Café International: Das Kartenspiel
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Based on the German Game of the Year for 1989, Cafe International. Players try to win points by placing guest cards around table cards, balancing for nationality, gender and number.
Cafe International was released many years ago and is something of a classic--at least, it is in Germany. The basic principle of the game in both the board and card version is as follows: The Cafe consists of tables with national flags depicted on them (e.g. a Turkey table, a Germany table, etc.) There are also guests that the players hold in their hands, and the guests are different from each other by nationality and gender (e.g. there are male and female Turks, male and female Germans, etc.) Your job, at the Cafe International, is to seat as many guests as possible, and, where possible, seat guests of the same nationality together. The only catch is that tables must be balanced by gender--if a man is sitting at a table, the next guest seated must be a female.
In the card game, there are two types of cards: table cards and guest cards. To begin with, five tables are laid out in an 'x' pattern. On a player's turn, she may seat 1, 2, or 3 guests at various positions around the tables. Each table may have guests seated at it on the four points of the compass. Since the cards are in an 'x' pattern, the center table actually has all four of its seats adjacent to two other tables. The four corner tables each have two seats that are on their own, and two seats that are adjacent to three tables. I'll explain why this is so important in a moment.
Scoring is simple: 1st guest to a table scores 0, 2nd scores 2, 3rd scores 3, 4th scores 4. If all the guests at a table are of the same nationality when seating guests, you get double points (e.g. if a German table has one German, and you seat a second German, you get 4 points instead of 2.) If, by placing a card, you score points at two or three tables, all your points count. When a table has a 4th guest seated at it, it is scored, then both the table and the guests seated at it are discarded, and a new table is placed in the same spot.
There are a lot of similarities here to the board game, but the differences are what make this game weaker. There are 3 main problems:
So is the game a complete loss? No, not at all! That is, not if you use a fix. (I rarely mention variants because I feel that this is not the forum for it. I try to review the game as it is, but some exceptions must be made.) The 'fix' is this: instead of putting 5 table cards in an 'x', take 6 tables cards and put them in 2 rows of three. This fixes the first two problems I mentioned, and helps make the third problem less likely to occur.
Best of all, by using this variant, you are making the card game a lot more like the board game, which is a very good game indeed! This game is actually kind of simple and fun, just has one bad rule (the initial set up of tables). Once that's fixed, what you have is a light card game that families should really enjoy playing together. It has really cute graphics of the various nationalities in traditional costume. (Except, the Central African is wearing a business suit. What on earth is that all about?) It has just a little bit more complexity than Uno, but a good bit more strategy without being heavy at all. I recommend it for those who like games like Uno and Phase 10 but want to try something more interesting. This could be a great game to bridge non-gamers into German games, too. If they like Uno, they'd like this, which would allow you to introduce the board game version, which would allow you to introduce something like Carcassonne, and then they just might get hooked!
This is a fluffy little game that might be good to buy simply for its potential to lure people into trying German games--recommended for youger familes and Uno/Phase 10 types.