List Price: $19.95
Your Price: $15.99
(Worth 1,599 Funagain Points!)
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Hey Waiter! is the first published design from Tichu fan extraordinaire Anthony Rubbo, and while it's not a trick-taking game, it is a game with tricky card play. Each player is a waiter trying to deliver his stack of dishes before anyone else, with the dishes being represented by a stack of colored chips on a face-down card. Players each have a hand of cards, a few of which might be special action cards while the majority will be divided into two narrow rectangles. To play these cards, the player chooses two cards and uses the right half of one card and the left half of the other.
Thus with a handful of cards, each half of a card can be combined in up to a half-dozen ways. The cards let you take actions like moving a token from one stack to another, with the primary action being to deliver food. When you deliver a dish, however, everyone with that type of dish on top of his stack gets to deliver it, so ideally you can first place a token on the opponent's stack in order to lock down that dish. You can also split your stack into two or more stacks, thereby giving you more opportunities to deliver dishes – but doing so reduces your hand size and limits the chances that you'll be able to do what you want!
The food service theme may seem a bit dry to some, but the gameplay is anything but. Hey, Waiter! is a clever game with a lot more depth than one might expect from a deck with only four different cards. Players always play cards in pairs and each pairing of cards is different. Basically, you play one as an action and one as adjective. Red is the "serve" action so you can play Red-Blue to serve blue chips or Red-Red to serve red chips.
Without any dice, the game evokes my favorite aspect of one of the best two-player games ever: Roma. Each turn you will have to find the best play using your random resources, but you'll never feel bad about their randomness because none are strictly better than another.
Hey, Waiter! can be played without teams and it works just fine, but it really shines -- at least for those of us who love teams--two v. two. Everything a player can do during the game is relevant to each other player and a focused pair of players can do some pretty fancy things together.
I'm also a fan of the "Always 7 cards between hand and table" rule which, apart from reading like a poem, is a fair and interesting mechanic offering a tension between power and versatility.
For what it's worth, the theme actually fits the game quite well and I'm glad that the standard "slap a wizard on the front and call it Fantasy" didn't happen here. R&R Games did a great job producing the game: the cards are solid, the chips have a nice weight and the serving lids are too cute.