I’d like to take an unusual detour this week to discuss a unique new card game that I discovered several weeks ago. The game is called Cuisine a la Card and is being developed by InMotion Software by way of a Kickstarter campaign. But don’t let the word “Software” fool you! Cuisine a la Card is a competitive and unique deck building card game that you play on a tabletop.
If you’ve ever watched and enjoyed a cooking competition show (Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, Chopped, etc), then you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at this game.
I’m going to dig a little deeper into the gameplay, show you some of the cards, and talk about the pros and cons.
What Is It?
You may think I’ve already told you in the intro, but some of you may be left wondering what a “deck builder” card game is. I didn’t have much experience with the genre, and this posed a bit of a challenge to me when I first tried to play. So, what is a deck builder?
In a nutshell (oh, the food puns are strong with me today :)), a “deck builder” is a card game in which players follow a system of rules to build a personal deck of cards. Using this personal deck of cards, players make strategic and tactical game decisions to defeat their opponents. I know, I know. It sounds pretty bland (heh heh) the way I describe it. But let me assure there’s nothing bland at all about the gameplay!
In Cuisine a la Card, rather than building a deck of wizards, fighters, weapons, and other typical components of modern games, you’re building a deck of specialized ingredients that you will use to craft appetizers, entrees, and desserts that please the palate of a random selection of judges. Now how cool is that?
Please forgive my lousy photography. I did my best with my iPhone. But let’s take a look at some of the cards.
In Cuisine a la Card, the currency you use to buy ingredients from the game’s “Market” is “Tasting Spoons” and “Forks”. Tasting spoons represent the most common currency you’ll use to buy the most basic ingredients. Forks, on the other hand, are slightly more rare (notice the “2” and the picture of a spoon in the upper left corner of the card), and they’re used to buy the most sought after ingredients that really turn your dish up a notch. You purchase a fork by spending two of your spoons.
When the game begins, each player has a hand with several tasting spoons. In the center of the game table is a “market” of ingredients, forks, as well as a refrigerator from which you can often buy rare ingredients are bargain basement prices (but more on that later). Additionally, each player has three “warming trays” they can use to store ingredients as they’re building a dish.
These four cards are a small sampling of the numerous ingredients you’ll find in the game. When I say numerous, what I really mean to say is omg wow there’s a lot. Let’s examine these cards a bit so you can see how they fit into the game.
At the top of each card, in the upper left corner, is the price you’ll have to pay to obtain that card. You can see the two on the left require forks, while the two on the right require spoons. With a ratio of 2 forks : 1 spoon, you can see that the Salami ingredient essentially costs 4 spoons. Now take a look at the upper right of the card. See those chef’s hats? Each of those hats represents a “meal point”. These are the points you add up to determine whether or not a judge accepts your dish! So you want to collect as many of these as possible!
On the bottom of each card are two important things: 1) the “Region” of the ingredient, and 2) that ingredient’s “special power” or “bonus”.
Look again at the Salami, but this time look at the bottom of the card. It has a little picture of Italy. Next to the picture you see that the card gives you two additional “meal points” for every Italian ingredient in the dish! So you’re actually rewarded for crafting realistic regional cuisine!
On the left side of the card you’ll see a repeat of the number of meal points the ingredient is worth. But you’ll also see the “food groups” the meal is a part of. For example, a picture of a loaf of bread tells you the ingredient is a carb, while a picture of meat tells you it’s a protein.
Refined Reginald, here, is an example of one of the many judges you might randomly draw at the beginning of a game. Aside from the gorgeous artwork, there’s a lot of game information on this card. Let’s start at the top. See the red “18” followed by the picture of the chef’s hat? This is how many “meal points” your dish must contain in order for Reginald to accept it. Beneath his picture, you’ll see a number of ribbons. In this case, if Reginald accepts your dish, he gives you 3 ribbons. But, as the card says below the ribbons, he gives you one additional ribbon for every carb your dish possesses!
But the benefits don’t stop there! Look at the bottom of the card. This is the special power Reginald will grant you for the remainder of the game. In this case, if you successfully get Reginald to accept your dish, he’ll grant you an additional ribbon every time you successfully submit a dish to a judge! This can be a huge boon on the road to winning the game.
So what’s a ribbon? Simply put, you add your ribbons up at the end of a game. The player with the most ribbons is the overall winner.
Order of Play
Cuisine a la Card is a multi-step turn-based game. This means that each “turn” consists of multiple steps each player must run through before turning play over to the next player. I’ll make this real simple. In any given turn, you’re going to draw some cards from your personal discard pile (the deck you’re building), use spoons/forks to purchase ingredients from the market, and possibly submit a dish to a judge. As a turn passes from one player to the next, the face-up ingredient cards in the market move down one slot toward the “refrigerator”. Any ingredient that lands in the refrigerator can be purchased for a single spoon! Remember that Salami up above? If no one purchases that Salami before it reaches the refrigerator, you can purchase it for a single spoon! The catch is it disappears on the next turn (technically, it’s covered up by the next ingredient that managed to move through all the slots of the market place without being purchased).
Cuisine a la Card is definitely a blast if you’re a food show aficionado like myself. But I’ll go so far as to say it’s a blast regardless, because it’s a unique concept. There’s a bit of optional game play the developers told me about, and I highly recommend you give it a try: “present” your meal to the judge by describing the individual components and how they fit together. I’ll tell you right now you’re in for a lot of laughs when you have no choice but to move forward with your “Pomegranite, Leeks, and Salt surprise”. 🙂
The quality of the cards is fantastic, and I can’t speak highly enough about the artwork. There’s such a consistent style and tone to the gorgeous pictures that they draw you right into the immersion of the gameplay.
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About Nat Russo
Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.
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Whoa! I’ll bet people eat a LOT while playing this game–or least immediately following!
I had a blast with it! It’s a really unique concept.