I think last month was EXIT month; this month should be Oink month. I’ve had a bunch of Oink games since Gen Con and it’s been a while since I’ve gotten the chance to talk to y’all about them. I’ll put a couple reviews on hold in the meantime (and I’m literally never going to review VOID; I’m not sure it’s actually reviewable), but let’s dig right in with the (well, second, I see you VOID)-weirdest Oink game I’ve played: TomaTomato!
In TomaTomato, well, you’re … I have no idea if there even IS lore for this game. Really, you’re just playing tongue-twisters against your friends, and I hope you like saying tomato. That’s about it; let’s get to the review.
There is none. Give the die to a player:
And shuffle the tiles, placing them into a stack:
You’re ready to go.
Uh, so, the game is played over several rounds, and each round the start player rolls the die. Whatever it shows, flip that many tiles and add them to the end of the line.
The player to the start player’s left now must read the tiles as quickly as possible, starting from the left side. If a Reverse symbol is present on any tiles, they must start from the right side instead. Each tile has a word that must be said:
- to (“toe”)
- ma (“mah”)
- mato (“mah-toe”)
- tomato (“toe-mah-toe”)
- potato (“poe-tay-toe”)
Note that tomato is pronounced differently than potato, American friends. If you make a mistake, all other players count down from 3 and then simultaneously point at a tile or stack of tiles. If they are the only person pointing at a particular tile or stack of tiles, they take the tile(s) and add them to their scoring area. Otherwise, remove the tile(s) from the game and nobody gets them.
After that, condense the line! If any tiles of the same type are touching each other, put them into a stack (I think cover left-to-right; it doesn’t super matter as long as you’re consistent). In future rounds it’s possible to claim the entire stack.
The game ends when the deck is depleted; at that point, check all your tiles and put them into sets of “tomato”. Each tomato you form is worth 1 point; the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Aren’t really any; there’s a bit more contention for the high-value tiles, but that generally means you can just focus on other tiles and let those players knock each other out by colliding. On the plus side, at higher player counts you personally have to read fewer sets of tiles, so that might be appealing.
Either way, I’d happily play this at literally any of the player counts. No real preference on this one.
- Honestly, the only thing you can do is try to avoid going for obviously high-scoring sets. The problem here is a Prisoner’s Dilemma: if you and another player go for it, that’s bad. If only one player goes for it, that’s bad if it’s not you. You have to decide whether or not it’s worth the risk. Me, I just wait for a bunch of tos or matos to start piling up so that I can grab them and combine them into tomatoes. It may honestly be worth going for the high-value tile sets just so that nobody else can get them, though.
- Watch out for the potato. It will specifically mess you up since you’re forced to toe-mah-toe and this is poe-tay-toe. Just make sure you keep those separate in your brain.
- Check the line. One thing I like to do is go after the reverses and hope that players don’t notice so they start from the wrong end of the line (thereby potentially giving me more points). You should avoid this gambit of mine by scanning the line quickly before you start to make sure no reverses were added or removed without you knowing.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Bar none, one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played. I think it was best said here, but honestly, you’re not going to find many games that are more bought-in to their own premise than this one. Hardly anyone in the US says toh-mah-toh, the potato in there throws people off, and it’s brisk and wacky and a perfect example of how to get weird with your designs and still come out with something that’s fundamentally very fun.
- Bright and colorful. It is a very pretty game and I really appreciate it. Oink always does a nice job, but this one looks really great.
- It’s also just a clever concept. How many times are you going to say “tongue-twister set-collection game” in a review? Probably not many. I really applaud Taisei Kato for pushing the envelope (as many Oink Games often do) in terms of design and structure. Looking forward to even more from Oink.
- As always, very portable. That’s sort of their entire brand, but, I mean, it’s true for every game so it’s worth mentioning every time.
- Also quick to set up and play. There’s basically no setup and the game is pretty straightforward; it’s a solid party game.
- The die is delightfully massive. It’s just huge and I love it.
- In my opinion, it can fall a bit flat if the potato / reverses don’t show up quickly enough. The game could use a few more tiles that really mess up the gameplay (or event cards or something to keep it really hard to do well). With sober players playing at a reasonable hour, most players end up being pretty successful, which I’d argue isn’t really the point of the game. I may go for the Coloretto-sorta strategy where I mix the potato into the top half of the deck just to guarantee we see it while we still have some playtime.
- Be mindful of how games with a focus on speed-reading and pronunciation will land with your player group. It penalizes players who might be less confident speakers, since you really need to speak quickly and without mistakes, so I might argue that this has a bit of a language barrier to it, even though the language barrier also affects a large population of American English speakers (as the game’s required pronunciation of tomato is atypical, for us). I’d say be mindful of that and make sure you’re not subjecting players to a situation that will make them uncomfortable because of how they talk.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think TomaTomato is a delight. I mean, it’s weird, but you’ve gotta shoot for weird sometimes; it occupies the perfect “very strange party game” space with In A Bind (now Yogi), Eye My Favorite Things, and (hopefully) TOKYO GAME SHOW in the future. These are party games that I vastly prefer to less-weird games, as they’re letting you create some interpersonal intimacy in all the weirdness. They allow you to be silly and it’s excellent, even if silly is just laughing because you forgot how to say tomato out loud. There are plenty of great party games, don’t get me wrong; Just One is superb, Werewords / Insider / A Fake Artist Goes to New York are all good, yes. But there’s nothing quite like TomaTomato, and I kind of love it for that? Is it a flawless game that will appeal to everyone? No; it’s weird as heck. It’s a game that’s literally about saying different parts of the word “tomato” until you mess up. I have no idea how something this weird got made, but I’ll sure as hell concede that it asserts its right to exist. We need more weird games, and we certainly need this weird tomato game. If you’re looking for a silly party game that’s just … strange, TomaTomato is definitely worth checking out! I’ve had a lot of fun with it.