So, smoothies are great. I’m just offering this as a fact without citations or verification, since there’s really none needed. In Blend Off, you likely generally agree with me, as you are a professional blend person (Blendarino/a?) at a local smoothie place that’s just about to close. Your manager, Becca, and the “guy who gets you fruits” Kevin, come back with “terrible” news: there’s a line of people out front going around the corner, and you’re a minute from close. Becca resolves that whoever can make the most (and best) smoothies and clear the queue will get free smoothies for a month! She’s called a Blend Off — can you win?
So setup is actually pretty simple. You’ve got a bunch of fruit tokens:
Set out X + 2 of each, where X is the number of players. One of those fruits will be the durian:
Set that out in the center as well. Next, have each player choose a blender color and give them one of the dice:
This will inform which smoothie cards you use during the game, and there are a lot:
Take the orange cards and the cards for each player’s smoothie color and shuffle them, forming the deck (this is Becca’s job: bringing you the smoothie orders as they come in). This part is important for reasons I will explain later, but show all players the bottom card and make sure it’s not a Special Order (it’ll say “Special Order” on there). If it is, just reshuffle until it’s not. Once you’ve done that, flip over X + 1 cards, where X is the number of players. In some cases, you’ll flip a Special Order card:
If that happens, keep flipping cards until you’ve flipped a regular order on top of it. The Special Orders all modify the regular orders above them, either by adding ingredients or removing the ingredient in the indicated slot. Once you’ve done that, your play area should look like this:
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. There are three actions you can take on your turn: Roll, Dump, and Blend. I’ll go through each in turn.
For this action, you ask Kevin to get you an ingredient from the back. Unfortunately, Kevin’s vaguely unhelpful, so his “contribution” is represented by a roll of the die. When you roll, you will roll one of the five fruits and add it to one of your blenders. If you roll the purple ?, you can choose which of the five fruits you’d like to take. If you roll a fruit that is no longer available, Kevin gets confused and brings you the durian. Rather than give that to a customer (why would you?), you can dunk that into another player’s blender, which forces them to dump their blender back to the center (unless you’re trying to complete the Enduriance Challenge, in which you can dunk it on yourself to blend it). You can only do this if that player is not currently taking the Blend Action.
While this is the subject of some debate, we play it that if you roll the purple ?, you cannot normally take the durian unless one or more fruits are depleted. We assert that it’s you saying “I want a banana” and then there are no bananas left, so you get the durian. It’s controversial. The important thing is that you cannot just take the durian under normal circumstances if you roll a purple “?”.
This one is rather straightforward. If you’ve mistakenly added the wrong ingredient to your blender, you can’t just stick your hand in and fish it out; that’s gross! Plus, what if the blender accidentally turns on? Terrifying. Instead, you can take the Dump Action to pour your blender out, returning the ingredients to the center. If someone dunks a durian on you, you must dump that blender. That’s about it.
For Blend, you exclaim, “Blend!” and then you start blending. You do this by taking the following actions, in order:
- Take the Smoothie Card with ingredient requirements matching yours and add it to a stack near you. Make sure you check Special Orders!
- Replace that Smoothie Card with another from the deck. If you flip a special order, don’t forget to keep flipping until there’s a regular order on top of the special orders.
- Return ingredients to the center. Do this last.
If you mess this up, you’ve committed a Blender Blunder! If you do this enough times, you’re on a Blender Blunder Bender, but that’s not anything we’re going to deal with. If someone catches you making a Blender Blunder, they can say “Blunder!”, which requires you to stop doing anything until the next time another player takes a Blend action. This prevents cheating and all sorts of tomfoolery, if you’re paying attention. That said, it’s also hard to focus on other people and still win, so … you do you with this one.
Play continues until all the smoothie orders have been made via Blend Actions. Once that’s done, count the number of stars on smoothie cards you’ve collected, and the player with the most stars wins!
Player Count Differences
I actually like it more at higher player counts. At two, it’s very easy to enter into a slightly degenerate state in which the other player commits a Blender Blunder and you can lock them out of the game until you’ve basically finished two smoothies (or worse, if you want to get creative and durian them a few times). At four, you’ve got the most smoothie options, the most fruit in play, and you’re likely to get blocked less, so there’s a lot more to do each turn. It’s great!
The major differences are that you will use fewer smoothie cards and fruits, and you will have certain types of smoothies out of play (since you only use smoothie cards that match the colors of the blenders being used). Generally, the game scales, though, so there’s no real difference; I just enjoy it at four because there’s more things happening at the same time.
- Gotta go fast. You better be rolling the die quickly, better be grabbing ingredients fast, better be moving with haste if you want to do well.
- I tend to focus on only one blender at a time and add “excess” ingredients to a dump blender. This somewhat diminishes the supply of ingredients available (meaning if I’m lucky I can durian someone quickly) while letting me not worry about ingredients I don’t want. This is risky, as you increase the likelihood someone will durian you (but they’ll likely go for your “dump blender” as it has more ingredients in it.
- Try to keep an eye out for Blender Blunders. It matters much more in a two-player game and is difficult to catch in four-player games, but it’s still useful to make sure everyone is following the rules.
- Certain smoothies you want to watch for. There’s one where the ingredients are just “any five things”, so having max five ingredients in, say, a Dump Blender mean you can just grab it whenever it comes up. Others generally have like, max two of an ingredient in them (sometimes three), so you can get lucky occasionally.
- Watch for Special Orders. They either make smoothies easier to make (reducing number of required ingredients) or they give you extra stars (but each requires another ingredient). Either way, if you can make those they’re generally good for you, so try to do that.
Other than that, it’s a game of speed, so just kind of go for the fun part. It’s similar to Ice Cool in that regard — you kinda can’t totally strategize because at some point it’s a bit luck, but there are certain skill elements you can try and leverage to do a bit better.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cool, well-executed theme. It works really well and the game is better for it. It’s also fun (and family-friendly, if that’s important to you).
- The art and design is solid. I also appreciate the puns on some of the smoothie names, but I love puns. It all looks great and even the fruit tokens are cut really well (except for the mango, which looks kind of like a jalapeno).
- Super easy to teach. It is one of the easier-to-get games in my collection. Usually for people’s first games I leave out Blender Blunders so that it’s not as “mean” for a player’s first time (and it incentivizes focusing on your blender rather than on someone else’s gameplay, which is a good way to learn the basics, in my opinion).
- Fun, fast-paced gameplay. It’s a fair bit of “yelling” (but not like, social deduction game yelling like Avalon).
- I like that you only use the smoothie orders corresponding to the blenders in play. It adds variety and makes me want to swap blenders from time to time. I don’t, but I want to.
- Very easy to transport. It really has Ice Cool beat here, which is saying something. Very tiny box that you can just throw in a backpack or purse or fanny pack or whatever you carry things in.
- The mango is a bit confusing. It’s red-green on the smoothie cards but a green token but it looks vaguely like a pepper and I’ve had to explain this to a few players before we’ve started in the past. Not bad, just, a thing.
- Fairly skill-dependent game, which severely disadvantages new players. They account for that a bit by letting you give new players a “SPILL” card that they can take as a one-time action to force you to dump your blenders, but it doesn’t totally level the playing field. To be fair, Santorini (which I love) has a similar problem they attempt to address in the expansion, Golden Fleece, but you can only nerf experienced players so much before they stop having fun. I think the Spill cards are a fair compromise, but this is something to watch out for.
- I would prefer a different end condition for Blender Blunders in two-player games. You can essentially block the other player for a while if they make a blunder (since the end condition is a player saying “Blend!” when they perform the Blend Action), which seems a bit crappy. I’d just say they have to sit out while you take your next four-ish (I haven’t actually tested this number, I’m just spitballing) actions, would be reasonable. That’s enough time for you to likely finish a smoothie, and it means you can take a break rather than completely blocking them out.
- I wish the game were about five minutes longer. It’s really only because I really enjoy playing it, so it’s hardly a complaint, but it can feel a bit short to me sometimes because it’s so fast-paced. I would love to see an expansion make the game a bit meatier, because its core concept is rock-solid.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, Blend Off! is a really great short-form dice-rolling game. I particularly would praise it for its portability, as it’s something I often bring with me in a small bag if I’m looking to get some quick, light gaming in. I would highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a short, fun family game, or if you just really like smoothies.