Enter the Rabbit – A Cookie Fu Review

HAPPY NEW YEAR! No, not that new year, Westerners – today is the day for celebrating Chinese New Year. This will be the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac, which typically portends a peaceful time and a thankful respite between the tumultuous years of the Tiger and Dragon, which come before and after. Since I don’t have a true Chinese game to review – particularly since Go has been around for thousands of years, with thousands of reviews – I thought I’d celebrate here on Dice Hate Me with a little something… different. So grab your firecrackers and some Fu dice – it’s time to kick some cookie!

On the surface, Cookie Fu seems to be nothing more than a festival of dice-tossing. On each turn, the two Fu fighters gather up their Fu dice and a special Clan die and roll them, keeping the result secret from each other. The Clan die are used to determine initiative. The basic results are much like rock, paper, scissors – a whole cookie is better than a crushed cookie, a fortune is better than a whole cookie, while a crushed cookie ruins a fortune. The fighters reveal their Clan die, compare, and this determines initiative. The Fu fighter with the best initiative acts first, and that can include passing – waiting to see what the other fighter does before acting. The fighter with the first move can select one or more of their hidden die to make an attack, and the other fighter can react with a block, if they are able with their available die. If the attacked fighter reacts with a die to block, then the attacker gets another turn to attack. If the opponent is unable to block, or chooses not to, then the opponent gets a chance to make an attack. A round continues until both fighters have exhausted available die in their pools, or until a fighter has passed twice. In the basic game, each fighter has 10 hit points, and whomever can reduce their opponent to zero hit points without being reduced to zero themselves during a round wins the game.

In the basic game, each fighter starts with three basic Fu dice to make attacks. On the faces of the basic die are six different symbols: strike, kick, block, grab, throw and chi. Some symbols make very basic attacks – the strike and the kick are single-die attacks that deal one damage to the opponent. Other moves require combinations, such as the grab/throw, which requires the play of a grab die and a throw die. This does two points of damage to an opponent. The chi die, in the basic game, allows an attacking fighter to use a chi power – either heal (which gives them back a hit point), or a chi blast, which does one point of damage. Of course, opponents are able to block these attacks if they have the appropriate die available in their remaining pool for the round.

As one can imagine, the basic game really is pretty much a luck-based festival of dice tossing, but its only true purpose is to teach the underlying mechanics. The real meat of the game lies in the booster dice that each Fu fighter can add to their die pool as they progress through the advanced ranks. Depending on the rank level the fighters decide upon, the booster dice add more choices and more strategy. For instance, the basic die have one of each icon, but each yellow Learned die have two of a particular icon, increasing the chances for grabs, kicks and throws. The orange Master dice have three of a particular Fu icon, and the green Grand Master die have four. There are a total of 55 dice to further customize each fighter, making for awesome variety.

Each booster die also adds another possible chi point. These chi points can be used during a round, or saved up over successive rounds and used later, to activate special Cookie Fu moves that are detailed in the rule book. Depending on the rank level chosen, Fu fighters are able to choose and add to their available attacks one or more of these special moves at the beginning of the game to beef up their options. Fu moves can range from a “basic” 350 Degree Kick which, if unblocked, deals an additional point of kick damage to an opponent, to a “grandmaster” move (requiring 4 chi points) like the 10 Min. Crispy Crunch, which allows the fighter to use 6 strikes over the next 2 rounds. This Chinese buffet of special moves are what adds a lot of variety and replay value to the game.

Cookie Fu features three base fighter types – Chocolate Ox, Vanilla Hare, and Coconut Monkey – each featuring a particular strength in attacks or defenses. These varied special moves are given to the fighters in the form of fortunes, contained within actual fortune cookies included with the game. The cookies are a gimmick, no doubt, but they serve as an even greater aid to variety on top of the special moves available to each fighter in the rule book.

Monkey238 and I were both surprised by the complexity of this game that, at first, seemed like a simple die-rolling contest. Granted, through most of our plays, I stayed true to my name and ended up getting my face smashed in quite a few times by Monkey because of bad die rolls. However, as the booster dice were added in and strategic choices were added to the mix, I was able to stave off bad luck by making smart defensive choices and clever storage of my chi dice to activate very helpful special moves. Overall, I feel that any lover of Saturday matinee chop-socky flicks – or those that just love to see those bones hit the table over and over – will discover a wealth of good fortune in Cookie Fu.

Gameplay/ReplayComponents & ThemeFun
Surprisingly for a dice game, the advanced rules for Cookie Fu allow for a very immersive strategic experience. The variety of special moves that can be chosen to augment each fighter is extremely diverse, and there is a tremendous amount of room to grow through expansions. The clan-specific special moves for Chocolate Ox, Vanilla Hare and Coconut Monkey seem cool and useful. Replay value is very high because of the depth and variety inherent in the base set. Also, because the game is so flexible - allowing players to choose their level of complexity - young fighters will have little trouble getting into the game and keeping up with older, more experienced Cookie Fu masters.The dice are really something special, with a great hand feel and deep icon impression that will hold up well through many plays. Despite the really cool Fu dice that are the core of the game, Cookie Fu scores low on components because of the rule book. The interior is designed to look like a Chinese take-out menu, but the structure results in a classic case of design driving function, rather than the reverse. Fortunately, a new rule book is in the works with an improved layout and some play examples. The Clan fortune cookies are a neat gimmick, but keeping up with the strips of paper inside each that detail special Clan moves could prove to be a pain, in the long run.At first, I wasn't sure I would enjoy Cookie Fu - after all, there are a LOT of decisions decided by the luck of a die roll. However, even during the basic game, Monkey238 and I found ourselves really getting into the spirit of the game with cries of "I chi you!" "Oh yeah? I chi block you! Take that, and a roundhouse kick to the face!" For those that are willing to let loose and get into the underlying spirit of the game, Cookie Fu can offer up dim sum fun for a lot of players.
Overall score: 13 out of 18 - For those that can stomach the sometimes-confusing but very delicious menu of options, Cookie Fu will prove a filling treat.

If this review didn’t calm your cravings for Chinese fighting action, be sure to check back tomorrow on Dice Hate Me for a mini-review with Brian Kowalski, designer of Cookie Fu! Dice Hate Me talks with Brian about how Cookie Fu evolved into the current Fu fighting powerhouse, as well as the behind-the-scenes of publishing and some games that influenced him over the years. Also, don’t miss the State of Games podcast, coming on Monday, where Monkey238 and I discuss race in modern board games, including Cookie Fu, Wok Star and the subtly-controversial Puerto Rico.

Cookie Fu is a game for 2 Kung Fu apprentices, ages 12 and up, from Blue Kabuto. You can purchase the Battle Royale game pack featured here for $20 (normally $24.99) for a limited time at Blue Kabuto, or at your Favorite Local Game Store.

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6 Responses to “Enter the Rabbit – A Cookie Fu Review”
  1. I haven’t actually been able to get this played yet, but just from playing around with it, I think that you dinged the components a little too much. Sure, the rulebook is pretty miserable (making such a simple game far too difficult to understand), but the only real components are the dice, which are really nice dice (even if they may happen to hate you). Plus, the theme is actually pretty strong (albeit a touch too far towards the silly side) and consistent.

    Otherwise, though, very nice review!

  2. dicehateme says:

    Chris – I altered the component review blurb to ensure that people know how nice the dice are, but I have to stick to my guns on the rating. As a designer and someone who teaches usability for print and online to students every semester, I can’t sacrifice my principles. Thankfully, Brian Kowalski is working on a rulebook overhaul, so that’s good. As for theme, I have the benefit of playing this with someone of Chinese descent, so there’s a lot of power in Monkey’s impressions and thoughts on the Chinese takeout flavor in the game. We will be talking about this, as well as Wok Star, more on Monday in the podcast.

  3. tomg says:

    Thanks for the review. I was not expecting much from this game but it seems that I may be wrong. Now I want to check it out. I’m looking forward to the podcast. And the other thing I got from this review is that I need to revamp/redo my blog site. This looks really nice.

  4. Yume says:

    There are flaws with any game, and I do have to agree that while I love the play and how fun it can be (especially with bad dialogue and flourishing, trust me!)…the menu and the fortunes do prove to be cumbersome, even to a well-seasoned fighter like myself. I am glad for the layout changes, though the special Fortune moves are part of the Cookie Fu Appeal and are unlikely to change.

    My solution? Put the fortunes in on of those small plastic bags the dice come in. They fit great, and you won’t have to dig around for the little scraps. Others have been using photo frames, or rubber cement and something to stick them to. We Fu Fighters are a creative lot.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris K., Chris K.. Chris K. said: Celebrate Chinese New Year by kicking some butt in Cookie Fu! The full Dice Hate Me review is ready for consumption http://bit.ly/gKmSXX […]

  2. […] brain, you can bet the opportunity won’t be missed. Intrigued by the background of Cookie Fu, I sent a few probing questions to Brian Kowalski — the very personable man behind the dice, and […]

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