W. Eric Martin
This review first appeared on FunandBoardgames.com.
While games themselves are fun, their names usually aren't. El Grande, Coloretto, Acquire, Cartagena—these names are descriptive and functional, not show-stoppers that attract strangers passing by on the street.
A few winning game names are out there. Hoity Toity inspires curiosity; Wheedle is a hit with SpongeBob SquarePants fans; Tonga Bonga is so goofy that you can't help but chant it; and finally there is Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000, Greg Lam's newest game which is blessed with a title that's both descriptive and fun: You challenge other opponents to a dexterity contest using chopsticks, and the loser must pay the winner $3,000.
In Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000, players put their chopstick handling skills to the test, not by seeing who can eat more fried squid the fastest, but by trying to claim wooden tokens from a plastic bowl.
The game comes with 25 wooden tokens: five shapes (spool, disc, block, heart, ) in five colors, one plastic "serving bowl," three plastic plates, 30 claim discs, and three pairs of chopsticks. Players dump the tokens in the bowl, take one plate and one pair of chopsticks, then start the game by flipping one of the claim discs face-up.
The disc will usually depict one of the 25 tokens. Players then race to grab all of the tokens that are the same shape or color as this disc and move these tokens onto their plate. There are nine tokens that match this disc, and whoever grabs the most tokens wins the claim disc; in a tie, the tied player who has the object matching the claim disc wins; if neither tied player has this token, the tied players replay the round. (Ties are possible only in three-player games.) Five of the discs depict only a silhouette of one of the tokens; players can grab only tokens of that shape, and ties are broken by having the tied players play another round.
Play continues until all 30 claim discs have been won; whoever holds more discs wins the game.
Chopstick Dexterity MegaChallenge 3000 is as much fun as its name, and is incredibly addictive to play. The rules take two minutes to explain, which means you're playing almost immediately. If the players are of roughly equal skill with their chopstick handling, each round turns into a bitter struggle for tokens; if not, the game is a one-sided blowout. You can handicap players to give youngsters or those who use forks at Asian restaurants an advantage; simply give the inexperienced a head start each round of 10, 15, 20 seconds, then loose the pros on them.
The three-player game can be an exhausting struggle each round, especially with (speaking from experience here) players who have all been to Okinawa and studied karate. They're simultaneously blocking and grabbing, dominating the bowl as if they were starving and fighting for the last noodle on Earth. The rules suggest having the round winner in a three-player game sit out the following round; this change is a good way to both avoid a runaway winner and keep the rounds short with no ties.
Aside from possibly getting a stick in the eye, the only other problem with the game is that two of the colors are too similar. Make sure to clarify with everyone which pieces are which, or simply re-dye or paint the markers to avoid confusion.
Quibbles aside, cheers to Greg Lam for transforming everyday components into a fantastically fun and frantic game.