Full disclosure: A preview copy of Fry Thief was provided by Laid Back Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Whew, I think it’s been one or two Kickstarters a week since, like, the start of the year? What a whirlwind. Thankfully, new policy changes give me a bit more of a head start on these, so I’m much less stressed about them, which is really nice. That’s been working great. Highly recommended. Anyways, we’ve got one this week, two next week, sort-of-one the week after, and then we’re good until March, I think! That’s exciting.
In Fry Thief, you’re faced with the classic dilemma: one of you has French fries, and the other does not. Maybe you were trying to be responsible, who knows. But now, you have to contemplate the unthinkable, a crime most terrible. You have to steal some of those fries for yourself. It’s the classic tale of good and evil, probably. Steal, eat, and dunk your way to victory, but only one player will end up satisfied. Which will it be?
Pretty easy setup. One player starts with fries, the other player (the salad player) does not:
On the Fry Player’s board, add, well, the fries in question:
You can set the Ketchup disks aside somewhere. I’d make a Ketchup mechanic joke but I think Food Chain Magnate beat me to it.
Shuffle up the cards, deal each player 3:
Naturally, the Salad player goes first!
So this is a game of hand management, fry capture, and fry consumption. The player with the most fries in their belly when the game ends wins.
On your turn, draw a card.
Then play a card. When you play a card as the Fry Player, its yellow side activates. When you play a card as the Salad Player, its green side activates. If the card is red, either player may use it, and if it has a lightning bolt icon on it (like Swat), it can be played out of turn. Some cards persist after they’re played, but all other cards are discarded.
Then either discard until you have 4 cards in hand or draw until you have 2 cards in hand, if either of those situations apply to you.
If the deck runs out at any point, shuffle the discard pile and use it as the new deck.
When all fries have been consumed, the game ends, and the player with the most fries eaten wins! Ketchup-covered fries count double, helpfully.
Player Count Differences
It’s a two-player game.
- Fry player should always be eating fries. They have several cards which just let them gulp down fries, especially in ways that can combo to let them eat even more.
- Sometimes it’s worth making a good block. If you see Fork go down, play Fry Box. If you see Distraction, there’s a card that lets you steal a card from your opponent’s hand / discard one. You really want to get rid of Look Over There if you can.
- Salad player needs to be stealing fries. The Fry Player doesn’t have a ton of cards that let them steal, so just keep focusing on that and try to wear them down.
- There are certain cards you should never let the other player have. Fry Box / Big Steal are both really good for either player, so if you have it, it might be worth holding onto to keep it away from your opponent. The Fry Player should just kind of hold on to Distraction, generally speaking, as well. Salad Player doesn’t need that, probably.
- Keep an eye on the discard pile. One card lets you play cards from the discard pile, so it’s occasionally helpful to use that to double-down on a particularly good play you made in the past (like stealing 3 fries, twice). Just watch out for Swats!
- Counting cards is useful. Once you’ve seen two Swats, you know your actions can’t be blocked until the discard pile is reshuffled, so, feel free to play those really good cards you were holding on to.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cute theme. It’s definitely the most family-friendly out of the draw-one / play-one card games I’ve played in the last few years. Plus, letting the younger player be the Fry player seems like the right move; I think Salad Player is a bit harder.
- Diverse art. It’s nice seeing that anybody can be a no-holds-barred food-stealing monster. Really brings the whole community together. Also is fairly realistic. Either way, the art is very pleasant and nice, as well, so, nice job, Matt Franklin.
- Plays quickly. It’s not the type of game to linger. Your food won’t even get cold before you finish.
- Very transportable. Actually makes me wonder why it comes in a box at all; seems like it could be a little bag, like Love Letter.
- I’m always here for multi-use cards. I like that they have slightly different abilities (or the same ability) depending on which player you are. It’s a subtle asymmetry and it makes the game feel nicely cohesive.
- Om Nom Nom can be a bit swingy if you have a lucky starting draw as the Fry Player. I saw the Fry player just down four fries on their first turn like the maw from Heart of Darkness. It was horrifying, again, like Heart of Darkness. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that. I’ve heard some rumors it might get limited to one additional fry for one card, which might be a bit more practical and less dependent on a player hoarding cards or particularly swingy early draws.
- I feel the Salad Player’s best strategy is a bit nonobvious. It helps a lot if you’re familiar with the range of possible cards in the game, but for the first few games I think the Fry Player might have a bit more luck. Thankfully, game’s short, so it’s not as big of a deal if it takes you a few plays to get the strategy down pat.
- Some turns can be underwhelming. When an opponent swats your card or you have to play a card to force your opponent to discard something blocking you, it’s a little uninteresting. It feels like a waste of a turn, and it often is, which is disappointing.
- As with most interrupt cards, the order of operations can be a bit unclear. If I have Fork and I try to steal from a player with a Fry Box, does the Fork get discarded even though it didn’t work? Similarly, if I Swat an Om Nom Nom, does that happen before or after they discard red cards? A lot of out-of-turn cards can be a bit confusing.
Overall: 6.75 / 10
Overall, I’ve had fun with Fry Thief. I’ll generally give it points for being fast and having some solid art and a cute theme. Plus, light asymmetry in games is always a cool effect. My major gripes are the occasionally underwhelming turns; you almost want every turn to count or cause something to happen rather than just being about blocking someone or countering their block (a similar thing I noticed in Terrible Monster, though it’s less rooted into the game in Fry Thief). Those concerns aren’t the worst thing, though; the game plays quickly enough and is ultimately amusing, even if you do lose. I see this going over great as a family game while you’re trying to warm people up to microgames, especially if you’re playing with your kids (even moreso if you’re playing with your kids and stealing their fries; a tactic I completely endorse). Either way, if you’re looking for a cute little microgame with some asymmetric components (and split cards, which I always like), Fry Thief might be worth checking out!