Full disclosure: A preview copy of Cooking Rumble was provided by Aether Tower Studios. Please keep in mind that some aspects of the game may change (as in art and gameplay), as this is a preview of an unreleased game.
I travel a lot (in fact, just got back from Gen Con, but that’s a whole additional thing), and usually I travel with my work manager, so we try to find short, light, two-player games that we can play against each other on the airplane. Usually, we play Cake Duel, but we’ve tried other stuff in the past (Soulfall, various apps). As a result, I’m stoked for Cooking Rumble, a new two-player duel game from the folks who brought us Tricksters.
In Cooking Rumble, you play as competing chefs vying for the title of Master Chef in a cooking competition. However, once one of the chefs has tried a recipe, they won’t try it again, so no point in cooking that. Can you outcook your competition, or are the judges not the only people who are going to get served?
Setup is radically simple. Give each player 4 different Ingredient Cards:
Shuffle the Recipe Deck and put three cards face-up:
Give each player 2 Wild Tokens:
And once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to start. Keep the Frying Pan tokens nearby, as well:
So, the gameplay is also simple. Each turn, you play a card from your hand such that it matches one of the leftmost uncovered ingredient cards. If that seems unappealing, you can use one of your Wild tokens to change the ingredient to another ingredient. Note that you only get your Wild token back when either player takes the Recipe card. Just something worth keeping in mind.
For instance, let’s say this is the current look of the cards in the center:
The Ingredient cards you (viewing the cards so that the bottom row is facing you) could play right now are Greens, Meats, and Sweets. That’s what I call them, at least.
You play face-down, and your opponent tries to guess which card you just played.
- If they’re wrong: You add a frying pan token to one of the recipes with a leftmost uncovered ingredient matching the one you just played.
- If they’re right: They can cover the leftmost uncovered ingredient of their choice. Tough!
If you completely cover three ingredients, you take the Recipe card and score it. First player to six points wins!
Player Count Differences
It’s a two-player only game! Though I’ve heard rumors of a three-player variant…
- Don’t necessarily always play optimally. That’s a really easy pattern to suss out.
- Try to figure out how your opponent is playing. If you can guess their cards, you push yourself closer to scoring, which is great.
- Use wild tokens to feint, sometimes. I try to occasionally play a wild token and then play a completely different ingredient. But I don’t do it consistently. Consistency is the enemy.
- Don’t play consistently. The less predictable you are, the more trouble your opponent will have.
- Avoid getting doubles or worse. You want to have as many different ingredients “playable” as possible. If your only option is meat, then, well, your opponent is going to guess that.
- Sometimes it’s fine to just guess the thing that you don’t want your opponent to play. It means they might take something else, but that’s a fairly consistent blocker against them as long as they can’t guess what you played.
- Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to play randomly. Your opponent can’t read you for information you don’t have, after all.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Fun art. It’s adorable.
- Easy to teach. It’s basically a guessing game with some interesting abilities to gather information. Kind of rock-paper-scissors, in a way.
- Easy to transport. It’d be a good travel game, if the pieces were attachable in some way. I could see a few fixes for this. Either way it might not be a bad plane game or a quick game to play in between other, heavier games, to lighten the mood / relax.
- Fast. The game plays super quick. It’s nice, for that. Also makes it easier to preview, which I appreciate.
- Can induce a bit of analysis paralysis, if you’re not careful. It’s too short of a game to try to overthink your opponents. Just guess / play a card.
- It’s slightly possible to get trapped, if you’re not careful. If you use up your Wild tokens and then you have three of the same ingredient next, you’ll basically be unable to progress until you can guess your opponent’s ingredient, which can be pretty not fun. Avoid that at all costs.
- The tokens are pretty small, which concerns me for a game that I’d usually put in the light / travel game category. It’d be pretty cool if they clipped onto the card and didn’t slide so that you could play this in the car on a trip or not worry as much on an airplane.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Cooking Rumble’s pretty fun! I can see it being great with kids, as it’s pretty simple to learn and a lot of fun. Its main draws for me are that it’s super fast and super easy to teach, but with enough of a bluffing element that it’s interesting no matter who you play with. Even though some moves are optimal and obvious, going for those moves will just get you sniped by your opponent, so you have to bluff, double-bluff, and sometimes triple-bluff your opponent if you want to be successful. Even then, it’s not too complex to really keep anyone out, so it’s a nice game for almost all ages. Plus, as of writing, it’s already funded on Kickstarter, so even better! Check it out!