Two of my joys in life are board games and Christmas, so when Dave invited me to do a review on a Christmas print and play, I leapt at the chance of combining two of my favourite things (Christmas pun intended).
Christmas Cafe is a print-and-play game by MicroRPG from drivethrurpg.com. Having a seasonal game as a print-and-play format is an excellent idea as it makes it possible to access those games you might only play a few times a year, without having to store them or pay an arm and a leg.
The game is for 2-5 players, and all that is required is the printed game board, a dice, and a pencil and eraser. My husband and I ended up using plastic sleeves and whiteboard markers to make the bookkeeping a little easier on the printed game board. [Editor’s Note: Yes, America, “dice” can be used as a singular. -dc]
The premise of Christmas Cafe is that you are the owner of a coffee shop and are trying to turn the most profit in the month of December. You do this by making drinks and selling baked goods to your customers, becoming more popular, and bring in a greater number of increasingly wealthy patrons.
The mechanics of the game are relatively straightforward – each round, you keep track of your costs and earnings (easier said than done, there’s a fair amount of bookkeeping and mental math which I loved but my husband resorted to a calculator), pay to unlock drinks, purchase perishable baked goods, and roll to find out what your customers order. If your customers can afford to buy what they want and you have it available for them to purchase, they leave satisfied. Each satisfied customer is an opportunity to increase your popularity, determined by dice rolls, and each popularity increase brings either wealthier or additional customers. You can pay for advertising to increase your popularity, but ideally word of mouth is enough to grow your customer base. The game is played over 24 rounds, however the second time playing we went to 12 rounds due to timing limits, but found it equally enjoyable.
As mentioned above, the two main facets of this game are accounting, and predicting how many of each baked good you should purchase for the round. My husband fondly referred to the game as “bakesale gambling,” which is a cute but accurate summary of the gameplay strategy. Unlike the drinks, baked goods must be purchased in advance of the customer orders, and any not purchased by the customer must be trashed at the end of a round. It is painful to throw out your hard-earned money in the form of adorable gingerbread men due to your own miscalculation, but extremely satisfying when your opponent has to. If you’re someone who takes pleasure at your opponent’s misfortune (me? Never!), you may want to pay to spread rumours about your opponent’s cafe to decrease their popularity. But be careful, there is a chance that the rumours will be traced back to you, causing you to lose popularity as well!
The game is delightfully Christmas themed with drinks such as gingerbread lattes and peppermint mochas, and a cute advent calendar to keep track of the rounds played. In a normal Christmas season, it would be a wonderful excuse to make Christmas themed drinks and invite some friends over. My only quarrel with the theme is the traditionally gendered customer categories (e.g: working moms, business men), however the rulebook uses more inclusive language than the game board does (e.g.: working moms and dad’s, business men and women).
In short, this is game is a steal-of-a-deal at the recommended price of 99¢ (USD), and a great reason to get some friends or family together for a Christmas themed evening. Depending on how cutthroat your gaming group is, you might have a pleasant, lightly competitive experience, or if your family works more like mine does, you may have a fierce and wildly-paced game with imaginary fruitcake being hurled across the room as insidious rumours cripple your cafe’s growth.
Chrismas Cafe is a pay-what-you-want download at drivethrurpg.com/product/297191/Christmas-Cafe.
Megan Crowe is a lover of board games, a teacher of small humans, and a Christmas fiend. She enjoys curling up with her cat, husband, a book and a tea, but equally enjoys crushing opponents on the quidditch pitch.
This year’s holiday music selection has been all about the classics, and Megan’s choice is no different. Who doesn’t love them some Louis Armstrong?