another action adds new spices to the bag. This action ends when you move your timer out of the Spices area.
Office – There are multiple options here. You can use your action to purchase an Upgrade card. There are 2 upgrade cards available at the start of the game. You pay the price on the card and then get the benefit. If there are still Upgrade cards available to be drawn, replace the purchased card. You can also Repair equipment here. If something has malfunctioned, you can remove that marker with an action here. Finally, you can Rehire workers. If you have a sandtimer out of the game because you weren’t able to pay it on a previous upkeep round, you can pay 2 bucks to rehire it. Turn the rehired sandtimer over and when it runs out of sand, it can be picked up by its owner and placed anywhere to do an action.
Sink – For an action here, you can take any 3 dirty dishes and place them back in the Clean Plates area.
Again, you pretty much just get to do these wherever you can place your hourglass. Continue on for the full four minutes, and then when the timer ends, you are still allowed to complete whatever activity you are currently doing (this usually means there is a frantic period in the final 10 seconds to move any available timers onto something).
Then, the game moves into the cleanup phase. The first thing to do is to check all the orders. First, look at the orders that are considered complete. They must have exactly the right ingredients (no extras nor omissions), they must be on the correct sized plate or one larger, and they have to have been cooked for the right amount of time. If so, you score for the order. Take the coins and Prestige stars (if shown) on the order card. Discard all the ingredients and spices back to the supply, and put the dish in the sink. Place the order card in your completed stack.
If an order is incomplete, you can keep it (so long as it can still be successfully finished), though you lose 1 Prestige point for this. Further, if there is a mistake to the dish which prevents it from being done right (i.e. an extra ingredient, an extra spice, being cooked TOO MANY TIMES, or on an inappropriate plate), then you are forced to discard the dish. You can keep the order, but you must start over from scratch. You also lose a Prestige point in this case.
Next, you must pay the wages of all the workers for the round. For each hourglass that was used this round, the office must pay 3 coins to the supply. You must pay for the Helper first if it was in play. If you cannot pay for all the hourglasses, any unpaid workers go on strike, and they are placed on their side in the Office. (You can get them back in the next phase via the Office action)
Finally, you see if you have received any Prestige Bonuses – you can read the cards and put them into effect…
You do this for four rounds, and then at the end of the fourth round, you see whether or not you have met your goal. If so, you win! If not, try again next time…
My thoughts on the game
Kitchen Rush is a nice cooperative game. As I mentioned at the start, there is definitely a lot of similarities to the electronic game Overcooked. As I’m a fan of that, it’s no surprise that I like this game as well. There is nice level of teamwork and give-and-take needed here to succeed. The players clearly have to work together to get things done; and there is definitely a reward to doing things in an efficient manner.
One of the things that I like most about Kitchen Rush is that, in general, players have to split time between doing selfish actions and doing things for the team – or at least, that’s what I’ve seen in my plays so far. In order to meet most of the victory conditions, your team needs to complete a decent number of orders. As most of these require cooking, and each player can only cook their own dishes, everyone needs to pitch in and complete orders on their own. You simply don’t have enough time to ask half the team to be in charge of getting orders, filling plates, and cooking dishes while the others work on getting the ingredients and spices into storage.
So – in each round, you have to spend some time doing your own things; but then, when you’re not, you have to be doing things for the team. This is where the communication comes in. The team needs to keep the order cards available, the office filled with money for shopping, the pantries full, the spice bag full and the dishes clean – but not at the expense of not actually preparing the dishes themselves!
We also learned in our first few games that it’s really important to be planning ahead for the next round. Sure, you’d like to have all your dishes finished by the end of each phase to not incur the prestige penalty – but at the same time, you really want to have orders, spices, plates and ingredients available for the start of the next round so that you can hit the ground running! The one thing that I will caution you is to make sure that you have someone watching the money in the office. We once were so aggressive about buying new spices and ingredients for the next round that we ended up a buck short to pay wages, and that pretty much shot us in the foot for the start of the next round… We now have the person sitting closest to the office be in charge of setting aside money that we need to pay wages just so we don’t ever do that again….
There doesn’t seem to be a fixed formula for getting your actions done right – at least, not that I’ve found. To some degree, it helps to have a plan set up – and this doesn’t have to be a quarterback situation; though depending on the group, it could certainly turn out to be that way. The planning phase is good to help you get thru the first 60-90 seconds; everyone can plot out their first 2-4 actions to make sure that people get started on tasks early on and there aren’t logjams/conflicts with the actions. However, once things get moving, there needs to be good communication so that people can do the things they need to do.
Thus far, I have enjoyed my plays of Kitchen Rush. It is a cooperative game that is more my speed. It is a kinder, gentler coop game. By that, I mean, there isn’t the intense pressure of a sudden game ending loss looming in this game. Sure, the game could end if your prestige marker falls off the track, but other than that, it’s not like there is some mounting enemy count or a doomsday timer lurking in this game. For the most part, you know that you’re going to get to play all 4 rounds, which will mostly be the same except for the Event card, and then when you’re done, you get to compare your stuff to the criteria on the goal card to see if you win. For some of you, that might be a bit tame. But for (what I feel is) a family oriented cooperative game, I think it’s a nice stress level. But if you’re looking for the next Ghost Stories or Spirit Island, this isn’t the same sort of cooperative game.
Kitchen Rush allows you to explore the coop system without that added pressure of imminent doom. I suppose it could have even been designed to be a single 16 minute active phase, but the breaks between the action phases gives you some interim goals/penalties to deal with as well as giving you a chance to have to deal with a new Event card (and/or get a Prestige bonus) every 4 minutes which increases the variety of play and keeps it from feeling quite the same. I’ve enjoyed it so far, and it’s nice to have different types of games in the genre so that you can find the game that best fits the group that you have.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Karen M: Based on my one play of this game, I’d certainly play it again, but I’m not really excited to suggest it. My problem was just that I was constantly knocking the sand timers over on the board! Speed games aren’t my favorite genre either. It is certainly a fun and frantic time, and there is little to no down time which appeals to me.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Craig V
- Neutral. Karen M
- Not for me….