At the end of the round, once the customer deck is exhausted, the players earn money for each happy customer, but lose money due to bad publicity for any customers who left the restaurant hungry. At this point, a selection of new potential recipes is drawn. The players must decide whether to spend money to buy these new recipes, or instead use the funds to upgrade their preps for the ability to get more ingredients for each die. You must balance risk vs. reward here; new recipes give lots of extra income, but require new ingredients, and you might not have enough dice to satisfy the needs of these potential customers. On the other hand, upgrading preps alone will not allow you to make enough money in the end; the goal is to end the game with $60 or more at the end of round four. It’s an interesting balance and allows for lots of interaction between players.
It may seem a bit simple to “math it out” and figure exactly what ingredients are needed each round. But the event cards in the customer deck coupled with the random turn order take care of this issue neatly. Each customer card specifies which table (player) draws from the deck next. Though players work together to fulfill orders, each has a player power that might make a significant difference. One power allows the player to substitute one ingredient for another at his tables, which is a tremendous boon if you are short on, say, shrimp. But if a customer wanting shrimp fried rice is drawn by another player, the group is out of luck. Event cards, which often give you additional dice, are similarly random. You might have a player very short on dice who never draws any of these helpful events at all. You can mitigate this by upgrading preps and assigning new preps to players with more dice. Still, it adds a nice tension to the game when these things happen, particularly when the round is almost over and you are very low on ingredients.
Wok Star is very impressive from a visual perspective, with high quality components. The cards are slick yet sturdy, and hold up well under shuffling. The board is clear and functional. The ingredient tokens are a mixed bag; a set of stickers was included with the Kickstarter pledges with art that more closely matches that on the ingredient cards. The tokens are nice and heavy, with a nice feel, in any event. The custom timer is very cool, and the inclusion of several tuck boxes for storing cards is most welcome.
If you are tired of dungeon delves, zombies, or other common themes in cooperative board games, Wok Star just might be what you are looking for. The mechanics are deceptively simple but provide interesting decision points, and the art style and unique theme give it a great presence on the table. It is one of the rare times when a game has totally lived up to the hype, despite all the issues with the Kickstarter campaign. Fans of co-op should enjoy the game, but be warned: you may get quite hungry for Chinese take-out while playing!
The Co-Op Experience:
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.