Full disclosure: A preview copy of 1-2-3 Cheese! was provided by Sunrise Tornado Game Studio. 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.
The last of the Sunrise Market games is here! It’s been a busy three weeks and we’ve had a lot of games to cover, from Pier 1‘s single-player movement to Boba Mahjong‘s complex card maneuvers to what we’ve got this week, 1-2-3 Cheese! I’ve been enthusiastic about spending most of the month with these games, and finishing strong is always a good time. So let’s dive in and see what 1-2-3 Cheese has got going on!
In 1-2-3 Cheese!, players have goofed. Anton the mouse led them into a heist, but the heist has not … gone well. It’s time to get out, but there’s unfortunately no honor among thieves! You’ve got to dump your crumbs and get out of there. If you dump your crumbs on someone else and they get caught? Well, that’s their problem, right? You’re pretty sure that’s their problem. Drop your cards, cheese your friends, and get out with your big score?
Set out the score board
Give each player a score meeple and have them place it before the 1 on the score board. Then, shuffle the cards:
Deal each player an even number of cards (14 cards each at most). Any cards that aren’t used get removed from the round.
Each player starts the round by choosing a card from their hand at the same time, placing it face-down, and revealing it. That will serve as their stash for the round. In a two-player game, players make two stashes, the same way. You should be ready to start!
A game of 1-2-3 Cheese! is played over a few rounds until any player has scored at least 12 points. During a round, you’ll drop cards into other players’ stashes in the hopes of making it hard for them to get away! Each round is a series of turns, so let’s talk about a turn.
On your turn, you can play or take cards via one of three actions: Drop, Cheese, or Gobble.
To Drop, you can play a set of cards that are the same number and color to any stash. There are some caveats:
- The cards must be played on top of any existing stash.
- The cards must be the same color and the color must be the same color as the top card of the stash.
- The number must the the same number or higher than the top number of the stash.
- If you use any wilds, they may be placed on the stash in any order. This includes 0s or the sack cards.
To cheese someone, you play a hand of at least three cards of consecutive values.
- The cards must be played on top of any existing stash.
- The cards must be the same color and the color must be the same color as the top card of the stash.
- The run must be consecutive numbers, but they don’t need to be higher or lower than the top card of the stash. Even if the top card of the stash is a red 3, you can still play a 1-2-3 or a 2-3-4-5, or you can even play a 0-2-3-0-5-Sack. Wild cards.
- Place cards on the stash from lowest to highest. Note that if you’re using a wild card as a high value, that might go on top.
When you take the Gobble action, take the top card from any stash to your hand and then immediately play a different card from your hand to the top of your stash. In a two-player game, you can choose which stash you play to.
If you pull the last card of a stash, the owner of that stash must play a new card from their hand to refill their stash before you play a card to your stash.
No matter what, if the top card of the stack is a 0, 5, or a sack, it’s treated differently:
- 5: If a 5 is on top of a stack, it’s treated as any number of any color for future plays.
- 0: If a 0 is on top of a stack, it’s treated as a 0 of its color (in that it’s less than a one). This contrasts with a 0’s standard use during a round, where it’s a wild card of its color.
- Sack: If a sack is on top of a stack, it’s treated as any number of any color for future plays.
End of Round
A round ends when a player empties their hand! Once every player has taken an equal number of turns, move on to scoring.
Players should count the number of cards in their stash (or stashes) and the cards in their hand. Each card in their stash counts as a crumb, and each card in their hand counts as two crumbs! Once you’ve totaled your crumbs, convert them to points:
- 0 – 5 crumbs: 6 points
- 6 – 10 crumbs: 4 points
- 11 – 15 crumbs: 2 points
- 16+ crumbs: 1 points
Tally your points, move your meeple up on the scoreboard, and start a new round! If a player has reached over 12 points, move on to the End of Game.
End of Game
If any player has more than 12 points, the game ends at the end of the current round! Once that happens, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I mostly notice that the game tends to get dogpile-y with more players. I wanted to say it tends to take longer with more players, but at a certain point you’re seeing fewer cards per player (~11 at five players, for instance, instead of 14), so there’s a chance that stashes won’t be as augmented as they are at lower player counts. For instance, at three players, it’s very possible that everyone ends up with 16+ cards in their stash, meaning everyone basically gets 1 point for the round. That can be annoying. At five, it’s impossible for that to happen, so there will always be players earning more points than others unless you’re doing incredibly in terms of balancing. Even then, they’re still earning a bunch of points. At two, the game can get a little interesting. If you can figure out what cards your opponent can’t play, you might be able to play to your own stashes such that your opponent is mostly stymied? It’s possible. That said, it can still be slow going for a bit. I’d say that the two- to four-player space most appeals to me. The inevitable intense dogpiling of higher player counts can be frustrating, and I haven’t really had the opportunity to even be in a game group with five people in person since early 2020.
- As with most games where you can team up against another player, it benefits you to gang up on the player to your immediate right. The benefit of doing so, here, is that you can play such that your opponent is wide open, incentivizing your opponent to your left to also hit them. This is generally good for you; you always want to present another player as a more attractive target than yourself. If you do that well, you can occasionally skate by mostly unnoticed and get big points at the end of the round. I’m not going to say that’s particularly likely (players are well within their rights to be suspicious of the number of cards in your stash), but at least presenting another player as a more attractive option can potentially divert an opponent or two.
- Get creative with 0s so you can create huge runs of cards. 0s are a good way to fill in either sets of the same number or straights within a color. They work for either, but if you’re making a run, try to keep a 5 or a Sack at the end so that your opponent is wide open to get hit again by another player. If you place a 0 on the end, it limits your other opponents to one color if they want to dump on the same stack, which means that they might not do so. They might target you instead! You don’t want that.
- If someone plays a Wild card to your stack, it might be worth Gobbling it so that you can set yourself up for a large chain of cards later. The other benefit of taking the Gobble action on a Wild card is that you can then place a card that’s harder to chain off of as the top card of your stack. You don’t really want an opponent to drop a huge set of the same number or to cheese you with a six-card straight, so limiting their options may be wise, in that regard. Plus, then you get an extra Wild card in your hand, which you may be able to use to cheese one of your opponents with extreme prejudice.
- It’s not necessarily the worst idea to play to your own stack, if you’re confident that it will make it hard for your opponents to do so. I wouldn’t recommend this, per se, but you can? It’s probably better to do a Gobble action and swap a card for a card, but what do I know? The only circumstance I can think of this making sense is if you’re going last and players still have a lot of cards in their hands; playing a big run of numbers to empty your hand and end the round is bold, but if you can’t play anywhere else and don’t want to wait for another more favorable round, it might be worth it?
- I usually put a 3 or a 4 in a suit I don’t have many cards of as my starting stack card; that forces players to burn their fives early (but does still expose me to getting Cheesed). It’s also helpful to try and get rid of cards you don’t have a lot of so that you don’t have stragglers of one color junking up your hand. Your goal is always to play as many cards as you can at once, so having a red 1 and a red 3 makes it difficult to play any sort of straight (unless you can get a Sack at some point).
- Sets of the same value are a useful way to get rid of extra cards in your hand, too. They’re slightly constrained compared to straights (since there aren’t that many cards of the same number and color), but they can still be useful if you want to get rid of a pair of 1s or a 2 and a 0 or something. Just remember that you need to play a higher value than the top of the stack, so it may be worth setting yourself up by playing a 5 or a 0 on top on the previous turn, if you can.
- Keep an eye on the player who is getting in the lead. They’re the player whose stack you want to dump on the most. You can’t afford for any player to get 6 points, granted, but you especially can’t afford for the player in the lead to get another 6 points! That can potentially end the game, and not in a good way for you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I know a lot of folks who really like cheese, and this game is almost entirely about cheese, so that should be right up their alley. Theme-wise, there’s just … a solid overlap for some of the cheese-inclined folks. I’m not the biggest cheese fan in the world (I like it; it’s just not My Whole Thing), but I think the art helps a lot with the “this game is about cheese in some way” aesthetic.
- The art looks great! It’s the right amount of realism on the cheese, I think. Yeah, this looks great. I really like the color, and the yellow adds a nice contrast on all of the cards. Shenanjegans did a great job!
- I appreciate that this one has a fairly broad player count compared to the 1- and 2-player games in the Sunrise Market set. It rounds out the set nicely. Something for you, something for you and someone else, and something for you and your friends. I suppose this is less praise of the game itself and more praise of the set, but, this is the last game in the set, so it goes here.
- Very easy setup, since you’re just shuffling a deck of cards. Having to do that more than say, four times can be a bit annoying, but hopefully you see enough of a swing in points that your game moves pretty quickly. The setup time isn’t the major inhibitor, though dealing 14 cards is kind of weird, since it’s not the most common number in terms of hand size.
- I also like the action reference showing several examples of valid plays; I didn’t actually know about some of them before I looked. I didn’t realize, for instance, that you could use Wild cards to be numbers higher than 5, since no such cards appear in the game, but that’s apparently totally valid. That’s good! The game is preemptively answering questions, and that’s solid.
- While I don’t like dogpiling, I do appreciate that you can lob to an opponent to dogpile on a player by playing a “this card is wild” card to another opponent’s stack. This is strategically interesting. Essentially, what you’re doing is you’re playing a card to a stack that’s very easy to combo off of. This sets the next player to play on that stack up for a big play, if they can land it correctly. Ideally, this would be your opponent, but it might be you, as well, and I kind of like both the strategy of doing this and the uncertainty of not knowing who’s going to play to that stack next.
- Very portable, as has been the case with the entire Sunrise Market series of games. They’re all pretty small games. I used my own scoring meeples (I just had the new version of In A Grove handy, is why), but there aren’t a lot of components to pack and transport. They might even be smaller than the Oink games, I suppose.
- A few inconsistencies between the rulebook and the game itself, which is annoying but not too bad. The rules refer to Anton cards (which I assume are the sack cards) as wilds, but there are no mice to be seen. The game also arrived with two scoreboards, one of which suggests that at 20+ crumbs, players get 0 points, which doesn’t match the other one. It doesn’t affect the playability of the game too much, but it’s a bit frustrating to have to decipher some of the stuff in the box before getting a chance to play.
- The 0 / 5 / sack cards are similar enough in functionality (but not quite the same) that I worry that players will get confused during the game. It does help that the 5 has a sack symbol to specifically indicate that it functions as a Wild when on top of a stack, but the 0 being wild when played and 0 otherwise and that being the opposite of the 5 but having nothing to do with the sack card might be confusing to new players, as you essentially have three cards that are wild in different circumstances, to some degree.
- A nontrivial amount of this game is going to be strategic dogpiling to deny the leader the chance to get points. Dogpiling is one of my Least Favorite Things in games, just because for a while I was the experienced game teacher, so I tended to get dogpiled the most in games. If you didn’t know who to go after, go after the person who taught you the game. Since I taught most of the games, this happened fairly constantly, and it was exhausting. Thankfully, it happens a bit less now, but damage done. I still don’t particularly care for games where there’s an effective dogpiling element, and while I appreciate the strategic appeal of dogpiling, I gotta at least put the warning that this can get dogpile-heavy.
- That dogpiling can, as a result, slow the game down a fair amount. Had a couple rounds where the highest score was, like, two points, which in a game where you’re gunning for 12 points or more means that you’re playing pretty slowly. I imagine that this can vary a bit if you have players of different experience levels, but while this wasn’t explicitly a stalemate, it was a pretty slow game.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I thought 1-2-3 Cheese! was pretty fun! I’ll say I’m not entirely sold on the name, since it isn’t really evocative of heists (and it’s rather hard to type out; those hyphens don’t flow well when I’m typing), but, not my game to name; just my game to whine about, a bit. If you enjoy aggressive card games where you’re essentially dumping your cards on your less-fortunate opponents, I think this one will appeal to you. It’s simple enough to learn, with some fun combos that can happen and the ability to form the shaky alliances that not being in first place will create as you try to take down your more-fortunate opponents. That can be fun! I also think it’s a good-looking game with a fun theme, but, I’ve kind of come to expect that from Sunrise Tornado. It’s still appreciated, granted, but it’s a good thing to cultivate. Of the Sunrise Market set, 1-2-3 Cheese! is probably my least favorite, but not in the sense that I dislike it; I just prefer the puzzley gameplay of Pier 1 or the head-to-head cardplay of Boba Mahjong a bit more. I think this title will appeal a lot to folks who are trying to help their friends transition a bit more out of classic card games, though; it feels like it has a lot of the same fundamentals, but with a few more potential places to cheese your opponents if they misstep. If that appeals to you, or you’re just really into cheese, I’d recommend checking out 1-2-3 Cheese!. I’ve found it fun.
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