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Head Chef Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look:

Designer: Peter Cricchiola
Publisher: CStar Games
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 30 Minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Head Chef. I was sent a prototype version of the game. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Head Chef is an easy-to- learn, quick-to- play card game in which you will strive to fulfill your dream of being the head chef in the town’s new fancy restaurant. You will spend action cubes to draw ingredients and combine them, gaining fame. Only the most famous chef will get the job.


Setup is simple. Each player gets:

-1 menu card listing the point values of each “food” (combination).
-1 character card with a special ability.
-5 cubes (Place four on your character card in the left box. Place the fifth on the food truck at the bottom of your score tracker).
-6 single-use “Special” cards that do things like get you extra ingredients at a key moment or hinder your opponents. Playing these at the proper time is the key to winning the game.
-1 score sheet showing your path to victory. Once you pass 10 points you will have to upgrade your food truck to a small café, by giving up one of your four precious action cubes.

The first player is dealt one ingredient. The next player gets two, and so on.

Now you’re ready to play.

Actions are performed by moving one cube from the left box on your character card to the right box.

The actions are:
1. Draw an Ingredient card from the ingredient deck.
2. Play a Food (combination of ingredients) from your hand to earn points of Fame.
3. Play a Power card to either disrupt other players, or give you a boost.
4. Play 2 like ingredients to the trash for 1 Fame (Trade).
5. Buy a leftover card. (Leftovers are cards other players have to discard for various reasons.)

When your turn is over you move the cubes back to the left box and the next player takes their turn.
To clarify, you can buy leftovers on another player’s turn. Cubes used to buy leftovers are already
spent at the beginning of your turn, so you will have fewer actions on your turn.

Key factors: 
-On your turn, you do as many actions as you have cubes. You can’t bank them.
-You can get as many cards as you want on your turn, but you must discard down to 4 cards after your action phase. These are “Leftovers.”
-Special cards are displayed in front of you, so other players know the devious things you might do to them. After use, they are flipped over and do not refresh.
-The more valuable a card, the fewer of them there are in the game.
-You can’t pass the ten-point mark without upgrading your food truck to a café. You do this by placing a cube from your reserve on the café. If you don’t have an unspent cube to put on the café, you can’t move beyond it. Likewise, after you get 20 points, you still have to place two unspent cubes on the restaurant to open your restaurant (ie. win).

The rules are simple, but winning requires a combination of strategy and luck. It took me multiple plays to get comfortable with my strategy, and I still spent half the game screaming profanities at my deck.

In the single player variant, instead of spending action cubes you simply get three cards, then play food (if you can), then draw and play one special, discard the top ingredient, repeat. Game ends when you either run out of cards to draw (at the end of that turn) or when you open your restaurant.

The Good: Teaching this game, setting it up, and playing it are all very fast. The box says 30 minutes, but that’s with 4 players. Once you know what you’re doing it can be played in 10-15 minutes. It sounds simple, but it requires some skill to win. The art is cute.

The Bad: Theme: I wonder why the highest value ingredient is an egg, the most complex food is a burger, and why this is what we’re making to become the head chef of the fanciest restaurant in town.

Final Thoughts: This is a game for people who want something fast, but challenging. The amount of luck involved makes this great for kids and people who are new to gaming, but master strategists will appreciate the importance of the judicious use of abilities and special cards. It’s not a very forgiving game, but it’s so short that it doesn’t really matter.

Despite the number of light, food-themed games out there I’m having trouble thinking of a good comparison. Basically, 90% of what you do is take and play cards, so my instinct is to get as many cards as possible and play the highest value combinations. That strategy doesn’t work well in Head Chef. You have to decide what you want to make, plan how to make that happen, and execute your plan using your 6 specials to take what you need from your competitors. I like this more every time I play it. The lows of burning up a bunch of cards for little reward are balanced by the highs of occasionally pulling off something big. So I’m going to give this one 7 super meeples.

I am giving Head Chef 7 out of 10 super meeples.

7 10

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About the Author:

Stephen Gulik is a transdimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.
Head Chef Kickstarter Preview Head Chef Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Dave Merrell on July 28, 2017 Rating: 5

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