If you’re ready to cook up some fun, look no further than Rival Restaurants! Take on one of the local up-and-coming restaurants, and play as one of the most cutthroat cooks in the biz in order to grow your popularity and outrank your opponents as the “Hippest Spot in Town!” Will you rise to success, or crumble under the pressure? What will your strategy be to ensure you are the wiener? Time to put your skills to the test!
What Is It?
Rival Restaurants is a 2-6 player game with auctions/bidding and set collection mechanics. You’ll use these while trying to collect all the necessary ingredients for your basic and gourmet recipes. As you complete recipes, you’ll earn popularity, which will also help you gain special level up perks! But keep in mind, recipes will also give you garbage, so you want to get rid of that before you keep cooking to avoid losing out on popularity later!
While you try to gather ingredients you may also need to barter with your rivals in order to get what you need quicker, and try to utilize your abilities and action cards as best you can in order to propel yourself ahead! May the best restaurant win!
Who Is It For?
I think this one will appeal to a large range of gamers! The bartering element of the game can get really intense, and works well, so groups who like a little negotiation will enjoy this.
Fans of the cooking theme will also like this one because it shines through well! In addition to that, the chefs and some cards have some punny text and names, so anyone who likes a good pun will get a kick out of this!
I would say ages 10+ would be a good target for this, but there is a little bit of take that at times (depending on chef powers and action cards) so do keep that in mind as well. I would also recommend this to groups of 3 or more players. The variants for 2 (which I’ll dive into later) are okay, but the game is really better with more.
Contents + Quality
Cards – Nice finish on all the different types. Basic art for ingredients, but still nice, and nice art on everything else from the restaurants to the chefs and actions. The text on actions and restaurants is also clear and easy to understand. The restaurant cards are also just very glossy. Not great for pictures, but otherwise fine. There are also blank recipe and restaurant cards included which is neat so you can add uniqueness to the game!
Reference Sheets – Handy and detailed! There are enough for everyone, which is great because not every game provides enough, and sharing can get annoying.
Standees – Stands fit the pawns nicely, not too tight. Art matches the cards.
Money and Garbage – Average quality cardboard, nothing fancy but gets the job done. Plenty of everything to go around.
Clips – For tracking popularity and upgrades. Color coded which is fun, and they all fit on the restaurant cards nicely, again, not too tight.
Movement Wheels – Nice quality. Pretty tight so they don’t move around when you set them down, which is good. To me, it’s weird that there’s a red line to align your choice with. I always just use the gap on the wheel, because it seems more obvious.
Sand Timer – Pretty average sand timer, accurate time. Not great mechanically because it’s hard for anyone to pay attention to it during the simultaneous phase. There is a free app available which is a bit better since it warns you the round it ending, but it only makes sound in the last few seconds and is otherwise silent. I prefer to use a timer that play music the whole minute which intensifies toward the end.
Rules – These are laid out nicely, easy to follow. Everything makes sense as you go and makes learning the game a breeze even for new players.
Box – The containers that hold cards fit nicely at the bottom, but there’s really no nice place for the board to sit, as well as the larger reference and restaurant cards. I kept the punchboards in there to hold everything up flat, and that works well.
Amateur Chef – For this variant there is no time limit for the buy and barter phases in the game, and chefs cannot use their powers until they have 3 popularity points. It’s an okay option for beginners, or when only some players are experienced and others are new because it evens the playing field a little. But if you’re already an avid gamer, the full game shouldn’t be too much to handle from the start.
Start Up – Players start with 2 basic recipes instead of 1 basic and 1 gourmet, can’t draw a gourmet until the finish a basic, and don’t start with action cards or ingredients. It’s an interesting twist once you’re familiar with the game, because it gives you a slightly slower start and really makes you think about how to spend your money wisely especially early on. I prefer to start with ingredients myself, but it’s definitely worth a try.
2 Player Variant – Kitchen Squad – Players have 1 NPC chef and a 3-chef “Kitchen Squad.” They use the NPC and 1 Kitchen Squad member each round, using 2 movement wheels, and only the active chef and NPC’s use their abilities. NPCs cannot affect one another, or use the Island location, and they can’t go to the same location as the player’s Kitchen Squad member. It’s a neat concept to vary the gameplay for just two, but to me it fell a little flat. It made an otherwise enjoyable game more finicky for no reason, and was less fun.
“Two” Many Cooks in the Kitchen – This variant is for 2 or 3 players, and every player controls 2 chefs, with 2 movement wheels. Again, you can’t send them to the same place. I think it’s a better 2-player variant because it’s more streamlined and easy to follow. If you can’t get a bigger group together, it works with less players better than just the game by itself.
- Fun theme
- Variable player powers
- Timed element is neat, especially since you have to trade during it, so you need to make your pitch quick!
- Plenty of recipe variability
- Nice art and very colorful
- Good bigger group game (up to 6) without falling into party game territory
- Mystery Mart ingredients are a fun addition for recipes that can earn you small bonuses
- I feel like the chef and restaurant powers/bonuses aren’t super well balanced. Some are always useful (like substituting ingredients or gaining free upgrades) while others depend on player locations, so they might never or rarely trigger, or they give you too random of a one time bonus (like 1 free face down ingredient). I just wish all of them felt like they were more useful all of the time.
- Doesn’t really work well at 2, so I wish that wasn’t listed on the box. It devolves because you don’t see as many ingredients, there’s only 1 other player to target, and there’s little to no reason to trade. Yes, the variants make it better, but even when you use those, it’s clear the game was designed with more players in mind. Which is fine, but still a little disappointing.
- Action cards seem to be too expensive, especially since some cards cancel others. So you might pay $300, which is all your money each round early on, get a cool card, and then just have the action cancelled. I haven’t seen the action cards used much in most games I’ve played, and it all comes down to them being pricey.
Overall, I really like this game! I think it has a great flow from phase to phase and round to round and, generally, at least a few players are close in points by the end. I wish it worked better at two, but as it is, I would really only recommend it to groups of 3 or more, and it really shines at 4 and 5. I think if you like a strong food/cooking theme, a little bartering, and a lot of variety, then this should be on your radar!
I’m also really looking forward to the expansion, currently on Kickstarter, to add more chefs, restaurants, recipes, and much more! If you haven’t played this yet, definitely try and check it out!
My Final Ratings:
Overall Game – 7/10
Aesthetics – 8/10
Replayability – 7/10
Difficulty – 4/10
*I was provided a copy of this game to do this review*
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