Wok Star – Everyone cooks in this real-time cooperative board game!
Wok Star is a real-time, cooperative board game in which 2 to 4 players work together to make their brand new Chinese Restaurant a success. You’ve got three days to train your staff, acquire new recipes, upgrade your preparation techniques and get the whole process down to a science in time for your Grand Opening on day 4 when your first loan payment is due. If you can’t pay, sayonara: your new family business went bust.
Everyone cooks and everyone waits tables in the Wang family’s Chinese Restaurant. Nonetheless, each family member is responsible for preparing one or more ingredients that will be used to cook the family recipes when customers place orders. The work is hectic, exciting and fun as you and your family take orders for Lo Mien, Egg Rolls, Kung Poa Chicken and the like; prepare the dishes; and serve them to your customers as quickly as possible.
Game play is simple and straightforward in Wok Star – though the ticking timer might increase your heart rate a bit. You’ll each take a table number and the role of one of the Wang family with your own special ability that you can usually use only once per round. You might be Chris Wang, the gifted busboy who earns extra tips when he serves the same dish twice, Lily Wang who always has a great excuse and can restart the timer, Grandpa “Secret Ingredient” Wang who can substitute an ingredient with any other, or some other beloved family character.
Your first day, you’ll keep it simple with just three recipes on the menu to worry about: Eggrolls, Fried Rice and Lo Mein. These recipes each need two or three prepared ingredients to make. Since you want to be able to cook and serve fast, you’ve decided to divvy up the chopping and prepping duties. So, each player takes responsibility for chopping and prepping one or more of the ingredients required for your family recipes (by taking the corresponding Preparation card): bok choy & bamboo, egg roll wraps, eggs, onions & peppers and pork.
Players use their dice, rolled at the beginning of each round to “prep” their ingredients. For example: say you’re responsible for onions & peppers. According to your Preparation card, you can use any one die to prep one serving of onions & peppers, a 4 will let you prep two servings, and any two dice whose sum equals seven will allow you to prep three.
After assembling the Game Deck with Orders and Events and setting your starting ingredient tokens to 1 on the game board, players each take three dice of one color, setting the extras within easy reach. Everyone rolls their dice and the round begins. It ends when you’ve gone through the entire Game Deck.
Here’s a quick run-thru of a round:
You’ve been assigned to Table 1, so you start the timer and take your first order by turning over the top card of the Game Deck. The customer wants Lo Mein which calls for pork, onions & peppers and bok choy & bamboo. No problem, there’s 1 of everything right now, so you move the pork, onions & peppers and bok choy & bamboo tokens down 1 space each to 0, take the Order card, and press the timer to signify the customer has been served.
Looking at the top of the Order card you just completed, you note that the Next Table is also 1 – oh, that’s you! – so you start the timer and turn over the next card. It’s Egg Rolls which needs pork, bok choy & bamboo and egg roll wraps. Uh, oh, there isn’t any pork left! The player responsible for prepping the pork needs to get busy using one or more dice to prep some pork, adjusting the pork token accordingly. As soon as it’s available, you can slide the pork and other required ingredient tokens down 1, take the Order card, and stop the timer.
(Players can prep ingredients any time the timer is running. They can also share dice with each other. However, at the end of the round, you’ll only earn tips for your dice on your prep cards.)
Again, you note the Next Table at the top of the Order you just completed (Table 2). The player whose table that is, starts the timer, flips a card and proceeds to prepare and serve the Order. If an Order cannot be completed due to lack of ingredients (there are no dice left to prep what’s needed) or time runs out, put that Order in the discard pile. You’ll lose $1 at the end of the round, due to Bad Publicity, for the unfulfilled order. Play passes to the Next Table and continues as before.
Occasionally, you’ll turn up an Event card instead of an Order. Stop the timer and read the Event aloud, following the directions given. (For a harder game, you can leave the timer running.) Event cards often instruct you to Gain and Roll a die in which case the active player takes a die from their reserve, rolls it and consults the Event card to determine the resulting effect. This die, as rolled, is now available to the player for prepping ingredients for the rest of the game. When the final card has been played and resolved, you may use any leftover dice to prep ingredients for the next round before proceeding to the Accounting.
Now it’s time to see how much money you made. Count the Till by adding up the orders you successfully completed and adjust the money tracker accordingly. Subtract $1, due to Bad Publicity, for each order you did not complete. Count your tips: $1 for each die players played on their own preparation cards.
As savvy entrepreneurs you’ve decided to use your funds to improve your restaurant by upgrading your prep areas and acquiring new recipes that will attract new customers. Sometimes you only have enough money to do one or the other, so choose wisely. Turn up three Recipe cards; prices are in the top right corner and depend on the number of players. These are the new Recipes you can purchase this round. You can also upgrade any of your existing prep stations for the cost specified in their top right corners.
Decide, as a group, how you want to spend your funds. If you add any new Recipes to your menu, pull the corresponding Order cards and add them to the Game Deck.
If any new recipes you purchase include any ingredients not already on the game board, add the appropriate tokens to the board (set to 0), pull the corresponding Preparation cards, and assign them to players. Any ingredients and money you have left over carries into the next round with one exception: you always start the final round, Round 4, with $0.
Discard the Event cards used in the previous round and add new Event cards to the Game Deck. The Game Deck should now contain all of the Orders from the previous round, any new Orders added due to new recipes, and the new Events for this round. You’re now ready to play the next round.
At the end of Round 3, set the money tracker to $0 – even if you have funds left over after purchasing Recipes and Preparation upgrades. Round 4 represents your Grand Opening. You have to prove to the bank that your restaurant is viable. If you can’t make enough money to pay your loan payment, the bank will foreclose. The actual loan payment (winning condition) is determined by the number of players.
Wok Star has many options that enhance replayability. The timer can be set to 30 seconds (best for first few games), 20 seconds for a normal game, or 15 seconds for a difficult game. You can reduce the number of Event cards added to the Game Deck each round, which makes it harder to acquire dice and prep ingredients. For variety, you can start the came with 3 different recipes, instead of the usual favorites. You can also keep the timer running when handling events. You can make the game easier, by pausing between Orders with the timer off, to discuss strategy.
Wok Star supports 1 to 4 players ages 10 and up. Play time is about 60 minutes. The cooperative play mechanics make it great for families, friends and team-building exercises. I don’t see any reason why younger kids couldn’t play. The youngest might need a little help reading the cards.
Copyright © 2014-2015 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.