- Designer: Philip duBarry
- Publisher: Phantasio Games
- Players: 1-8
- Time: 15 minutes
- Age: 8+
- Site: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phantasio/square-meal-a-fast-and-flavorful-card-game
So, as most of you know, I generally don’t do Kickstarter previews. Certainly, I don’t do paid previews. But, from time to time, I come across projects that catch my eye, and I want to write about them. Square Meal is one of those rare birds. Philip duBarry and I have worked together over the years serving as judges for game design contests at local conventions. I have also had the honor of coming to guest lecture his university course on game design at Northern Kentucky University.
I have reviewed plenty of his games in the past, including Embark, The Princess Bride: Miracle Pill, Courtier and Kingdom of Solomon. As Philip and I are fairly local to each other, I have had the chance also to playtest some of his designs, and Square Meal was one of those.
The elevator pitch for this one is: let’s play a speed game that uses a bunch of cards with a grid of pictures on them. Players have their own set of three cards, though the composition of each player’s deck can be different to handicap better players.
In the prototype that I played, some of the cards had certain squares blacked out which thus reduced the ability for players to make a match on their cards.
The game is played in real time, and there is definitely a speed element to the game. Each player draws a goal card – this shows a target arrangement of 5 to 8 ingredients, as well as a point value for the card in the corner. Now, all players work on arranging their own cards to match their personal goal.
Rotate, overlap, and flip your ingredients cards until you make the pattern. Once you succeed, add the challenge card to your score pile and take a new one from the deck. This card is worth 1 point. If you can’t make the pattern, add the challenge card to your score pile face-down; it’s now worth -1 point! The game ends when you can’t draw any more challenge cards because the deck is empty. The player with the highest score is the winner!
If you are interested, you can try the game here – https://www.dropbox.com/s/no2hro0vd72izhi/sm_PnP.pdf?dl=0
IF you are really interested, you can back the game here- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phantasio/square-meal-a-fast-and-flavorful-card-game
The production prototype that I saw had nicely printed cards and the stock felt good and solid. The set had obviously had a number of plays already, and the cards had held up nicely to the use. The version I had included all sorts of “Expansions” which are really just different player cards, the handicapped goal cards (both positively and negatively handicapped) as well as a few solo challenge cards.
I had a fun time playing it with the designer and his daughter (who crushed me), and I wanted to help bring this a broader audience. This is definitely a family-style game, and one that can be enjoyed by all levels of gamers, even non-gamers. It’s a nice fast paced game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The handicapping cards do help to mitigate my usual complaints about speed games – because it definitely can be a lot harder if you have the empty spaces on your cards. Also, as each player is working on their own goal card, it is much less frustrating to have a card snatched just as you came to the solution yourself; here, no one can take the card you’re working on.
And now for the disclaimer – I am friends with the designer, Philip duBarry. I am not receiving any compensation for this preview, nor do I have any part (financially or otherwise) in the kickstarter project or with Phantasio games. I am doing this voluntarily as I like the game and I’d love to see a local Cincinnati guy be successful. That’s it. The KS campaign should be live sometime this morning…
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor
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I find these ‘overlapping’ games look fantastic in pictures then frustrating in practice. My tip to the designer would be to make the game much, much easier than he thinks is necessary or at least include a super-simple variant.
the level is good, I think. this is something that I saw gradeschoolers play. also, with the handicapping possible with the cards, the game can be made more or less difficult to suit the players.
The other thing is, the time limit is somewhat self imposed; you can always pass on a card