Foodies is the brand new food stall themed board game from publisher CMON Limited. Designed by Ken Gruhl and Marco Portugal, the game sees 2 – 5 players running stalls in a food court. Throughout players will be adding dishes to their stalls, hopefully reaping the rewards and hiring famous chefs – all lasting around 20 minutes. There are elements of engine building and dice rolling, with the aim to gain your restaurant the most popularity. However, will Foodies gain popularity? Let’s find out!
Setup mostly revolves around setting up the marketplace. Five of the ten cuisine types are shuffled together to create a deck with the top cards turned over into the five market spaces. The cards have holes so that the price of each dish is visible when placed onto the slots. The famous chef cards are shuffled with two added to the board, the rest being put back into the box. Each player takes a player board, along with three player tokens, $3 and a determined number of menus. Finally, players put one of their tokens on the zero point of the popularity tracker.
The gameplay is incredibly simple, with each turn made up of three stages. First, the active player rolls the 10-sided die to see what number stall activates. If a 0 is rolled the active player sets it to any value. Regardless of those turn it is, each player activates that stall on their player board. If a player has a menu token this is the point they can be used. Discarding a menu allows the individual player to activate an adjacent stall to the number rolled, with the menu only impacting their activation.
When a stall is activated the player can earn things in four different ways. If there are any tokens on that stall these coins or popularity points are instantly earnt. Next, the card effects trigger – again providing coins or popularity points. Then, the cuisine type bonus is triggered. Each cuisine type works differently; for example German stalls given menus, Italian stalls put populatry tokens on adjacent stalls and Japanese stalls gain 2 coins per adjacent Japanese stall. Lastly, each card has some star symbols (the popularity symbol) cut in half along their edges. If any of these are complete and connected to the rolled stall they are also are scored.
Once each player has activated their stall the active player can hire a chef. This is a non-mandatory action, with each player able to hire only one chef a round. The ever present chef can be hired multiple times a game, effectively paying 4 coins for 1 popularity point. The other chefs can only be hired once a game by each player, with a token played to show you’ve hired them this game. These chefs always award three popularity points and range from having 6 connected stars on your player board to having a stall of each cuisine type in play built.
For 2 – 3 players the game continues until one player reaches 20 popularity – with the target 30 popularity for 4 – 5 players. When this is triggered the current round becomes the final one, with each player up to the starting player receiving a final turn. With no additional points to calculate whomever at this point is furtherest on the popularity tracker wins. Ties are split by whomever has the most coins, otherwise leftover coins are pointless.
Foodies doesn’t outstayed its welcome it suffers from the opposite problem. With 2 or 3 people, just as the game gets going – with everyone having a number of stalls and fun things triggering – the game is over. You want a few extra rounds for the fun to flow but the target popularity is already reach. It is easy to fix, just agree on a higher target pre-game, but it should have been picked up in playtesting which section of the gameplay is most enjoyable.
The speed and length of the game is good for a title with the amount of luck Foodies has. Player get choices, including the ability to alter what is rolled. Nevertheless, to say that luck hasn’t been the reason I have won, and lost, games would not be fair on my opponents. It can hit especially hard at the beginning of the game, when players roll a number that someone gets no coins from. This can put a player behind making a win feel a little cheap, or a comeback unlikely.
There is variety from one game to the next, and not just from what cards come up. Only including half of the cuisines each round is a great at making games feel completely different. Some seem stronger than others, though many are situational. Japanese stalls for example are individually okay at best. Get a few of them adjacent to each other – as per the way the Japanese cuisines bonus scores – and that can be victory almost in the bag. The next game Japanese stalls might not even feature, so players have to adapt to what comes up.
The ability to alter the rolled dice is extremely powerful, and feels underused unless German stalls are included in the mix. When German stalls are included games are faster. Simply, players rarely keep a bad die roll value – shifting it to something stronger. Perhaps having one space on the player board rewarding players with a menu instead of a coin would allow them to influence all games not just those with German stalls. Alas, this isn’t the case and sees the ability to impact dice rolls sorely missing for the most part in German free games.
Foodies could be great for those looking for a short, light, food themed game. Setup is pretty fast, allowing the game to begin quickly. The turns are simple; roll a die and potentially alter it before triggering a single stall and reaping the benefits. There is certainly a luck factor, which can result in one player walking to victory, though the game length allows this not to be irritating. The card design with the holes for both the market and player boards is a great feature to minimise any “admin” work when acquiring stalls and adding them to your player board. Foodies just doesn’t offer that Michelin Star like element, leaving it as an okay game. Something that doesn’t quite cut it with the plethora of available games on the market.
[Editor’s Note: Foodies was provided to us by Asmodee for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £36.49. It is also available from local board game stores, find your local store here.]