It’s time to get cooking: get your spatula ready, stir fry those ingredients, and serve up some yummy dishes to your customers. But it’s a crowded kitchen with too many cooks–better pay attention if you want to Wok on Fire!
At a glance: Wok on Fire is for 2 to 4 players, ages 7 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter; the price is $15 for a copy, or $30 for the deluxe version with a custom playmat. The age range is about right–it doesn’t have anything inappropriate, although I suppose vegetarians may be slightly put off by the happy chicken and pig ingredients. The one thing is that since it involves flipping cards, it’s not one you want to play with kids who will go nuts and throw things all over the room.
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Note that this component list is based on a review prototype and is subject to change, particularly if stretch goals are hit during the campaign.
- 50 Ingredient cards
- 4 Spatula cards
- 4 player aid cards
There are several types of ingredients: meats, veggies, starches, and condiments. Each has a different-colored background circle, and an illustration of the food. The illustrations (by game designer Poki Chen, with graphic design by Adam McIver) are cute and funny–everything has a face and most have some accessories. The bell pepper has a mustache, the shrimp is wearing pearls, and the onion is wearing a hair tie.
How to Play
The object of the game is to score the most points by creating combos with the ingredients you collect during the game.
To set up, give each player a spatula card. Set up the player aid cards to define the area of the wok. (Note: in the prototype we had 8 player aid cards, which made an octagon instead of a square.) Shuffle all of the ingredient cards. Place 24 in a deck, and distribute the remaining 26 face-down in the wok area as evenly as possible.
Players take turns in clockwise order. On your turn, you Stir Fry, Pick Up Ingredients, and Chop.
Stir Fry: Using your spatula card, flip ingredients over in the wok. You take 2 stir fry actions, and at least one card must flip over (in either direction), otherwise continue taking stir fry actions until at least one card has been flipped over.
Pick Up Ingredients: Take 2 “pick up” actions by choosing face-up ingredient cards and adding them to your supply. You have to be able to see some portion of the center circle and at least one corner of a card in order to pick it up. You may not pick up ingredients outside of the wok, except for Green Peppers.
Chop: If the supply isn’t empty, “chop” two more ingredients into the wok by placing them (one at a time) on your palm and chopping down into the wok. Then chop any ingredients that fell outside of the wok back into the wok.
When the ingredient supply deck runs out, everyone gets one more turn, and then the game ends.
Several of the ingredients have special rules that apply. For instance, if you take Chicken, you get all of the Chicken that’s visible in the wok as one action. If there are Bell Peppers available, you must choose them as your ingredients (even outside of the wok); however, the first time on a turn you pick up a Bell Pepper, you get a bonus stir fry action and pick up action. Garlic gives you an additional stir fry action, and then a pick up action for an ingredient that you must give to another player.
At the end of the game, everyone organizes their collected ingredients into combinations for points. Some cards are worth points by themselves: Chicken, Pork, Shrimp, and Broccoli are all worth points even by themselves. Bell Peppers are actually negative points. Some have to be collected in sets or combined to make points: Mushrooms are worth 18 points for each set of 3, but extras are worth nothing. Starches must be combined with other cards: Rice with a meat and a veggie, and Noodles with meat, veggie, and condiment. The trick is that cards in a combo don’t score individually. So if you put your Bell Pepper in a rice dish, you don’t lose 5 points for it anymore. Likewise, if you take one of your three mushrooms and put it into a Noodles dish, you won’t get the 18 points for the set.
Finally, whoever has the most Broccoli at the end of the game (even in their combos) loses 10 points. In case of a tie, nobody loses points.
The highest score wins–in case of a tie, the player with the fewest ingredients wins.
Wok on Fire! is a really tasty combo of dexterity, set collection, and a dash of memory. It’s kid-friendly, but is spicy enough to share with your adult friends (as long as they don’t mind a little silliness). Okay, I promise I’ll quit with the food puns now. I’ve played Wok on Fire! with my kids and adult friends, and we all had a fun time with it.
The card-flipping part of the game is, of course, where the dexterity comes in, and that’s sort of the gimmick–but it works. The thing is, when you slide your spatula card under a pile of cards and flip it, you have no idea how many cards are actually going to flip, and whether they’re going to cover up other cards. There were lots of times when a player flipped a face-down card, and it ended up face-down again–but some players were able to spot what it was before it landed. You also have some strategy (and memory) in deciding what to flip. Do you go for the big face-down stack and risk getting a bunch of bell peppers? Or do you look for that garlic you need to complete your Noodles dish? And, of course, you can always try to bury ingredients that you know your opponents are trying to collect, making it harder for them to pick them up.
The “chopping” portion is a little harder–quite often the player chopping the ingredients in would shoot them well past the wok area, sometimes completely off the table. The idea is that you add some more cards into the wok and you don’t get to choose exactly where they land (or even if they’re face-up or face-down), but that phase of the turn often lasts a bit longer than necessary. I’ve had a few players just give up entirely on the chopping and just toss them into the wok instead.
Note: I’ve been playing the game on my Quiver Gaming Mat, which provides a felted surface–nice both for being able to slide the spatula underneath and also to provide a little friction so things don’t slide too far. I think on a smooth table this game could get very messy very quickly, so be forewarned. If you don’t have a mat of some sort, the deluxe version might be worth it.
The set-collection part of the game involves a little more strategy, and reminds me (slightly) of Sushi Go. The ingredients have different scoring and abilities, so you’re working to get particular combinations and, when possible, preventing your opponents from getting certain ingredients. For instance, if your opponent is collecting Onions (which score big in groups), you may end up taking some Onions simply to prevent them from getting more. Unlike Sushi Go, however, every ingredient in Wok on Fire! can be combined with several other types of cards. So if you started collecting Mushrooms, hoping to get a set of 3, you could still end up using them in Rice dishes instead of just getting nothing at all for them.
Overall, I think Wok on Fire! is another great title for Green Couch Games, which focuses on small games with broad appeal. It’s more on the casual gaming side of things, like the other Green Couch titles, so it won’t satisfy your heavy-strategy itch. But for a fun game that you can break out and be silly together, it hits the spot, and the small, portable packaging is a bonus.
For more information, check out the Wok on Fire! Kickstarter page.