Full disclosure: A preview copy of Surrealist Dinner Party was provided by Resonym. 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.
Two Kickstarters this week! I think it generally picks up a bit towards the middle / end of summer, and here we are. We’ve got a lot of them to get through (and I think even more in the coming weeks), so, might as well get to them! This one’s another title from Resonym, which has been making a ton of interesting titles in the last few years. Surrealist Dinner Party looks to be another novel theme. Let’s dive right in and check it out!
In Surrealist Dinner Party, you’ve decided to invite all of your favorite artists over for a dinner party, but, I mean, they’re Surrealists, so they’re extra. They have very specific asks around food, drinks, and desserts, and satisfying their needs will really look well for you as a host. In fact, the other hosts and you have made a little competition out of it. Will you end up being the host with the most (points)?
Not a ton. Deal each player six artists:
You’ll want to set aside the various tokens (and the platter as well):
If you’re playing with Faux Pas cards, then once everyone’s looked at their six cards, deal them 2 Faux Pas cards; they may return as many as they want to the box, and place the others face-up in the middle of the table.
Once you’ve done that (or not), you’re ready to start!
You’re hosting a fancy dinner party for all your Surrealist friends, but they exist in a weird liminal space between dreams, nightmares, and reality, and, I mean, that’s on brand for the Surrealists. You’re going to have to work with them. Your goal is to send guests home well-fed and satisfied, but your opponents want the same thing, so you’ll have to outwit them. But how?
A game of Surrealist Dinner Party is played over several rounds, each representing a course in the multi-course meal you’ve set up. On a turn, you have three actions; let’s go through each and see how they change the game!
Seat a Guest
You must do this as your first action of the game. Play a guest face-up to the table, in front of you. You may have three guests face-up at any time, and you may always place a new guest to the left or right of a guest, or between any two guests.
Before Seating a Guest, you may send one of your current guests home and potentially score the tokens on their card. When you send one of your guests home (or some other action sends a guest home), you may score their tokens if they match the space they’ve been placed on. If that happens, pull them into your scoring area; if not, return the token to the kitchen (the area with all the tokens).
If you Perfectly Satisfy a guest (every token space is filled with a matching-color token), you may take an additional two tokens of the color of your choice from the kitchen and add them to your scoring area.
Give Compliments / Start Drama
Choose any of your guests and one of their neighbors (this may be one of your opponent’s guests!). Immediately give them both a Compliment token or give them both a Drama token. Those must be placed on the cards immediately on an open space of that player’s choice (meaning your opponent places on their own cards). If the color doesn’t match, tough! You still have to place it if you can. If you cannot place the token, return it to the kitchen.
The final iteration of the game will have single-sided tokens to help you remember if the token matches or not. Place it design-side up if it matches, and design-side down if it does not.
Serve a Guest
To Serve a guest, take a token from the platter and place it on one of the open spaces on one of your guests’ cards. Or, if you’d prefer, return it to the kitchen!
If you take the last token from the platter, the round ends immediately.
End of Round
When the Round ends, a few things happen in order:
- Abilities. Some guests have end-of-course abilities, which activate now. If multiple abilities are activating at the same time, do the ones that affect your guests first, then do the ones that affect your opponents’ guests. If you have an ability that activates at the end of a course, you must perform as much of it as you’re able to do.
- Refill the Platter. Refill the platter with tokens for the next course. If you’ve finished Dessert, the game is over!
- Next Course. The course begins again with the player to the left of the player that ended the previous course.
End of Game
After the final course (dessert, of course), the game ends! Count up your scores and include any end-of-game Faux Pas cards, if you earned them. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The major thing I’ve noticed is that you’re almost certainly going to need the 10x tokens for higher player counts, as there will be a lot more tokens in play (even if they don’t necessarily get claimed by you, the player). We went from basically being totally fine at two to almost certainly needing them at three. Beyond that, the major concern I have for this game is the potential for dogpiling at higher player counts, as both of your neighbors decide to dump compliments / drama on you to junk up your guests. There’s not a ton that you can do to stop it (though it might junk up their guests a bit), but it can be pretty annoying. As a result, I gently prefer playing this one at two; at least then you know that you’re either benefitting yourself or hurting someone else. I can play it at higher player counts, but there’s a decent enough amount of take-that that I start to get a bit irritable with 3+.
- Don’t make enemies if you don’t have to. I think this is generally my go-to strategy for games with take-that, but, I usually still suffer as players tend to deem me the most experienced player (which, I mean, it’s not an entirely unfair categorization) and subsequently go after me. That said, generally speaking, trying to avoid the negative attention of other players is usually a good way to avoid future problems.
- If you are looking to make enemies, consider dropping a Compliment or Drama on a Guest that your opponent is about to Perfectly Satisfy. It’s a great way to rob your opponent of some bonus points and junk up their guest at a critical moment. That said, it might not make you a lot of friends in the long-term, so, that’s a choice you can make.
- You can generally see who’s in the lead, mostly. Use that to your advantage, and negatively influence that character if you can. Remove some of their tokens, give them the wrong ones, whatever you can to try and slow their rate of getting points will potentially save you.
- You may not want to send someone home right away if they have a good ability that helps your other Guests. Usually if they give tokens to your other Guests, it may be worth having them around for a bit, but, remember that you can only have three Guests at the table, so, if you have too many around for their abilities, you can’t get new Guests in to get even more tokens.
- Either way, focus on making the most of your Guests’ abilities. Some of them are offensive, some are defensive, and some are just weird. It’s pretty critical to leverage those abilities if you’re going to try and, say, make sure you have the most Wine tokens so that you can take any token you want, or keeping certain spaces clear because your ability lets you take two Food from the kitchen.
- If you’re not benefitting from any of the tokens currently on the Platter, consider getting rid of them so that your opponents can’t take them either. You might as well deprive them of potential for points if you can’t get anything useful for yourself.
- If you don’t want to do that, Compliments or Drama are really your only way to go unless you Seat another Guest. That only goes so far; at a certain point you’re just taking useless tokens to spite your opponents. Similarly, make sure you’re seating your Guests in such a way that you can Compliment or Make Drama within your own group.
- Be careful about ending the round! You may be giving your opponents a lot of bonuses from their abilities (or setting yourself up poorly for the next round). Keep an eye on player position.
- If you’re playing with Faux Pas cards, Perfectly Satisfying guests can be critical to your success. These can let you pick tokens of any color that you want, which can be really useful if you want to beat your opponents to the “first to 4” of some color.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Resonym consistently delivers on interesting themes. I think to the other games of theirs I’ve played (Mechanica and Visitor in Blackwood Grove) and they’re always pushing the envelope on silly, unique, or insightful game themes. This one doesn’t disappoint, and they’ve done a fantastic job (as to be expected) including a diverse array of Surrealist artists that even me, a total art history slob, can recognize and appreciate.
- Pretty straightforward gameplay loop, which is helpful. You only can perform one action per turn (of three possible choices), so that makes the game significantly easier to learn and play. The most complicated action you have in your arsenal is playing a card, and that’s only because you also can discard a card from play when you play one.
- I’m consistently impressed every time I play the game; I always assume that only having six guests isn’t nearly enough to finish the game, and it always is. It’s probably my favorite thing. Every game, I’m like “this is the game I’m going to wish I had seven guests” and it never happens. I’m always like, “I only played five” or “I played all six but hardly used the sixth”. It’s sort of like watching a magic trick or having Hannah Gadsby explain her entire Douglas set to you; you see the whole thing and you think you know how it works and how it’s going to end, and then you’re still surprised and impressed? It’s a rare feeling when I play a game to be actually surprised.
- I really like the way the platter refills for the multi-course meal. It makes the game feel like a dinner party. I wish Dinosaur Tea Party had had a similar platter-style mechanic.
- The Faux Pas system is pretty good, as well. I’m a big fan of how you essentially bet on being able to get the Faux Pas cards that you end up playing, based on what cards you have in your hand. It’s bold and even if it doesn’t work out you kind of respect the attempt.
- I like the art style! It’s a bit creepy, but, that’s my entire view of Surrealist artwork, so honestly I kind of knew what I was getting into. The nightmares I’m going to have tonight are probably my fault, in a manner of speaking. Mild horror aside, I think the cards are well-designed, though; it’s easy to read the text on them, they present the art well, and the icons are consistently-ordered and easy to read. All good things!
- Wooden tokens are nice, but the cylinders in the quantity I was given are definitely like, rolling everywhere. There’s just a lot of them and I’ve almost lost several, hence why the photos have them stored in the really nice component holders that Nettersplays made for me.
- Runs a bit on the long side. I did kind of expect this to run in less than 30, but it can hit as long as 50, especially at higher player counts. That’s a bit meatier than I necessarily expected, but it’s not altogether bad. I think I would like a shorter version of this, though.
- Some potential for dogpiling, which is never something I like to see in a game (but happens when you’ve got take-that, generally). I think this is a natural consequence of anything that can be reasonably interpreted as take-that in a game, but, my tolerance for it decreases drastically as the game’s length increases. It’s just How Things Work For Me Personally. I don’t think there’s a way to extract it without fundamentally modifying the game, either, so I do tolerate it when I play. Just keep that in mind if you’re not a big fan of take-that, either.
- I … forgot how Surrealism gently hovers in the same part of town as Mild Body Horror. Oof. There are definitely some cards in this game that I just Try Not To Focus On Directly. That’s going to make photo editing fun.
Overall: 6.5 / 10
Overall, I think Surrealist Dinner Party is fun. I’m not quite sure where to place it, as it’s a bit long for a filler, but it doesn’t quite activate the parts of my brain that I would want to see light up for a meatier main course game. I think, by its own structure, it’s a bit of an apertif? Actually, it’s probably firmly in the hors d’oeuvres category, with fillers making up cocktails and apertifs. But I’m getting into the weeds with this one. I think that this is another example of Resonym doing the work to make a game with a very unique theme, and I think it mostly works in that regard. I do kind of wish that it didn’t light up the “is this body horror?” parts of my brain, especially since I’m writing this review right before I would otherwise want to sleep. That’s never my favorite. Another thing that concerns me is the potential for dogpiling, but I think it’s reduced somewhat by making it hard to affect players you don’t have adjacent cards to. It does tamp it down, somewhat. Beyond that, it’s a very cute game, though! It really leans into the dinner party theme and delivers on it with Compliments, Drama, Faux Pas cards, and more! I think I might be more amenable to a shorter version of this one, but if you’re looking for a game that’s unabashedly unafraid to get weird, you should check out Surrealist Dinner Party! Even for the art alone. It’s a very unique title, and I’m glad that Resonym is consistently making waves in that space.