Dale Yu: Reviews of Ramen and Ramen Fury

Ramen

  • Designers: Israel Cendrero and Sheila Santos
  • Publisher: Ediciones Primigenio
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by publisher

Ramen is a new set-collection game that I picked up at SPIEL 2018.  I have always been a huge fan of Ramen (the steaming hot bowl of noodle soup), so the theme of the game was immediately appealing to me.  In this game, players are competing Ramen chefs, trying to make the most Yen for their noodle bowls in the game – this will take both quantity and quality into account!

In the center of the table, place a stack of shoyu cards (soy sauce).  Then, take the five ingredient preference cards – ajitama (egg), chashu (pork), nudoru (noodles), supu (soup) and yasai (veggies) and place them in a random line stretching to the right of the shoyu stack.  The card closest to the shoyu is the most valuable suit. It receives the 7-yen bonus token on it. As you move to the right, the suits become less valuable, and the 6, 5, 4, and 3-yen tokens are placed in descending order.

There is a deck of ingredient cards, 1 to 9 in each of the five ingredient suits.  When determining the value of the card, first look at the ingredient suit AND THEN the number.  Therefore, the 1 of the most valuable ingredient is higher than the 9 of the next most desirable ingredient.  Each player is dealt a hand of 9 cards. Then, deal one card per player to the table in a line to form the initial ingredient offer; these are the cards which will be collected in the first round of the game.

In a round, each player secretly and simultaneously chooses a card from their hand and plays it face down to the table.  Once all have chosen, the cards are revealed. The first thing to do is to see if there are any ingredient switcheroos. These happen if there is a single “1” card played or a single “5” card played.  If there are multiple 1s or 5s, those multiple effects cancel each other out… In order of rank (ingredient first, then rank), the single 1 and 5 – if present – are resolved.

The player who played the only “1” can exchange that 1 for any of the other cards played.  The player of the only “5” can exchange the position of any two Ingredients in the preference line (the tip coins do not move with the card, they always stay in 7-6-5-4-3 order from left to right).  Either of these changes might affect the possible action of the other card…

Then, it is time to choose ingredients.  In rank order, players choose one of the offered ingredient cards from the line and add it to one of their ramen bowls.  If the chosen card has a rank of 9, take a shoyu card as well. You can have as many ramen bowls as you like – each is a stack of cards.  You are only allowed to have one card of each ingredient type in a ramen bowl. You are allowed to have multiple shoyu cards in a bowl, but you may only have one shoyu card for each two ingredient cards in that bowl.  If you choose a card which cannot be legally played in any of your current bowls, you are obligated to start a new bowl. Also, if an ingredient can be played legally to an existing ramen bowl, it must go into that bowl; you may not start a new bowl if there is a legal place to play the card.  A ramen bowl cannot be sold until it has three cards in it, so your goal is to try to get three cards in each of your bowls.

Then, they place their card which they used to bid this turn on the opposite side of the ingredient preference cards.  These cards will be the ingredient offer for the next round. Players continue to choose cards in rank order. Once all players have chosen and placed their cards, the next round begins.  The rest of the rounds follow the same pattern EXCEPT the final round. In the last round, when players reveal their final card, players will choose ingredient cards in rank order AND they will also take and place the card which they played in that round.

Once the final cards are collected and placed, players can now distribute their shoyu cards as desired – keeping to the rule that you can only have one shoyu card per two ingredient cards. Tips are handed out to the player who has the lowest total combined value of that suit in their COMPLETED ramen bowls (that is, bowls with at least three cards in them).  Then scores are calculated.

You multiply the number of bowls by the number of cards in your largest bowl of ramen.  Then add to this your tips. You also add 1 yen for each card of rank 6, 7 or 8 that is in your completed bowls of ramen.  Finally, subtract the value of all the cards you have in incomplete bowls of ramen. The player with the most yen wins the game.

My thoughts on the game

This is an interesting game of soupmaking.  You are trying to collect the right cards, but you also have to collect them in the right order-  as you are forced to include them into your ramen bowls immediately. There is benefit to both diversification (to make a large bowl) as well as raw numbers (to make multiple bowls) as the majority of your points will likely come from the multiplication of bowls x largest bowl.

Card choice is secret and simultaneous, so you’re often playing blind – though you might be able to make an educated guess on what certain players want based on the cards on offer and what they have in their bowls at that moment.  Figuring out when you want to try to contend for an early pick and when you can just settle for any card is key to the game.

Of course, the relative values of the suits can change in the game – as many as five times – so, your long term plans can sometimes unravel with the playing of a single “5”.  You can also parlay a well timed “1” card to get a card that you particularly want OR to screw over another player by taking them out of a position where they can get a card that they need/want.

As with most games, the question arises whether the game is still interesting if you are dealt a poor hand.  Given that the rank of cards can shift over the course of the hand, it’s rare for a player to be in a bad position for the entire hand.

The art is warm and well done, and looking at the graphics often makes me hungry.   The rules are easy to learn, and the cards which need them have easily identified icons to remind players of the special rules associated with those cards: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Ramen is a fairly straight-forward game which serves as a nice filler.  Just like a bowl of ramen should be. Filling and satisfying.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. Jonathan F
  • Not for me…

Dale Yu: First Impressions of Ramen Fury

  • Ramen Fury
  • Designer:  Forrest-Pruzan Creative
  • Publisher: Mixlore / Asmodee NA
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA

Ramen Fury is one of those games that I had never even heard of until I found it at the top of my most recent care package from Asmodee NA.  I went to BGG to look it up, and there is really not much information there – not even a designer! Closer evaluation of the packaging (which I’ll talk about a lot more down below) does show that it was done by Forest-Pruzan Creative – a design house that I’ve become familiar with in the past few years with previous games such as Banned Words, Really Bad Art and Suspicion.  Most of their games have been for the mass market and I went into Ramen Fury with that in mind…

The tag line on the package says that Ramen Fury is “The use-your-noodle card game!”  The back of the package tries to entice you with this description: “Rush to prepare and slurp up delicious bowls of ramen filled with tasty ingredients in the use-your-noodle card game Ramen Fury. Collect combos of cards to score for different recipes while adding garnishes to boost your points. At the same time, watch out as other players throw spicy chili peppers your way or swipe foods right from your bowls! It’s “take that” fun that will have you calling for takeout!”

The game itself comes in a box which is found in a foil packet.  The bulk of the game is made up of 104 cards. There are also 10 spoon tokens in the game. Each player starts the game with 3 ramen bowl cards (noodle side up) and 2 spoon tokens.  The rest of the cards all have ingredients on them, and they are shuffled and then each player is dealt a hand of three cards.   The deck is then placed on the table and a tableau of 4 cards is flipped up.

On a turn, the active player must take two actions from the following choices: Prep, Restock, Draw, Eat, Spoon, Empty.  The actions can be taken in any order, and you can take the same action twice in a turn if you want.

Prep – place any one ingredient card from your hand onto one of your ramen bowls.  This card must always be placed on top of the other ingredient cards in the bowl, and there is a limit of 5 cards in each bowl, and there can be only one Flavor card in it.

Draw – Take a face up card from the tableau or face down from the deck. Immediately replenish the tableau if taken from.  If you now have more than 5 cards, you must discard down to 5 after drawing.

Spoon – Discard a spoon token and take the topmost ingredient card from any ramen bowl.  You can place this card onto one of your bowls or into your hand. You must still follow all the rules about the bowls and your hand as noted above.

Restock – Discard all the cards in the tableau and replace them with four new cards.  If you display Chili Peppers or Nori, deal with them immediately. These Chili Peppers and Nori cards are immediately placed in any uneaten Ramen bowl on the table.

Eat – Flip a bowl and all its ingredients over.  A bowl must have at least 2 ingredient cards in it to be eaten.  Once eaten, you cannot add any more ingredients to it, and none may be spooned (stolen) from it.

Empty – Discard all the ingredient cards from one of your bowls.

The end game is triggered when a player eats his third ramen bowl or the Ingredient card deck is exhausted.  Whenever either happens, all other players get one more turn and then the game is scored.

To score, you look at each of your ramen bowls separately.  In each, there must be one and only one Flavor card. This card gives you the basic scoring rule for the bowl – which is met by the ingredients in that bowl.  In addition, you score +1 point for a Nori card. You score -1 point for each Chili Pepper UNLESS you have a Fury flavor packet in the bowl in which case you score +2 points per Chili.

The player with the most points wins.  If there is a tie, the player with the most Ingredient cards in his bowls is the winner.

My thoughts on the game

Ramen Fury tries to capitalize on the growing trend of eating Ramen.  The idea of making yummy bowls of soup is certainly appealing to me. Thematically, it does fall apart a little bit with the “authentic” ingredients being put in the bowls but then having the broth come from powder filled packets.  If you’re having the sort of meal where you’re eating Ramen flavored like that, you’re not putting Chashu pork in it!

Anyways, the card game itself plays quickly.  Players can work on multiple bowls at a time, and as both the regular ingredients as well as the flavor pack cards come out of the same deck; sometimes you are working on a bowl without knowing for sure what scoring rule will be applied.  Having a good working knowledge of the five different flavor packs is key, and I do wish that there were a player aid – even a single one for the table – to remind all players what the different scoring rubrics are.

There is a limited amount of take-that here as each player has two spoons which they can use to steal an ingredient from an opponent.  My feelings about targeted attacks is well-known, but it’s fairly limited here, and I can deal with it. There is also a bit of risk reward going on.  You can try to build up a bowl with a full complement of 5 ingredient cards in order to max out the scoring, but that also makes you a big target to have something stolen from you.  In our first few games, spoons are usually used to steal something on a first action and then the bowl it is placed in is quickly eaten on the second action to lock it in.

You can try to plan out your strategy, but usually, this is more of a reactive game – based on what cards are available to you on your turn (or what you are lucky enough to draw).   Due to the endgame conditions, you can’t wait forever to play cards because the game can end quickly and you only get one more turn after that trigger happens. So, you’ll play ingredients and flavor packets to the bowls hoping to make the best of it.  If you get screwed by an unwanted chili pepper, you can always use your own spoon to fling it somewhere else, but you only get two spoons for the whole game. Though I’m normally not one for take-that or targeted attacks, this low number of spoons sometimes doesn’t feel like enough.  Our games were mostly draw, play, draw, play, eat. There wasn’t that much stealing until near the end, and the game felt fairly sedate.

Now, let me talk about the packaging a bit.  The outer foil packet is cute, and it is meant to look like an instant ramen package.  Inside it, there is an inner box that has a noodle pattern printed on it. But, that’s all that is on it – and this has kinda ruffled my feathers.  I don’t see why the name of the game isn’t on that inner box, at least on one side. Sure, I’m probably not the target audience for this game as this appears to be more mainstream/Target/etc. but the fact that this package won’t stack neatly on the shelf with my other card games would be enough reason not to keep it.  Yes, that’s on OCD thing to say, but that’s truth around here.

But, regardless of the packaging, this game is missing the zing that a card game needs to have to earn a permanent spot in my collection.  Maybe it’s because they used those powdered flavor granules instead of simmering pork bones for 12-18 hours to make a true velvety tonkotsu broth; but like the packaging would suggest, this feels like a bowl of instant ramen.  A perfectly fine meal, and somewhat satisfying while being played, but not an experience that has you clamoring for a repeat visit. If this ends up being sold at mass market stores, it will be good for impulse buys (probably due to the packaging!) or for themed game nights, but this isn’t one I’ll pull out for the regular game group much.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale
  • Not for me… John P, Craig V, James Nathan

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2018, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dale Yu: Reviews of Ramen and Ramen Fury

  1. Solanum says:

    I wish I’d read your review before I bought Ramen Fury (darn that packaging and my attraction to shiny new things) because I’ve been looking at this game this morning and thinking, uh oh. This looks pretty dull. We’d be playing mostly at 2 player. Do you think there’s any way to house rule it to make it more interesting, or it is a goner?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s