Full disclosure: A review copy of Bubble Tea was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
Alright, more from Renegade! They’ve been localizing a number of games from Taiwan over the past few years (some, like Fireworks, I’ve covered!). Bubble Tea is another such game. I’ve been eyeing it for a few years, hoping that they’d bring it over; a number of my coworkers love bubble tea, so I’m hoping that this game will be right up their alley. Let’s check it out!
In Bubble Tea, you’ve got two different ways to make your customers happy, but those darn Moji Moji are consistently making your teas a bit messy. You’ll have to move fast to fulfill orders before your competitors; there are a lot of different people taking orders, including some familiar faces. Will you be able to tea-se out a win? Or will your opponents burst your bubble?
Setup depends a bit on the game, but I’ll note it where relevant. Either way, you’ll want to shuffle your Customer Cards:
They have drink orders on the back!
Give each player a set of Moji Moji cards numbered 1 – 9:
Give each player two Tea Base Cards:
The cards are Coffee / Black Tea and Milk Tea / Green Tea, double-sided. There’s also a tiny tea shaker:
And some dice!
Game 1 Setup
If you’re playing Game 1, set the Customer Cards in a stack, Customer-side up, and put the dice in the shaker so that you can shake them up. You’re ready to go!
Game 2 Setup
If you’re playing Game 2, set the dice aside and deal each player 5 Customer Cards, with the Customer side facing them. Then you’re ready to start!
Two different games, here; I’ll cover each.
If you’re playing Game 1, you’re all competing to make a single customer’s order as quick as you can! One player holds the shaker and shakes up the dice, revealing the customer’s order. They reveal, and on the count of 3, all players go!
This is done in real-time. Take Moji Moji Cards and add them to your Tea Base (stacking or tucking as necessary to match the order on the dice. You can spin and cover the cards as needed, but the Moji Moji blocks (the animals) cannot be outside of the card (the cards blank parts can).
Whoever finishes the drink first can touch the lid of the shaker (to prevent injury; the rules suggest covering the dice with the shaker’s lid). Once that happens everyone stops to check.
- If you’re correct: The round ends! The player who was correct gains a Customer Card.
- If you’re incorrect: The player who claimed incorrectly loses a Customer Card, if they have any. All other players continue until someone else attempts to claim they finished the order. If two players get it wrong, end the round and move on.
Start a new round by having the player who claimed first take the shaker and the dice.
The first player to gain 3 Customer Cards wins!
If you’re playing Game 2, everyone’s running their own independent shops. Can you out-serve your rivals?
To start a round, everyone choose a Customer Card from your hand (without looking at the back) and place it Customer-side up. The number on the front is a (rough) indicator of the difficulty of the card.
When you’re all ready, flip the card and go! The first person to complete their order grabs the shaker, and all players stop to check:
- If you’re correct: The round ends! Keep your Customer Card and every other player discards theirs from the game.
- If you’re incorrect: Discard your Customer Card from the game. All other players continue until someone else attempts to claim they finished the order. If two players get it wrong, end the round and move on.
To start the next round, pass all your cards Customer-side up to the player on your left. The game ends when players have completed five rounds, and the players with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Not really any; it’s all kind of happening simultaneously, so the biggest thing you’ll notice is if one player is just much faster than anyone else, but that’s going to happen if you’re playing with them at two players or four players. The only thing you’re going to notice is that you’ll need a bit more table space for higher player counts, so plan accordingly so that everyone can put their Moji Moji cards on the table.
No real preference on player count for this one.
- Make your matches in your hand, rather than on the cards. If you try to place it on the cards, first, you’re going to have trouble tucking cards and moving layers around. It’s very similar to another game I played, Layers, actually, and it’s definitely not the kind of game you want to do without the ability to access the back and the front easily. Slam the complete version down on the card once you’re done; that’s how you get the points.
- Keep your Moji Moji cards separate and organized. You’re going to want to be able to pick them up quickly without getting confused as to what goes where, honestly. I keep mine close to the edge of the table so that I can just slide them off, which generally works?
- Don’t waste a ton of space. You know how many things you need to have on your card. Some cards in Game 2 require 12 different things! That means zero room for empty blocks, so you have to play smart and play efficiently. If you’re leaving a bunch of holes, those are going to become increasingly tough to fill over the course of the round and you’re risking getting a bit stymied by your own haste. You don’t want to have to backtrack in this game.
- Game 1: Mentally group the dice. I tend to organize them by number and then build largest -> smallest, since it’s easy to tuck things. Just make sure you have room to do so.
- Game 2: It’s generally wise to go for your lower-value cards first. If you can play them quickly enough, then you’re going to be able to block other players from scoring and still get points, which is good. That said, eventually you’ll run out of low-value cards.
- Game 2: If you’re quick enough, fast cards are also useful. If you can get even one 5-point card, it’s going to make it hard for other players to catch up. If you only play 1s for 3 rounds, that 5 points is still going to put you behind whoever got that one.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very quick to play. Most real-time games are, sure, but this also just goes pretty quickly, even if every player is winning at about the same rate. Game 1 can technically go on forever, but, it shouldn’t.
- Love the theme. It’s such a fun one! Also, bubble tea is super popular out here in the Bay Area, so having a game themed around it definitely means it’s going to be seeing a lot of play.
- I generally really like real-time games. They’re just really up my alley. Especially ones with a spatial element. I still think Eco-Links is my favorite, but that’s because it’s got the spatial element and the path element and that’s too good of a combination for me to ignore.
- It comes with a tiny shaker! That’s just delightful, even if it is way too loud to practically roll dice in.
- I really like that the art is reused, mostly, actually. It makes the universe of Aza’s games feel connected in a pleasant way, like after you play all the other games they all just kinda go out and get bubble tea together, sort of like how Mario and Bowser have a regular tennis engagement. It’s a pleasant bit of worldbuilding, intentional or not.
- Having to sticker your own dice (especially since it matters what goes where) can be a bit annoying. It just makes me very self-conscious. If you put the wrong sticker on the wrong die, also, you might be in for a bad time, so be careful with those.
- Another weirdly-shaped box. It’s like Renegade is targeting me personally. Which is fine; I can make it work, somewhere, I think. Or it’ll go on the Weird Box Stack on top of Junk Orbit.
- It can occasionally be a bit tough to see your Moji Mojis when you have enough layers on. That’s just the problem with semi-transparent sheets; this is part of the reason that it’s good that Mystic Vale and Custom Heroes set limits on how many you can stack; after too many, it becomes a bit tough to see them. Thankfully, this doesn’t pop up that much because you rarely stack more than, like, six of the Moji Moji cards.
- The dice being larger could help a lot. There are two dark brown Moji Moji types, and it’s decently easy to get them confused. Having big dice with the images on them takes away what I think is the hardest thing about the game, which is just figuring out what all you need. The assembly is the fun part. Naturally, it ups the cost of the game, but I think it would be super helpful if the dice were maybe 2x the current size.
- Shaking the dice in the shaker is so loud. That’s part of why I bought rubber cups for Roll for the Galaxy, honestly; I was doing so much shaking that it was just getting unbearable. Even though these dice are a bit softer (wood, not plastic), they are still plenty loud on their own. Consider just using your hands to roll the dice when you play, even if it’s less fun, if that sort of noise is something you’re sensitive to.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Bubble Tea is pretty great! It’s nice to have a go-to light real-time game that’s not the thinkiest. It’s not very stressful partially because it plays so quickly, which I appreciate, and it’s got a bright, vibrant theme, which looks great on the table. Plus, it’s fundamentally kind of a silly game, and I always appreciate that! I’m glad Renegade brought it over for wider distribution; I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and I’m pleased to see that it didn’t disappoint. There are a lot of bubble tea fans, and, I mean, I assume they all like pretty diverse games, so not going to give a blanket recommendation there, but this will definitely turn some heads (and I think it’s pretty solidly fun, so, that’s good). Always nice to see more real-time games getting their due. Either way, if you’re looking for a cute and fast real-time game or you’re just a big fan of bubble tea as a drink, I’d definitely recommend checking out Bubble Tea! I’ve quite liked it.