Designed by Daryl Chow and published by Origame, Mooncake Master is a simple but satisfying tile drafting puzzle game where you are creating pastry delicacies that outscore those of the other players. The game takes 2-6 players but there is also a solo option which follows modified rules.
In the core game, players are dealt three tiles: they take and place one into a tableau in front of them and pass one to the neighbouring player on the left and one to the player on the right. The tiles all represent one quarter of a mooncake and, over the 12 turns that make up each round, you'll be laying the tiles so as to complete three mooncakes. Mooncakes score according to the number of base flavours/colours: a cake with just one colour scores 3 'taste'; two colours 1 'taste' but no 'taste' for a cake that uses all three colours. You'll score a 'taste' for each complete egg yolk and a bonus if your cake has no half yolks, and you'll score a 'taste' for each pair of watermelon seed and hazelnut. The 'taste' points are only used, tho', to compare players' mooncakes: they convert to 'festive' points (victory points) on the scoreboard only insofar as the player who ends the round with the most 'taste' points scores two 'festive' points and the lowest scores none; others all score one 'festive' point, so this is very much a close marking scheme. You can put more distance between yourself and your competitors by meeting the specific requirements of the customer card on display for the round: if one of your mooncakes meets the customer's precise demands then that'll also give you a 'festive' point. The winner is the player with the most 'festive' points at the end of three rounds.
This all make for a tight but rewarding puzzle game with a strong push-your-luck element. Do you try to hold out for a tile that will enable you to complete a single flavour/colour mooncake or do you maybe try to max out on pairs of seeds and nuts? The tile drafting means that you will know what tiles are more likely to benefit your neighbours. You can't actually sabotage them (this is not a 'take that' game) but you will probably try to give them tiles that help them as little as possible. That said, Mooncake Master is a good-natured game, to the extent that we found it remarkably easy to repurpose the draft into our own house-ruled fully co-operative variant, where players tried to help each other to maximise their 'taste' scores.
Mooncake Master plays quickly: our games took 20-30 minutes. It works as a light filler but has enough charm and appeal to make for a good easygoing way of introducing the card drafting mechanic to non-gamers. And you don't need to know what a mooncake is in order to play and enjoy this game, or even to become a Mooncake Master!
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