I’ve been pretty proactively supporting Rule & Make ever since Entropy came out … a while ago, actually. I think they were the 10th board game Kickstarter I backed? Wow. Yeah, that was a ways back. Anyways, I backed Skyward from them a bit ago and got Burger Up as part of it because, as I’ve been ranting about forever, I’m always down to try games with interesting themes.
In Burger Up, you play as one of many competing burger chefs trying to complete orders and feed hungry customers. The problem is, the customers’ orders are … pretty complicated. Will you be able to make the most money? Or will you get served up a crushing defeat?
So the major thing here are the Top Bun cards, as those determine what kind of orders you will have to fulfill during the game:
Take those, and remove a few depending on player count:
- 2-player game: Remove 6.
- 3-player game: Remove 4.
Then set three out in view of all players. Add one money on top of each of them.
Next, give each player the basics: 2 money, a Pristine Spatula card, and two Bottom Bun cards:
Once you’ve done that, give every player 4 Ingredient cards:
And set 3 more out to form the Market. Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!
Burger Up is played as a series of turns until the game ends. Each turn has a few phases, one of which has some optional components, so I’ll go through each in sequence.
The Market Phase is simple. You can spend $1 to add any Ingredient card in the Market to your hand. You can buy as many Ingredient cards as you want, but you do not refill the Market until your turn ends.
During this phase, you can add up to three Ingredients to any of your burgers. There are 5 different types of Ingredients you can use, each with their own background color and symbol:
- Bun (rainbow)
- Salad (green)
- Meat & Patty (brown)
- Cheese & Egg (yellow)
- Sauce (red)
As I said, place up to three total Ingredients onto your burger(s), provided that they match the requirement on the previous ingredient, like so:
The exceptions to this are the buns — they’re considered wild (hence the rainbow symbol), so any Ingredient can be played on them, and they can be played on any Ingredient. They do not count as Ingredients, though, even the Middle Bun. They’re just sort of a “reset”.
Some Ingredients are Perfect:
You want to keep those on burgers — you’ll get more money for them when you complete one!
Once you’ve added Ingredients to a burger, you cannot move them without using your Spatula. When you use it for the first time, turn it over to represent that it’s now dirty. If you use it again, remove it from the game. Using a Spatula allows you to move an entire stack of Ingredient cards to your other burger, which … might be handy? Might not be worth the point penalty, though.
Burger Up Phase
Now, check the Top Buns. If you meet the exact requirements for one, you can add it to the top of your burger and score the burger! (You can also hold off if you’d like to wait.) When you do (and only if you score a burger this turn), you take the coins on the Top Bun you just claimed, as well as the money for the burger’s size:
- Sandwich (1 – 3 ingredients): 1 money
- Gourmet (4 – 6 ingredients): 3 money
- Tower (7 – 10 ingredients): 5 money
- Colossal (10+ ingredients): 10 money or Upgrade Restaurant
If you choose to Upgrade your restaurant, flip your Bottom Bun cards over to the fancier side. You can now place four Ingredient cards per turn. That’s … maybe nice?
Discard the Ingredients in the burger and keep the Top Bun in a stack in your player area; there’s an end-game bonus for the player who completed the most burgers.
If and only if you scored a Top Bun this turn, add a new Top Bun to the area and add $1 to each of the three Top Buns. Just want to reiterate, don’t do this unless someone claimed a burger this turn.
You may only complete one burger per turn. You’re not some kind of burger witch.
The Cleanup Phase is just the usual end-of-turn stuff. You may discard as many Ingredient cards from your hand as you want, and then draw back up to four cards. If you, for some unknowable reason, bought more Ingredient cards than you used, such that your hand is more than four cards, discard down to four. It’s like burning money!
Then refill the Market back up to three cards. If you ever run out of Ingredient cards in the deck, shuffle the discard pile and that’s the new deck.
If you ever try to refill the Top Buns and can’t (there are two Top Bun cards and the Top Bun deck is empty), then the game is going to end. Play continues until the start player (every player should have an equal number of turns), and then the game ends. The start player doesn’t get another turn, as you’d guess.
Your endgame score is your money, plus the following things:
- 4 points if you have a Pristine Spatula / 2 points if you have a Dirty Spatula
- 5 points if you have the most Top Buns (ties are not friendly, here, so if two players are tied NOBODY gets it)
Most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I don’t have a ton of preferences for this game at any particular player count, though I will say it’s a bit more interesting at lower player counts for experienced players since you have no idea which Top Buns got randomly removed. Either way, I don’t think there’s a major slowdown between player counts, which is always nice, but it’s a bit harder to plan since there are only three Top Buns regardless of the player count. I’d say no real preference on player count, here.
- I haven’t seen upgrading the restaurant really be worth it. Sure, it lets you play four ingredients per turn, but you just missed out on an extra 10 money. Maybe if you did that after getting a TON of money from the Top Bun / Perfect Ingredients, but I’m still not especially convinced.
- Sift, sift, sift. There’s a whole strategy of sifting in deckbuilders (like Dominion and Mystic Vale), and I think that it’s particularly useful here, as well. You basically want to be cycling every card in your hand out as much as possible unless you find Perfect Ingredients or something you need to complete the next burger. This might not always work, but the more cards you see the more likely you’ll get something Perfect.
- Perfect Ingredients are a super useful way to earn money. Since you get one money for each Perfect Ingredient, you really want to make sure there are as many Perfect Ingredients on a burger as possible when you Burger Up. There’s also rumored to be a Perfect Burger, somewhere …
- Watch opponents’ burgers. This cost me the game, once, as I took the Iron Giant (Colossal burger with 3+ Patty) as soon as I could, for no reason. Nobody else was close to it, and the longer I waited to claim it, the better my odds were of other players giving me more money for it. Plus, if I saw another player with 7+ Ingredients on their burger on my turn, I could just complete it, no-sweat.
- Also watch the Top Buns. You generally want to try and build the most valuable burger, which is often the burger that’s been sitting for the longest, since it has the most money on it.
- Middle buns aren’t that useful, unless they are. Generally I discard Middle Buns as soon as I get them, but they are a useful way to get a lot of Perfect Ingredients onto one burger (since you can reset) or to fulfill requirements very quickly. Unfortunately, them not counting as ingredients makes them not terribly useful outside of that.
- It’s incredibly difficult to snipe another player’s burger. You can’t really beat a player to a burger unless they just get a terrible draw, but if you can pull it off and leave them stuck with a useless burger, you might knock them pretty far back in the game, so … maybe worth it?
- There aren’t a lot of burgers with size or sauce restrictions. There are plenty of “no meat” or “certain types of salad” restrictions, but generally no burger prohibits certain sauces, so saucing up your burger might be a good move if you don’t feel like you have anything else meaningful to do. There are also only a few burgers that restrict you to a certain size or smaller, meaning that you’re fine making a burger larger if you don’t know what else to do.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I generally don’t like square cards, but they work pretty well, here. I realized it a bit ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. I think they’re good in this game (since they work with the aesthetic), but generally not a huge fan, which kinda surprised me.
- Love the theme. It’s a kinda-puzzley game about making burgers. Delightful! The art is also superb, here — really sells the theme, well.
- Also enjoy the gameplay. I think the ingredient-stacking part of the game with double-sided cards is a really cool thing, and I think it makes a lot of sense with the theme of the game as well. Overall, it seems pretty solidly designed.
- Pretty easy to learn / understand. The only commonly missed rules are when you put money on Top Buns and Middle Buns don’t count as Ingredients.
- The Kickstarter version comes with a list of Burger Up-themed variants. I find this incredibly delightful. I have yet to try them, but I hope to sometime in the near future.
- Seems easily expandable. A wider variety of top buns and some more exotic ingredients seem like the next steps for this game (and, indeed, have been included in the Burgers of the World mini-expansion).
- The coins all being the same size is vaguely annoying. It makes it hard to tactily judge what kind of money you’re holding, so you often have to slowly sift through the money pile if you don’t separate the coins at the start of the game (which I hardly ever do).
- The Top Bun cards can occasionally be difficult to understand. You should operate under the assumption that they mean exactly what they have printed, and you’ll be fine.
- The puzzley nature of this game can aggravate analysis paralysis for some players. The option space is pretty small, though, so this isn’t usually a major issue.
- It can take up a lot of space. A Colossal burger is really tall. This makes it difficult to play at a square table without some finagling.
- It’s kind of ironic that I don’t feel like this burger-making game has much of a catch-up mechanic. If you don’t get the irony, oh well, written puns are hard to land sometimes. Either way, I feel like it’s difficult to catch up when you’re far behind in this game unless you spend a lot of time focusing on burgers that haven’t been made for a while, since it’s a fairly low-interaction game. Even then, if you lack the cards to make the burgers that are worth more money, you’re going to have some trouble, so try not to get too far behind. It would be interesting to see an expansion add “Event” cards that change something about the game each round or few rounds, too (or add variable income!). That might be a way to add in a catch-up mechanic.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I like Burger Up a lot! I think it’s a cute, enjoyable game with a super well-executed theme. I like the puzzley nature of trying to craft certain burgers to fit requirements and stacking ingredients sky-high, even if they don’t always fit on the table. I think it feels really well-designed and careful, even if I would occasionally like slightly larger money pieces for larger denominations. Either way, I’d definitely recommend Burger Up for burger fans, food fans, and board game fans!