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Sandwich Masters

Designed by Nich Angell, Lucy Brown, Jon Lock and Alice White, and published by Big Punch Studios, Sandwich Masters is a light and light-hearted set collection card game where 2–4 players are racing to complete sandwich orders and earn 'noshdosh'. The winner is the player who has collected the most 'noshdosh' when you finish playing.

Open up the game box and you'll find three decks of cards. The white deck, which comprises ingredients and health inspector cards; a black deck, containing sandwich orders and 'events'; and a green deck of 'noshdosh' cards, which function as the game's victory points. As is often the case with cards printed with dark ink bled to the edges, the black deck cards are unfortunately prone to show the slightest nick. We'd normally recommend sleeving any black edge cards but if you do so with this game then you might have difficulty fitting all the cards back in the box. The game comes tho' with many more 'noshdosh' cards than players could conceivably ever need, so you could maybe sleeve the black-backed cards and free up space in the box by taking out half the green cards.

Four of those black deck order cards are revealed and players are each dealt a hand of seven cards from the white deck. On your turn you can play any number of cards from your hand provided they all bear the same symbol. That's quite a proviso because there are 15 different ingredient and other card types in the deck, so most turns you'll probably just be playing just one or maybe two cards. However many cards you play, you always draw back up to seven cards at the end of your turn. You'll be trying to make up sandwiches to match the orders, and you'll be racing to fulfil these ahead of the other players. Every sandwich must start and end with a slice of bread but the other ingredients can be played in any order. There are 'bad' or contaminated ingredients in the deck, and these can be used to complete a sandwich order but if you play them then you can be forced to discard your open (ie: unfinished) sandwiches if another player plays a health inspector on you. There are also some 'attack condiments' in the deck. If you draw these, you can play them onto other players' sandwiches which, again, will make them vulnerable to health inspectors.

You have here the setting then for a light 'take that' card game. Nich Angell's artwork gives the game an appropriately whimsical look and there's a lot to like about Sandwich Masters. Our problem was that, like most of our sandwiches, the rules feel unfinished. There's no set end-game victory condition - players are just invited to 'try playing for 30 minutes'. Play is quite slow. Everyone starts by laying out their base slices of bread but then they are mostly just adding one ingredient per turn, which means they are only picking up one new card each turn. You can discard from your hand to increase your turnover of cards but the rules specify that that's an action instead of placing out an ingredient, so it takes your full turn. In our Board's Eye View plays, we experimented with a house rule where we allowed players to discard and play ingredient cards on the same turn. This upped the tempo of the game, so it's something you might want to try.

The 'take that' elements can make for a lot of false starts. You can 'bribe' a health inspector (albeit that money goes to the bank not the player who played the inspector card) but the rules don't suggest players start with any 'noshdosh', so for much of the game you'll have no possible defence to a health inspector visit. Again, we solved this with a house rule that players all start off with 50 'noshdosh'. The game comes with an implausibly large deck of 'noshdosh' cards so this put these cards to more use and it meant that players had a real choice to make early on over whether or not to sacrifice 'noshdosh' (victory points) or lose their open sandwiches.

When a player completes an order that order is replaced. Other players will almost always have been racing to complete that same order. It's possible that the order card that replaces it will demand similar ingredients but the chances are that it won't. You are only allowed to have four open sandwiches on the go at any one time tho', so you can find that players are unable to compete for the new order. The rules allow the top ingredient only to be moved to another sandwich but that may not help. The net result can be the opposite of a catch-up mechanic, with only the player who completes an order able to go for the new order. If you find that frustrating, you might want to experiment by house ruling an option to discard unfinished and now unwanted sandwiches.

The order deck incorporates several 'event' cards. Again these can be fun but some could arguably 'break' the game. For example, the 'alien abduction' card wipes and replaces all of the orders. Given that the players will all have open sandwiches on the go for orders that are no longer applicable, this is quite likely to scupper all players other than the player who has just completed a sandwich and so at least has one open slot.

It may seem as tho' we're picking at Sandwich Masters but that's not the case. There's much fun to be had with this game, we're just suggesting that you might want to consider some small tweaks to the rules to get the most out of it.

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