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Subject: Review : An exercise in chaos! rss

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JP Decosse
Nova Scotia
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While working my way through the Geeklist entitled OH Canada! Eh!, I came across this little card game out of Quebec. Between my love of poutine, and a sense of national pride, I quickly ordered myself a copy.

The box is uniquely cute - a size that is similar to no other game that I've come across. It's about 3/4 the size of Felicity: The Cat in the Sack, if you're curious. Cute is also the adjective I'd use to describe the artwork of the game. Mind you, it's a challenge to make hot dogs and gravy look cute, but they've managed to make it so.

Anyways, onto the game itself. It supports from 4 to 8 players, which again, is a range unique from any other game I can think of at this moment. The components consist of two decks of cards - one is the standard card size (for the waitresses), and another that resembles large tiles printed on light cardstock (for the cooks). The cook deck is double-sided deck of 48 cards, with one side of every card an order of fries, and the other either Cheese & Gravy, a Burger, a Cheeseburger, a Submarine Sammich, a Hot Dog, or Gyros. Meanwhile, the waitress deck is 18 cards deep, and has different orders on them (two hot dogs and an order of poutine, for example).

Regardless of how many players are involved, two of them will always be waitresses, and the remaining players are cooks. The waitresses are equal distance from each other at the table, and the players playing that role rotates clockwise each round. Each deck is evenly split between the number of players (9 order cards for each waitress), and then we're ready to roll.

Every round begins with the waitresses flipping over their top two cards, and then shouting out their orders to the cooks. The cooks respond by flipping over their top two ingredient cards, and attempting to complete the orders, by offering the appropriate items to the waitresses, who may choose who to accept items from. In order to open up an ingredient slot, a cook can dump their unwanted item into the deep fryer to transform it into fries. The flipping and offering continues until one player goes through all the cards in front of them, whether that be a waitress or cook. At this point, whoever has the most cards remaining will receive a "mop point". Each round, one cook (or more, if there is a tie) and one waitress will receive one of these points. The game ends once one player collects three mop points, and this player is declared the loser, and must stay late to mop the restaurant floor, while the other players mock him or her on their way out the door.

In the game I played, we had the full compliment of eight players, and without question, the game was pure chaos. Despite making it clear both in the rulebook, and the explaining, that cooks must OFFER their items to the waitresses, it took almost no time before players were dumping their cards in front of the waitresses, making the chaotic atmosphere even worse.

After the first round, we implemented the suggested variant, that cooks with mop points can dump cards equaling their mop points onto another player's stack before the round begins. In our game, one player each round would get ganged up on, getting five or six extra cards heaped on them near the end of the game, which was fun and rather cruel.

Without question, this game is a textbook example of a beer and pretzel game, and both were at our table for the game. Unfortunately, after just one game, the chaotic nature manifested itself in the form of bent card corners. I suspect that only thick cardboard tiles would help prevent this issue, with the thrusting of menu items being aggressive and careless.

A couple of players likened this game to Pit, which I've never played, but that comment is worth noting.

While I wouldn't call this one a must own, and won't ever be in contention for my list of favourite games, it's certainly worth having around for a large group of non-gamers, especially after a drink or two. It would also be a great filler on a food-themed game night.

If I were to make any suggestions for future printings (aside from thicker menu item cards), it would be to include physical chips of some kind for the mop points. With a roomful of beer-drinking, card-tossing, order-shouting monkey humpers, it was a chore to keep track of who had how many points.

In closing ... Miss Poutine is an exercise in chaos, but has just enough structure to make for a fun way to kill 20-30 minutes. I'm doubtful that my copy will survive more than a large handful of plays, but hopefully I'll have gotten my money's worth out of it by that point.
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