Don’t look now, but board game cafes are cropping up all over the place. The coffee shop as cultural center is tired, and while board game cafes aren’t quite ready to take off, they certainly are wired. Perfectly timed to take advantage of the long sustained growth of hobby gaming, the board game cafe offers something for everyone: good food, good company, and good games!
And that’s why Board Game Cafe Frenzy from designer Citie Lo and The Wood Games has a great chance to win your heart and your wallet (it’s live on Kickstarter right now). You might not have a board game cafe in your city yet, but with this light card game you and up to 4 of your friends can open one right on your dining room table.
Let’s take a look at Board Game Cafe Frenzy.
Party of 3 Your Table is Ready!
Board Game Cafe Frenzy Overview
Board Game Cafe Frenzy is a light to medium weight card game in which players attempt to open competing board game cafes. It’s played over 2 phases of 10 rounds each, and at the end of the game, whichever player has the most money (in the form of lovely pastel cardboard coins) is the winner.
Setup & Difficulty
Board Game Cafe Frenzy offers a few different setups depending on the audience. In addition to the standard setup, there’s a “Family Game” variant which reduces some of the complexity as well as two types of “Advanced Mode”. For the remainder of this review we’ll simply be discussing the standard setup for 3 players.
For such a small box, Board Game Cafe Frenzy has a surprising number of components: three types of cards, action tiles, action discs, and the afore-mentioned coins.
Each player begins with a store card dictating their starting parameters, and some coins based on turn order (determined via the randomly assigned store card).
Set up the rest of the game elements as you see below, then start preparing your cafe!
Looking at the Game Cards
Before we jump into how to play the game, let’s take a look at the game cards.
Each card has a suit, indicated both by color and icon in the middle of the card. The value of the card is located in the top left corner. The bottom of the card shows the awards players will get during the first and second phases.
Phases & Turns
At its heart Board Game Cafe Frenzy is a trick-taking game and players will need to remember that in order to maximize their store’s income.
In Phase 1 (the Preparation Phase) players take turns selecting and paying for cards from the central display. As players win cards and take them into their hand in the first phase they’ll earn the benefit indicated in the bottom left corner of each card. Additionally they’ll add action discs and action tiles to their play area in preparation for Phase 2. Finally players will earn bonuses for collecting the most cards with the Wi-Fi symbols and for collecting pairs of cards with the board game and meal symbols.
During Phase 2 (the Store Opening) players play cards from their hand to the center display in a relatively standard trick-taking approach; the sole difference is that players must not follow suit unless they have no other cards to play. The winner of the hand selects one of the played cards to keep, placing it to the right of their store card as part of their burgeoning board game cafe. The goal is to collect icons to fulfill the public customer cards which can be resolved by each player (as well as hidden customer cards that players collect).
Players can also use any action discs collected in Phase 1 to help them fulfill customer expectations.
After the end of Phase 2 players will make final tallies, collecting coins for Wi-Fi symbols in their player area, fulfilled customer cards, remaining action discs, and store capacity. Then players must pay out coins for any employee cards in their possession along with any unfulfilled customer cards.
The player with the most coins wins the game!
As someone who has been working to open a board game cafe, I was quite intrigued by this game. It’s such a specific theme that it could have been really good or really terrible. Thankfully Board Game Cafe Frenzy is the former. It features a delightful color palette, whimsical illustrations, and relatively clear iconography (if perhaps there’s a bit too much of it). Where we struggled a bit was in the setup…remember how I said there was a lot in the box? That comes into play when you’re setting up everything. It’s not bad, but it will certainly take you by surprise if you’re going by box size (about the size of a Harry Potter novel).
Once you’re set up though, game play is smooth and easy to follow. There are 20 total turns in the game, 10 in each Phase, but they play quickly and easily. Even though there could be lots to choose from if all the cards were presented to you at once, you’ll never see more cards than there are players in the game. So in a 4 player game you’re never choosing from more than 4 cards. This significantly narrows your focus and forces you to play a tactical game, selecting from what’s best at the time.
Do you focus on increasing your store’s capacity so that you can have more offerings for customers, or do you just try to collect action tiles that increase your capabilities at the expense of end-game scoring? Focusing on cards which improve your Wi-Fi can be a good strategy, but it won’t win you the game. Just like a real store you need a good balance of food, staff, games, and Wi-Fi to be successful. Trick-taking generally isn’t my favorite type of game, but designer Citie Lo was sneaky and got me to play one by using it as just a part of a larger puzzle, one I bet you’ll like!
Board Game Cafe Frenzy is live on Kickstarter right now, and already funded. So what are you waiting for? Put your entrepreneur hat on and go open the board game cafe of your dreams!