There are so many games that come to Kickstarter over the course of the year that it can be hard to keep track of them all. It takes something special for a game to jump out at me, or maybe a few things. Artwork, unique mechanics, reliable company and designer… I’ve got a checklist.

So when I first saw Cryptid Cafe, I wasn’t all that impressed. Yes, the artwork was great, but let’s not judge a book by its cover. I also felt like I had seen the serving customers concept done before – I’ve owned a copy of Wok Star, so I know how the short order cook thing works. There was just nothing that was incredibly special, so I didn’t give it a second look.

But then we played the game on Tabletop Simulator for a livestream. And yeah, I was wrong. Cryptid Cafe is good. Quite good. And you should check it out.

There’s a Fly in My Soup

Cryptid Cafe puts its players in the role of servers at a restaurant that caters to a variety of legendary creatures. Each round, you’ll be putting in requests for food and drinks to try to satisfy the requests of your customers.

To start, you’ll put your little creature waiters out to wait in line for the kraken chef (I’m trying to get him to be named Steve… back me up on this). You’ll be trying to get your hands on five different items, all of them beautifully disgusting, to fit the tastes of your clientele. I mean, who doesn’t want a cup of hot apple spider? Or maybe a BLTE (brain, lettuce, tomato, and eyeball) sandwich?

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You have the chance to try for 1, 2, or 3 of three different items each round. However, you have to be careful about going for the high numbers, because the people in the back can pull a fast one on you. You see, once all the waiters have been placed, those in the back have the chance to share their money with the chef and move up in the line. You’ve gotta watch out for those line jumpers!

After you get the food, it’s time to serve your customers. Each player has a lineup of monsters, just waiting to get their hands (or tentacles or claws or whatever) onto some grub. However, they’re not willing to wait forever. Each round that they’re not fed, they move down your personal player board, eventually falling off and losing you money if you don’t get to them in time. If you do manage to feed them, they’ll be worth different amounts of money based on how long they’ve been waiting.

Once everyone has fed the customers they can feed, everyone moves their customers down their timelines, and the round begins again! Whoever has the most money after a set number of rounds wins!

Oh, That’s Supposed to Be There

As I said at the top, the artwork on this game is fantastic. I love the “so disgusting it’s kinda cute” thing going on here. I also appreciate some of the little details that have been added, like monsters on their laptops (they’re working on their manuscript!) and little gross things floating in the soup. It’s all so thematic and charming.

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However, a game has got to be more than just a pretty face, right? And when I first saw this game and its very basic rules set, I didn’t think there would be much going on. Get food, give to monsters, gain cash. It’s all simple enough, right?

But there are a few little extra rules that force players to be a lot more strategic. Each round, you’re not guaranteed to get every ingredient you want. Plus, since people can buy their way to the front of the line, you might end up with less supplies than you were expecting. This can completely throw off your plan and leave you with a pretty lousy turn, so you better have a backup plan (or two or three).

You also can’t go around hoarding all the food because you lose points at the end of the game for any leftovers you have. This little rule doesn’t impact you too much at the beginning, but as the rounds start to wind down, you’ll be desperately trying to give your food away to whoever will take it.

By the end of our livestream of the game, there were several moments of awkward silence as we all deliberated on what we needed to do each round. There were strong professions of love whenever someone chose not to line jump, giving another player the resources they needed. Other times, there were angry shouts of frustration as a player took that last spot in line for one of the resources. What started off as a very laid back, fun, cutesy game got serious very quickly.

My Compliments to the Chef

By the end of our livestream, I was converted. The gameplay is solid, while at the same time being extremely accessible. I personally couldn’t hear the rules during our livestream, so I had to quickly scramble to find them on the game’s Kickstarter page. I was able to read and completely understand them as the rest of the group continued their explanation.

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Plus, the components are great, especially for the deluxe edition. I mean, you’re going to be getting custom meeples for each player to show a different kind of creature. How awesome is that? And at only $10 above the retail price, it’s definitely a bargain.

This is going to be one of the few games that we talk about while they are on Kickstarter where I actually buy the game. I almost always end up missing out on campaigns and just picking up games later on. However, this is one that I want to be sure I get to the table as soon as possible, because I know that my family’s gonna love it.

So if you’re looking for a game that makes creepy seem cute for your family, this would work for you. If you’re looking for another game to add to that shelf of games you break out around Halloween, this would work for you. If you’re looking for a solid gameplay experience that you and all your friends will enjoy, this would work for you.

This game is fun. Go and get it!

We previewed this game on Tabletop Simulator. You can check out Cryptid Cafe on Kickstarter. But hurry, because the campaign is almost over!

Originally posted at Punch Board Media