So, I first encountered Chai at a fun gaming industry that was being held by a local publisher, I didn’t get to play it. We were at a charity gaming event together, still didn’t get to play it. I spent three days looking down the aisle at their beautiful art on a banner, still didn’t play. Why didn’t I play Chai? My own schedule aside, there was basically always someone else playing it. Day after day, event after event, I saw people playing it and heard people talking about it, until I got my grubby little reviewer hands on a prototype copy. My friends and I made some tea (because of course we did) and sat down to play. At the end I wasn’t left thinking “that was worth the wait”, I was left thinking “argh, why didn’t I try harder to play this sooner!”
This game is great on so many levels. Once you get everything set up, the game is light enough for new or non-gamers to step into and enjoy without undue stress, yet it still has enough depth to keep more experienced gamers engaged. That combination is a very hard thing to pull off, and Chai does it as well, or better than a lot of games that boast about it.
Each player is a tea merchant, specializing in a different type of tea, Black, White, Green, Roobois, and Oolong. On their turn, a player can take a single action.
-They can Visit the Market, where they can purchase ingredients like Lemon, Mint, Ginger, and more. You can choose any ingredient tile, or adjacent tiles of the same type, by paying for the single highest priced tile. When you remove tiles the remaining tiles slide in to replace them, potentially creating new combinations to pick up for cheap (think Candy Crush, or if you’re really old Dr. Mario).
-They can Visit the Pantry, where they can pick up add-ins like milk or honey. If they don’t like what’s in the pantry they can pay to restock it or just draw blindly from the bag.
-They can reserve a customer. Each player may have up to three customers in their tea shop at a time, and when they reserve one they also get to take one of the actions currently in play.
At the end of their turn, they have the option to fill any one customer’s order as long as they are not (reserved) in another player’s shop. Just place all the ingredients, including the correct type of tea, into one of the teacups, and collect that customer’s points and the random tip for the cup you put in.
As simple as the gameplay is, the art is amazing. I’ve only seen some of the art in the prototype, and my understanding is that there is more Customer art already completed for the finished game. I can hardly wait to see.
The campaign itself is pretty straightforward. $5 (USD) gets you a print & play version of the cards and boards, but no physical components. If you are absolutely stuck, this is better than nothing, but I really don’t recommend it otherwise. $50 gets you a physical copy of the retail game and any applicable stretch goals. $59 gets you a Kickstarter exclusive Deluxe edition that also includes a set of gorgeous metal coins and may include some different stretch goals. $250 gets you a super high quality “Tea Master Edition” that you should just go look at on the page. The only thing I’d like to see is the option to add the metal coins into the Tea Master edition.
As I finish writing this, just over12 hours into the campaign, and it’s already sitting at 90% funded. This is going to happen. Making that even more impressive is the fact that they’ve kept their stretch goals under wraps. It’s unusual for a virtually unknown company to do that and fund as fast as they are. Seriously, go get on board with this one. It’s worth it.