What Is Filler?
Filler is a game about making pastries for 1 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of $15 for a copy of the game (or $29 if you want to include the optional playmat). The game is fairly easy to pick up and is suitable for kids and adults.
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality. In particular, there’s placeholder art used on my prototype copy, but the final game will feature different illustrations of the various desserts, as well as better illustrations of the chefs.
- 50 Recipe cards
- 15 Starter cards (3 each for 5 players)
- 6 Reference cards
The campaign is approaching a stretch goal to add 10 more advanced cards (and make it accommodate up to 6 players), and I’m sure there are more stretch goals to come, so stay tuned to the Kickstarter page for the latest updates.
Green Couch Games has run a number of successful Kickstarters for their small-box games, and Filler will also come in compact box. If it’s the same as their previous games, it’s a two-piece box (rather than a tuckbox) with room for the cards to sit side-by-side in it.
The finished illustrations are by Claire Donaldson, who has also illustrated other delectable treats like Go Nuts for Donuts, Chocolatiers, and Food Truck Champion. Her baked goods will make you wish you had ordered some pastries for game night.
The times and text on the prototype cards were a little small, so I hope that those are a little larger in the finished game just to make things easier to read. Currently the majority of the card is the illustration, which is lovely, but isn’t as crucial to the gameplay as the other information.
How to Play Filler
The goal of the game is to score the most points by filling recipes.
Give each player a set of three starting cards. Shuffle the recipe cards, and make a deck with 10 cards per player, and set the rest aside.
Set up the recipe book by dealing cards from the recipe deck face-up until there are one more than the number of players.
Each round, players will simultaneously choose a start time, and then either fill a recipe or restock their pantry. Each player maintains their own hand and discard pile.
Choose a card from your hand and play it face-down on the table. Once everyone has played a card, they are all revealed. Players will take turns in order based on the times shown on these cards, from earliest to latest.
To fill a recipe, discard cards from your hand so that you have enough ingredients to match those shown at the bottom of the recipe card, and then pick up the recipe card and put it into your hand. Note that the card that you played for your start time may not be used to fill recipes.
If you cannot or choose not to fill a recipe, you restock instead. Take all of the cards from your discard pile (including the card you played this round as a starting time) and place them back into your hand. Then, choose one of the recipes from the recipe book and reserve it by placing it back on top of the recipe deck, so that no other players can fill it this round.
Some cards have bonus icons on them, which have an immediate effect when you fill the recipe: the hand of cards lets you take an immediate restock action (without reserving a recipe) and the pastry bag lets you fill another recipe (by playing more ingredients from your hand).
Once every player has either filled a recipe or restocked, a new round begins and players choose new starting times from their hands.
The game ends when there are not enough recipes to refill the recipe book row.
Take all of your cards in your hand and discard pile, and count up the scoring icons (stars, dollars, and trophies). Each icon is worth one point, and each complete set of all three is worth a bonus 2 points.
In the photo above, the player has 3 stars, 3 dollars, and 4 trophies. This would score 10 points for the individual icons and 6 points for having 3 complete sets, for a total of 16 points.
The highest score wins, with ties going to the player with the most total cards.
For the solo game, you set up as for a 2-player game, and you use an extra set of chef cards as an automated player (named “Martha”). You shuffle Martha’s cards and draw one at random as her start time each round. She’ll just take (for free) the card with the most point symbols, and in case of ties, the one with the earliest time. The card claimed goes directly into her own discard pile (instead of her hand), and if she has no cards after choosing a start time then she will restock (and reshuffle), reserving the card she would have claimed. Your goal is to beat Martha.
Why You Should Play Filler
Here in Portland, we’ve got a lot of donut shops. Probably the most famous, the one that tourists ask about when they visit, is Voodoo Donuts, which is known for its over-the-top flavors and being open 24/7—you don’t necessarily go there because they have the best donuts, but because they provide a very Portland experience. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Blue Star Donuts, which is more like the artisan handcrafted version of a donut. Their flavor combinations seem like something you’d see contestants cooking up on a baking show, and their prices are high enough to discourage me from buying a dozen at a time. And then there’s Pip’s Original Doughnuts, which makes little tiny donuts, reasonably priced (and free on your birthday!). They only come in a handful of flavors, and the donuts are small enough that you might as well just get one of each. Or maybe two.
Filler reminds me a bit of Pip’s—it’s small and compact, neither obnoxiously in-your-face nor super fancy, and it can hit the spot when you’re looking for, well, a bit of filler. Green Couch Games’ motto is “Great little games that make great big connections,” and I like their commitment to making small-box games that are quick to teach and are fun for a broad audience. It may not provide the strategic depth to keep your hardcore Eurogame fans engaged for an entire game night, but they’ll probably enjoy playing it once or twice in between longer games, and your casual gamer friends will be able to pick it up and start playing in no time.
I’ve played and taught Filler a number of times to different groups, both kids and adults, including last weekend at a local gaming convention. Even though the prototype version just has the same jelly donuts illustration on every card and the recipe names were printed in a tiny font, most of the people I’ve played with have enjoyed it, even engaging in some role-playing as they remark about their starting times. (“Well, looks like I’m sleeping in today!”)
I did have some concerns after my initial experience that the player who grabbed the earliest starting time would have an unfair advantage, but after repeated plays that hasn’t proven to be the case. Going after the cards with early start times can help you in certain rounds and may even allow you to fill more recipes, but victory depends more on which recipes you choose rather than just sheer quantity. There have been some games where a player managed to get an early start time and dominated the game, and there have been others where the player with the earliest start time was in last place by the end.
I’ve seen the “choose a start time” mechanic in a couple other games before, but I like the way it’s used here, both because it fits the theme but also because it forces the players to make some decisions about how they want to use their cards. Some cards have very late start times but no ingredients, whereas the early start times sometimes have more or better ingredients (such as a wild). If you get up early, you’ll have fewer things left in your hand for filling recipes; get up late and you’ll have plenty of ingredients but you may miss out on the recipes you really wanted. That choice is really at the heart of the game, and it makes for some tough (but not too tough) decisions throughout the game.
In the end, I think Filler delivers exactly what it promises: a nice, short game that may not be a showstopper centerpiece but works perfectly well as a crowd-pleasing snack. If you enjoy casual games (and pastries), Filler just might hit the spot.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Filler Kickstarter page!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.