Food Time Battle in Space
Having recently compiled a list of board game terms to aid those new to the hobby, there is an initialism (not an acronym, there's a difference, who knew‽) that I first heard when playing Dominion (Rio Grande Games): MPS - Multi-Player Solitaire. With attack cards and limits on kingdom cards, Dominion is not completely devoid of player interaction but it is close and that is where Niall Crabtree's Food Time Battle in Space sets its stall, too.
Published by Crab Studios, Food Time Battle in Space (or as it's presented on the box, Food Time Battle in Spaaaaace) is a 2-4 player card game with a restaurants in space theme. It's reminiscent of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, although, sadly, there's no Milliways. Each player has an identical set of cards: ingredients numbered 1-12 of which three are 'luxury', ten critics of difficulty 3-9 (easy, medium, and hard), and a head chef. On your turn, you draw three cards, decide which critic you will try to impress, and then lay down your ingredients in ascending order. Each critic has a requisite quantity of ingredients and an ability to be gained if enough luxuries are present, otherwise they just score and return to the bottom of their pile.
The essence of the game is to acquire the critics and use their abilities to coax the cards in your hand into satisfying the next one, preferably in a single turn as breaking the ascending sequence fails the order. Given that each player is trying to do the same thing, efficiency is key. The head chef helps out by allowing a player to refresh a critic, draw a card or even attempt two orders in a turn. The first player to five stars wins, which is effectively 10 points.
I think I can see what is being aimed for here: manipulating your hand by triggering critics' abilities in the right order does lead to some interesting juggling. The rules are designed to push players into making the best use of the critics cards; however, that does greatly reduce player agency... As stated: 'A player must draw 3 ingredient cards'; 'the player must then play these ingredient cards'; the cards 'must be in the correct order from lowest to highest'. Drawing three cards from a deck of twelve will often result in a high card that prevents completing an order above three ingredients, especially early on. With decisions over the play of ingredient cards placed outside players' immediate control, players have instead to direct their focus on the critics and their abilities, which is the meat of the game.
While constraints can make a tight game compelling - the peerless The King Is Dead (Osprey Games), for instance, sees you take just eight actions all game - when you are put in restraints by the rules, that can lead to a less satisfying experience. The notional setting is an alternative universe where Earth colonised the Moon in the 1950s, and the retro kitsch art and design by Fodsley gives the game a fun look that serves it well. The single sheet of instructions is well presented tho' it did give rise to a couple of queries. However, we wouldn't want to make a meal of these: our Board's Eye View plays have been of a preview prototype ahead of the game's launch on Kickstarter so there will doubtless be refinements to the menu in the published edition. Click here to ask for the check. :-)
You can expect plays to take around 20-30 minutes, making Food Time Battle in Space a quick card drafting hand management game: it may not be a gourmet feast but it definitely makes for a fast food filler.
(Review by David Fox)
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