Chocolatiers is the brand new tile placement and set collection board game from Daily Magic Games. Designed by Isaias Vallejo, with art from Claire Donaldson, the game sees 2 – 5 players become young chocolatiers, whom are boxing chocolates for a tasty sampler to display. Playing in around 20 – 30 minutes players will acquire chocolates, of all different flavours, then box them in a point friendly way! However, is this a sweet game to play? Let’s find out!
There are only a few elements to set up, so it doesn’t take long at all. The chocolate cards are shuffled, with 3 chocolates dealt to each player and a market of six put in the centre of the table. Next, the box tiles are approximately shuffled – with 5 turned face up to form a second market row. Each player takes from the game box 3 wild chocolate tokens. The end game bonus scoring tiles are laid out in value order: while not technically a necessity this does act as a reminder for players during play. Finally, the first player marker is passed to whomever last ate chocolate.
On a turn players perform two actions, these can be the same action twice or two different actions in any order they wish. Four actions are available, the first being to gain chocolates. This is the only action to have a secondary choice. The player main either take a single chocolate card from the market or discard a card to take two cards. Note, it isn’t possible to draw blindly from the deck in Chocolatiers.
Instead a player could spend an action reserving one of the chocolate box tiles from the market for later. To indicate this is only reserved the player places a wild chocolate token on top of the tile, placing the tile in front of them but not as part of their Sampler. As an action a player can discard a set of cards, of types matching a box tile – either in the market or personally reserved – to add it to their sampler. The box tile is then instantly added to the players sampler, which is limited to being 2 x 3 (or 3 x 2) in shape/size.
Wild chocolates make up the final action. If you have a wild chocolate token available, not already placed or being used to reserve a box, it can be placed onto an empty space on a chocolate box in your sampler. Play continues clockwise around the table until one player finishes their 3 x 2 grid of boxes in either orientation. Players up to the starting player then get a final turn before the game is over.
Whomever triggered the end of the game takes a 2 point bonus tile for finishing first. Players add this to the points earnt by purchasing the box tiles they acquired. Next, going through the 6 chocolate types whomever has the largest connected area of each type gets a bonus tile. This is why placement is important, with the wild chocolates classing as every type when calculating areas.
The final bonus tile is awarded to whomever has the most 3 and 4 point chocolate box tiles. If there are ties for any bonus tiles neither player gets the points. Finally, for every wild chocolate token you have left not placed or reserving a tile you gain a point and if you’re boxes are completely filled you get a single bonus point. Adding all these up whomever has the most is the winner and crowned the master chocolatier.
With the variety in points, 3 – 8, just because you finish first doesn’t mean you’ll win. Despite getting the complete sample box bonus and having a good chance of winning the 3/4 box element bonus too, another player could have got large groups for bonus tiles or a few high scoring boxes in their sample. This opens up different routes to victory, without an optimal route.
Chocolatiers falls victim of some regular player count problems, at least at the high end. Breaking away from stale markets of a 2 player game, the ability to draw multiple cards by discarding keeps things fresh regardless of player count. This then somewhat backfires when you increase the player count. Event at 3 players between turns every card in the market or almost every box tile could change. It might sound unlikely but a lot of cards are collected in the game so happens enough.
It isn’t the way the game becomes about tactically reacting to what is available that is the problem. The real issue is that no one is able to plan ahead of time, turning what should be a fast filler into a game that lasts just a tad too long. Mostly as players ponder their turns only when play comes round to them. While the box suggests 20 minutes, this is extends it to around 30 minutes at 4 players with only minor analysis paralysis from players. At 2 it is easiest to hit the 20 minute count and the game feels better because of it.
The presentation of Chocolatiers is a little flat, craving 3D like artwork similar to what is on the front of the box. While the different chocolates are different shapes and colours, making the game readable at a glance, it doesn’t exactly inspire players. By no means is it artwork that would put someone off but it won’t be captivating players. The tiles and tokens aren’t thin so are robust enough for the very little movement and stacking they’ll be put through. The cards are clear but they are small for shuffling, and there isn’t any reason box size wise why normal playing card sized cards couldn’t have been included instead.
So, with an analysis paralysis prone player Chocolatiers isn’t the best but if you can keep the speed up there are different avenues to victory to try. Players can attempt to collect more and obtain high scoring tiles, or end the game quicker by buying only 3 or 4 point tiles. This is nicely balanced as there isn’t a consistently winning route. The production quality isn’t truly that much of a mixed bag it is just “good”, nothing more. It isn’t something to get excited about, when the theme could make for something incredible looking. Chocolatiers is an acceptable filler experience and does what it aims to. Still, with so many titles available, a good title is like the chocolates left in a selection box – passed up for something better.
[Editor’s Note: Chocolatiers was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is available on 365 Games for £27.99. It is also available from local board game stores, find your local store here]