Monday, April 25, 2016

Quick Review - Blend Off! - Kickstarter Preview

Blend Off!
Designer: Scot Eaton
Publisher: Thunderworks Games
Quick Review - Blend Off! - Kickstarter Preview

So, what happens when you work at a smoothie bar and five minutes before close you get swamped with a bus load of boisterous customers?  You have a Blend Off! Of course!  Blend Off! is a game I first saw at Protospiel in 2014, and although I didn't get a chance to play it then, nor in 2015, I heard a ton about it from all sorts of people.  When I heard that Scot Eaton's Blend Off! was coming to Kickstarter, to be published by Thunderworks Games, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally play and review the game everyone was talking about.

Blend Off! is a light simultaneous play, dice rolling and set collection game for 2-4 players (a solo variant is in the works) ages 6+ that lasts 15 minutes or less.  There are several variants, including some very frantic, fast variants suitable for adults and older children, and a slower, turn based variant for younger kids.  The game is on Kickstarter through June 9, 2016 for $19.

Since Blend Off! is an action packed speed game with no turns or downtime I wasn't able to take any pictures while I played.  But my 6 year old son took some while I played with my 9 year old.  So enjoy these pictures taken from a slightly shorter perspective than what you might be used to =)
Ready, set blend!
The premise behind Blend Off! is that you are a master mixer at a smoothie shop.  You must mix more smoothie orders than any of the other master mixers.  The game consists of a collection of wooden fruit tokens (colored cubes in my prototype), four custom dice, five decks of smoothie recipe cards (one per player, plus a small set of common recipes), eight blender cards, and four reference cards.
The fruit cubes will be fruit shaped in the final game.
In a standard game each player gets one custom die and then an order deck is created by shuffling each player's recipe deck with the common recipes. This creates the Orders deck.  Each player also gets two blenders and a pile of fruit tokens is added to the middle of the table.  The first few orders are revealed and then with a call of "Ready, set, blend!" All players start rolling their die as fast as they can, trying to successfully complete as many orders as they can.
There is no down time at all!  Rolling the die is fast and furious!
Each order consists of a recipe card and possibly a special order card as well.  A recipe consists of a combination of four or five fruits a special order card can tel you to exclude one of the fruits or add an extra fruit.  To collect the fruit you need, simply roll the die.  Whatever comes up on the die is the fruit you can grab and add to one of your two blenders, or you can send it back (ignore the die and re-roll).  Once you have the appropriate fruits in your blender to fulfill an order you can call "Blend!" and claim the order for the points it is worth.  Then you reveal a new order in the lineup, empty your blender, and work on fulfilling another order.
One La Dulcita coming right up!
Special orders can have you add or remove fruit from a recipe.
 Sounds easy, right?  Well, it mostly is.  Except for the fact that you have several other master mixers also trying to fulfill orders.  So, what happens when someone else mixes that smoothie you've been working on?  Well, if you're lucky, you'll be able to use the fruit you've already mixed as part of another recipe.  But more often than not your partially completed smoothie won't match another order.  So you'll be forced to dump your blender (return all the fruit in it to the stockpile).  And it's all or nothing.  You can't dump part of a recipe you've already started mixing, although you can pour the contents of one blender into another.
You need to be careful because if you can't use what you've already blended you'll need to dump your blender.
Another thing to watch out for is the durian!  This pungent fruit can make any smoothie a failure.  So if you roll a fruit that isn't available you can take the durian instead.  But this doesn't go into your own blender, no, it goes into an opponent's, forcing them to dump their entire blender.  This adds an element of take-that interaction to an otherwise fairly solo game.  The game can be played without the durian and it still requires you to watch not only your own recipes, but also what your opponents are working on.  But with the durian, games get personal.  

The game ends when all orders have been fulfilled and scores are based on the number of stars each player earned.
Games are action packed, fast paced, fun!
Blend Off! also includes several other variants.  Excluding the durian keeps the game civil, and still somewhat interactive because everyone is trying to fulfill the same orders.  But you can also have a straight up race (with or without the durian) with each player working on orders from their own, color coded deck.  Or, if the standard game isn't quite cutthroat enough, you can add in spill cards.  Once a game you can call "Spill!" and flip over your spill card to make everyone else dump their blenders.
Spill cards aren't for everyone.  They'll add quite a bit of meanness to your game.
Blend Off! is also good for kids.  The frantic pace of the main game can be slowed to a crawl without sacrificing the bit of strategy in the game with the turn based junior variant.  My sons (6 and 9) really enjoy the junior variant (although my 9 year old likes the main game, too).
Fun for all ages!  (He even forgot all about his new braces while playing, so that's a big success!)

Final Thoughts:
I've really had a lot of fun playing Blend Off!  It's not very deep and you won't make an entire evening of playing the game, but it's a great filler or starter game.  It plays in under 15 minutes, so it's perfect to pull out while waiting for game night to start, to wind up a night of games, or for those short breaks between longer games.  It only takes about two minutes to explain, so it's great for non gamers, too.  At under $20 there's no reason why this shouldn't be in everyone's collection!  It's satisfying on many levels for just about anyone.
Whether you're playing with family, other gamers, non-gamers, or professional smoothie makers,
Blend Off! is sure to be a hit!
So don't miss out on the Blend Off! Kickstarter campaign, through June 9, 2016.  $19 will get you this awesome little game, shipped right to your door (US shipping included, +$8 Canada, +$12 worldwide).  It's a game I'm sure you'll be thrilled to have in your collection!  I think it was worth the hype!
Blend Off! is simple, fast, fun, and really looks great, too!  From the gameplay to the look, it's an attention getter!
Preliminary Rating: 8/10
This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play s of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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