A Few Fries Short of a Happy Meal – A Burger Joint Review
There’s just something strangely fascinating about playing with your food. Lately, it seems that gamers who like games and grub have had a buffet of choices: Wasabi!, Wok Star and Lord of the Fries are some that have been recently released. Since I was not one of the lucky few who grabbed up a scarce copy of Wok Star, I decided to go completely American and try my hand at fast food franchising with Burger Joint.
The object of Burger Joint is to be the first foodie to reach 12 on the scoring track by building up basic restaurants like Burger Joints or Pizza Parlors, and then converting some of them to Diners or hoity toity Bistros. The basic restaurants are easy to build and will gain you victory points, but little else; Diners and Bistros require more resources, but in addition to victory points they also grant the player certain special abilities.
The components for the main mechanic in Burger Joint are cubes – lots and lots of colored cubes. Seriously, there are oodles of little red, green, black, yellow, brown and white cubes that are used to build the restaurants and purchase Publicity, which nets you victory points and allows you to raid your opponent’s cube stash. At the beginning of each round, the active player blindly draws cubes from a nifty cloth sack equal to a certain production number, determined by the number of Diners and Bistros currently in play. The cubes are placed in a common area on the production board, and then are divided according to which player is currently operating a Diner with a certain color specialty. For instance, the burger player starts the game with Diners specializing in black and yellow cubes. As long as the pizza player isn’t operating Diners with those colors, the burger player gets first dibs on yellow and black cubes, making it easier for the burger enthusiast to build Joints. Once cubes are divided, the active player may choose one of their specialty cubes or a cube left in the common area, then the inactive player does the same. After this first round, all cubes are returned to the common area, and selection continues until all cubes have been chosen. It’s now time for the active player to roll up their sleeves and decide what to do with all those cubes!
During a turn, the active player may can build as many restaurants or buy as much Publicity as they wish, as long as their cube supplies hold out. Players are also able to trade three cubes for one cube of any color from the bag. Once a player purchases a Bistro, they may also perform a special ability, such as trade two cubes for one of any color or draw an extra cube randomly from the bag to add to the supply. Some Bistro abilities are more powerful than others, but those Bistros are also worth fewer victory points. The Bistro abilities are helpful and enticing; so much so that it’s often important to remind yourself that it’s points, not powers, that win the game!
At the end of a round, each player must discard cubes in excess of seven, and the remaining cubes are stored in the player’s warehouse, available for use on their next active turn. It’s now the other player’s turn and production begins anew; this process continues until one player reaches 12 points on the score track and becomes the town’s reigning food magnate. Oh sweet, delicious victory!
|Gameplay/Replay||Components & Theme||Fun|
|The true heart of the game lies in the colored cubes mechanic, which is intriguing and exercises a different part of the gaming brain than most are accustomed. The various Bistro abilities and the option of buying Publicity provide players with multiple strategy paths, which aids in replay. The score in almost every game remains fairly tight, and most players will be able to keep pace and often win, even from behind. All that said, gameplay can border a bit on monotony with only so many cubes available each turn and the same process of "pick a cube, pay a cube" in solid repetition.||There's a whole lot of fun and vibrant theme packed into this tiny box. The artwork is whimsical and really adds to gameplay; the production area alone, with it's truck and warehouse workers unloading cargo, gives a reason to the cubes, as if they're filled with meat patties, buns, cola and such. The three boards suffer a bit from warping, but a gentle bend will set them straight. The cloth bag that is used to draw the colored cubes is a nice touch of quality, and makes the random picks during production the best part of the game.||Did I enjoy playing Burger Joint? Yes. However, I wouldn't go so far as to call Burger Joint "fun." The elation or disappointment each round during the random picks in production can be entertaining, and the components are a joy to look at and hold. Activating your Bistro ability always brings a mischievous grin. Beyond that, though, I would simply call Burger Joint an amusing diversion - high on theme and offbeat mechanics, but overall not terribly filling.|
|Overall score: 13 out of 18 - Twilight Struggle it's not, but if you're looking for a light snack, Burger Joint just might calm the cravings.|
Burger Joint is a game for 2 soda jerks, ages 10 and up, from Rio Grande Games. It retails for around $20 and can be purchased online at Funagain Games or at your favorite local game store.
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