Overview: The forces of the Dark Cookie are preparing to invade the land of Fu. Pick a Clan and learn the secret kung fu moves of the Chocolate Ox, Vanilla Hare or Coconut Monkey, then battle it out to earn the title of “Fu Fighter,” because only the bravest warriors will go on to the final battle. Cookie Fu is a dice-based kung fu fighting game from Blue Kabuto.
Ages: 13+ (though younger players may be able to get along just fine)
Playing Time: Around 10 minutes per round.
Retail: $24.99 for Battle Royale pack, $7.99 for Clan packs, $5.99 for Booster packs
Rating: Sweet but flaky. A fun idea, but it just didn’t do it for me.
Who Will Like It? Cookie Fu apparently has a lot of fans — it was originally released in 2002 and was sold in Wizard of the Coast’s Gamekeeper stores to great success, until WotC shuttered the stores. Blue Kabuto then went on a hiatus, and Cookie Fu was reworked and tweaked, to be brought back last year. It’s the sort of game that encourages league play and tournaments. Also, thought it’s not strictly a collectible game, you can buy booster packs to add dice (and get more cookies) for better moves — so perhaps player of CCGs would also appreciate it. Also, if you like kung fu and quirky food-based humor, you may get a kick out of the packaging, even if you don’t care for the game itself.
Cookie Fu is a kung fu game heavily influenced by Chinese take-out. Seriously.
The game itself (as you can see in the top photo) comes in a take-out container, and the instructions are designed to look like a menu. All of the moves (and character names) are food-based, like the Crunchy Treat Grasp or the “That Wasn’t Chicken” Hurl. Also, each game comes with actual fortune cookies containing a special move inside. Red cookies are special moves that anyone could use, but each clan has its own type of cookie (chocolate, vanilla, coconut) which has moves specific to that clan. (By the way, the red cherry cookies are the best, and the chocolate was my least favorite. I haven’t had the coconut cookies.)
Of course, you’ve got your basic kung fu moves: strike, kick, block, grab and throw. There are also chi points which can be use for special moves or for healing to recoup a few of your lost hit points.
The Battle Royale Pack contains:
- 2 Clan/Fortune dice
- 8 Common Fu dice
- 4 Learned Fu dice
- 2 Master dice
- 2 Grandmaster dice
- 2 rules menus
- 4 Clan fortune cookies (2 in each clan flavor)
- 1 Battle Royale fortune cookie (red)
The dice are evenly split between the two clans. Common fu dice have 1 each of the 6 different icons. Learned fu dice have 2 of a particular icon (omitting one of the other icons), master dice have 3 of an icon and grandmaster dice have 4 of an icon. The icon that gets repeated depends on the clan — Vanilla Hare has more kicks, Chocolate Ox has more throws. But you can also buy booster packs which have different combinations of actions (there are 55 different dice in all), making the initial selection of dice a strategic part of the game.
The dice themselves are quite nice: the backgrounds have a nice marbled look and the icons are engraved and painted white. They have a nice heft to them. My only complaint in this set is that the Chocolate Ox clan die (brown) looks really similar in color to the common fu dice (reddish brown). The faces are different, but when you’re rolling a handful of common dice with it sometimes it gets lost in the mix.
The cookies are a fun touch since you get to eat them and find out what move is inside, but then you have a bunch of bent little slips of paper to keep track of. The box, also, is a fun conversation starter and fits the theme, but you’ll find yourself wondering where to shelve it in your games closet. I had a little trouble with the rules/menu layout — primarily, where to start reading it. The introduction and order of play is on the back, with an explanation of the dice icons on the first flap after you open it, and then a bunch of moves on the inside. On the far inside is an example of play. Eventually you do get all the info you need but I feel like it’s another example of form over function: the menu idea is cute but not as practical.
Players start with 10 hit points each (you’ll need to provide your own counters or scratch paper for this) and try to reduce the other player to zero. In the basic game each player starts with a clan die and 3 common fu dice, which are the white ones pictured above. The basic game is just to give you an idea of how the rules work and which faces counter others, but in itself is pretty weak; you really want to get to the advanced play as soon as you’re able to.
Each player rolls all of their dice including the clan die. The clan dice determine initiative: a whole cookie is tastier than a crushed cookie; a fortune is luckier than a whole cookie; a crushed cookie ruins a fortune. (The clan face is counted as a whole cookie.) The first player may choose to attack or pass; from then on players alternate playing dice until one player has passed twice or everyone is out of dice. If the first player attacks and the second player blocks, then the first player gets another chance to attack. Or, the second player can take the damage and throw their own attack instead.
Strikes and Kicks each reduce the opponent by one hit point, and they can be thrown in combination (2 strikes at once, 3 kicks at once). A Block blocks one Strike, and a Grab blocks a Kick.
Then there’s the Grab/Throw combo. A Grab/Throw does 2 points of damage, and can be countered with a Grab/Block. You can stack Grabs and Throws together. Additional Grabs do not increase the damage, but make it harder to counter because each Grab must be countered by another Grab. Additional Throws increase the damage by 1 for each Throw, but do not require additional Blocks to counter.
Finally, there’s the Chi points. You can either use a Chi point right away for a few different actions, or you can save them for subsequent rounds, holding them instead of re-rolling them to accumulate more Chi. You can also trade in three non-rerolled dice for 1 Chi point, if you won initiative. Chi can be used to heal 1 hit point, do 1 point of damage as a Chi Blast or block 1 point of Chi Blast damage. In advanced play, they can also be used for Cookie Fu moves.
In advanced play, you get to choose a few Cookie Fu moves before you start, either from the fortune cookies or off the menu. You select one of each type: Basic, Expert, Master and Grandmaster, which use 1, 2, 3 or 4 Chi points, respectively. For example, the Hurl of Crumbled Fate is a Master move which uses 3 Chi points: it counts as a 2 Grab/3 Throw combo, and the player can then add more Grabs and Throws to it.
In advanced play, you can also start throwing in additional dice. The rules provide a small chart that recommends the number and type of dice and Cookie Fu moves you can use for various levels, from Untrained to Novice to Adept to Grand Master. Of course, this is limited by the dice you actually own, but if you had a lot of booster dice to choose from you could certainly customize a fighter by selecting particular dice. It also changes the game from a completely randomized dice-fest into a more strategic competition, though with the basic starter pack you won’t have quite that many options.
I really wanted to like Cookie Fu, but I’ve given it a couple shots with different players and it just isn’t my cup of tea, so to speak. A big part of that may be the collectible/accumulative nature of the game; with the starting pack you can play a certain amount, but in order to really get into some of the strategy and building your character you need a lot more of the specialized dice. I also didn’t really get the feeling, while playing Cookie Fu, that I was engaged in a speedy kung fu fight. The fact that you take turns throwing moves at each other seems less like a real-time fight, though it’s hard to know with these particular dice combos how you would do a simultaneous-choice mechanic.
The other thing is that I just don’t play a lot of two-player games myself. Since my wife is not big into gaming, I typically play board games at game night — and unless I have really poor turnout, I usually have more than one gaming partner, so I tend to play with three or more people at once. That’s my own limitation, though, so if you play a lot of two-player games you may want to check into this some more to see if it’s your sort of game.
What Cookie Fu does have going for it is some really great-looking dice and some creatively-named special moves. The cookies are definitely a fun gimmick. I also like the idea of customizing my fighter using different dice, but so far that’s more in theory than in practice, and the initial set wasn’t compelling enough that I’d want to spend more to buy booster packs.
Just in case I’m totally missing something here, check out DiceHateMe’s review from earlier this year. He and his wife had a lot of fun with the game, it seems, and he rated it pretty highly.
Wired: High quality dice, clever packaging, tasty cookies. High degree of customization possible with booster packs.
Tired: Gameplay (without lots of customization) feels flat; poorly-designed rulebook.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.