Too Many Cooks
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Each player plays the part of the owner and chef of a restaurant, who is competing with other restauranteurs to provide the best selection of meals and make the most profit.
Players must collect ingredients which make up complete meals and then claim the recipe as their own, and earn the money for it. It is possible to use other players' recipies, but the rewards are less. At the end of the game there are bonuses paid for the restaurant which specialises most successfully in each of 5 types of cuisine, and penalties for restaurants which do not provide a vegetarian option!
Beware, the restaurant business is a harsh one, and it is quite possible to lose money. Watching your cash flow is very important, and unused ingredients are worthless at the end of the day.
- game board
- 20 recipe cards
- 60 ingredient cards
- 4 information sheets
- 2 game progress cards
- turn marker (large nut)
- game money (beans)
Average Rating: 4 in 1 review
We played this game for several time, and think it is an interesting game. During the game, you need to use indegrients to make your meal, and the ingredients mainly gets by bidding it among players.
All the ingredients and the meals are real, that means you can find them in the real world. Once I play this game with my friends, they said the dishes are very delicious.
One disadvantage to this game is that the decision maling is quite long -- as you need to refer to both ingredient and dishes quite often to see if they are match, so you will be familiar most of them by playing lots of times.
For designer/publishers the process has three stages. First, you have this great idea for a game. Then you alienate your friends and relatives by pressuring them into innumerable playtests of versions that "aren't quite there yet". Finally, when you are convinced that your creation is now perfect, you give a large cheque to a printer. Your rewards, which you will only get if you were right in your estimate at stages 1 and 3, are that your friends will eventually forgive you and that financially you will break even. If you weren't right, all you get is a storage problem and a lot of pitying looks.
One of the most recent to chance his arm is Andy Merritt, a name that will be familiar to readers of G3, where he was one of the regular reviewers, and he has come up with a game more than good enough to ensure that he will clear his costs and that the storage problem doesn't arise.
Viewed abstractly, Too Many Cooks is a bidding and collecting game. Players buy items (usually by auction) and then have to form them into prescribed sets before they can sell them again. The items are food ingredients, the sets recipes and the idea is that players are taking on the role of the chef/proprietor of a restaurant. The restaurant business is a very competitive one where it is very easy to lose money and that is how it works out here also.
The start of the game sees each player with their starting cash and with the two decks of cards (recipes and ingredients) face down in the middle of the table. A number of recipe cards (3 more than the number of players) are then turned face up. These are the initial targets that players have to aim for and more will not appear until at least some of these have been claimed.
On your turn you may do one of four things:
- purchase 2 randomly chosen ingredients;
- auction 2 ingredients from the deck;
- auction 2 ingredients from your hand;
- fill an empty recipe space.
To purchase 2 randomly chosen ingredients costs you 10 and you just take the top two cards from the deck. It is an option that people tend to go for at the start of the game, when they don't yet know what they want to collect and are relying on fate to point them in a direction. Later, when they already have partly completed sets for a recipe, they are more likely to take the second option, for with this one you have a choice. The procedure is that you take the top 4 cards from the deck and select 2 of them. The ones you didn't choose are placed face down on the discard pile and the pair you did are auctioned off -- a "once round" affair, beginning with the player on your left.
Selling stuff from your hand is something you do either if you are short of money -- an easy state to get into -- or if you are nearing the end of the game and are holding ingredients that you are unlikely to be able to use. The bank will take the two you offer for 5 if no one bids higher than this. What you get will almost certainly be less than what you paid for them in the first place but (1) what do you expect for second-hand mushrooms? and (2) ingredients left in your hand when the game ends will be valueless.
Replenishing the stock of available recipes is another case of "drawing several and choosing one" and is something you will do when you have the ingredients for a dish whose card has yet to appear. Take the top three cards, pick one and place the other two back at the bottom of the deck. If you are unlucky, the card you choose will be placed with the other face-up ones on offer; if you are more fortunate, you will produce the required ingredients from your hand and claim it.
And that brings me to how you make money in this game -- so far all we have been doing is either spending it or cutting our losses. Each recipe card carries a reward, which will go to the first player who "makes the meal", something they do by playing the ingredient cards from their hand, taking the recipe card and placing it in front of them. The size of the reward is determined by the number of ingredients required and their rarity. At the bottom end are 2-ingredient recipes, which bring you a pay-off of about 10, and at the top are 4-ingredient ones, where the range is 28-35. A recipe can be made more than once, but the reward for the second and subsequent players is less and the card stays with the player who first claimed it -- an important point because the scoring at the end involves the cards as well a player's cash.
The game ends when the ingredients deck is exhausted for the third time and here you will find that the timing is a little like that in Bohnanza in that the second pass through the deck is quicker than the first and the third is quicker than the second. This is partly because of the build-up of cards in players' hands and partly because, as recipes are completed, ingredient cards go out of the game.
Scoring at the end is cash in hand together with bonuses and penalties, the presence of which adds significantly to the tactical thinking you need to do during the game itself. We have found that the scores at the top tend to be close, with these extras often being decisive. The bonuses are awarded for being "best French", "best Indian", etc. and arise from the national origins of the various dishes. Each recipe is assigned to one of five countries and for each of them the player who has collected most cards from that country picks up a 7 point bonus. The penalty comes for not catering for vegetarians -- 10 points off your score if you haven't acquired a vegetarian recipe card.
The game is one where the difference between winning and not will often be down to luck. Games where you are drawing cards and collecting things are usually like that, particularly when, as here, you have a fairly "lumpy" scoring system. Going into what looked like being the last round of our third game, I was holding the ingredients for a recipe that I knew was one of the six cards still in the face down deck. I naturally took the "draw 3, choose 1" option, which gave me a 50-50 chance of getting the card I wanted. It was worth 19 points, I didn't get it and scraped home by 1. I mention this because the balance between luck and skill is one that the more competitive types among you care about and if you are going to enjoy Too Many Cooks, you will need to accept that it is not a game where doing all the right things will necessarily bring home the glory. That said, to do well you will need to do a lot more than just cross your fingers and hope. There is a lot of judgement that needs to be exercised and decisions that need to be made during the play and unless you get all this right, you will certainly lose. For me that is enough. Provided the game play is interesting, I don't mind too much who wins and the game play in Too Many Cooks is interesting.
The game plays well across its range, but is probably best with four. With three you have less competition and therefore more chance of getting the ingredients you want, but players will need to remember this and bid up in order to stop a rival getting things too cheaply. With five the competition is obviously a lot tougher and here the advice is that if the ingredients are ones you really need, be prepared to bid high. There is no point ending the game with three of the ingredients for Boeuf Bourguignonne, when bidding an extra 5 at some point would have got you the fourth and the recipe card, which is worth 31 points.
The components are, as you would expect, not quite up to the standard you would get from one of the main, professional, German companies, but they are very good for a self-published game. The cards, player information charts and the mini-boards that you use for organizing the card decks and the recipe displays are all professionally printed, in full colour and on good quality cardstock. There are also some wittily appropriate bits in the form of a walnut for "current player" marker and three types of dried beans for money (butter beans are 10s; kidney beans are 5s; small black turtle beans are 1s). Even more impressive than the physical qualities of the cards is the way that the information that players need has been organized and presented. All the things you are likely to want to know are in all the places you are likely to look. For example, each ingredient card tells you how many cards of that type there are and lists all the recipes which require the ingredient, together with their pay-offs, their nationalities and all the other ingredients you need for each. The recipe cards are similarly helpful and in case this is not enough, players also get an information chart which gives all the information and a table cross-indexing recipes and ingredients. This could not be done better and the professionals usually do it a lot less well.
The only quibble I have with any aspect of the presentation is with the substitute that is used for a box. This is a foil pie-tray, which is amusing but not very practical. Such trays are designed to be thrown away; the game deserves something a lot more permanent. But this is a minor problem. We have all bought games where the best thing about them was the box. Take one of them, chuck out the contents and use the box for Too Many Cooks.
In summary, this is an impressive effort. It doesn't break any particularly new ground in terms of mechanics and it might not be a game that we are still talking about in two year's time, but it has been lovingly put together, has been thoroughly tested and polished, and is both interesting and enjoyable. I am told that the print run is only 300 and so if you want a copy, my advice is that you should move quickly, as I don't think that Andy will have them on his hands for long.