Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
Welcome to Bar Fight, the mixology competition that will have you and your other players making some tasty adult beverages. You’ll gather ingredients and, of course, prepare them with flair and style to impress the judges and have your bar awarded the prestigious championship.
Mostly hand management with a bit of a twist—literally, Bar Fight plays 2-6 players in about 30 minutes.
To start the game, each bartender will pick a bar card to represent their place of work. Each bar has its own starting spirits, bonus ability, and signature drinks. In addition to your starting spirits, you’ll be dealt with mixers and twist cards. Three judges will be placed face up in the center of the table and the competition begins.
Each round you’ll only be trying to impress one of the judges. The other judges are displayed to give you a heads up on who is next so you can do your best to be prepared for future rounds. Each judge has some preferences—they may award extra points for a gin-based cocktail or use of extreme amounts of bitters, for instance. To “mix” your drink you will choose from your hand one spirit and two mixers (no more and no less). All players will then reveal simultaneously.
Each spirit and mixer has its own base value or special ability. You’ll then add or lose points based on the judge’s preference or if you’ve managed to make one of your bar’s signature drinks. Whoever has the highest total wins the round and gets the judge’s card (and their associated number of ribbons). If there is a tie, all tied players get a 1-point participation ribbon instead.
But—the twist! You can also include in your mixing process any number of twist cards from your hand. These can increase your points, let you draw additional cards, or mess with the recipes of other players.
After the prizes are awards all players can draw three cards from any combination of spirit, mixer, and twist decks. Play continues until someone has collected 10 ribbons and they are declared the Bar Fight champion!
I may have outgrown my drinking games phase, but a game about drinking is a whole different animal. To start, the theme of Bar Fight really comes through. The bars seem to be modeled a bit after some real locations, my personal favorite being The Dugout. As a lifelong Cubs fan, it’s clearly Wrigelyville inspired and I will refuse to play the game representing any other bar.
From there though, the gameplay takes over. It’s ultimately a pretty simple mechanism, play a spirit, some mixers, add a twist if you’d like. Hope that your cocktail adds up to enough points to impress the current judge. But sometimes your hand of ingredients just doesn’t really line up to the judge’s preferences. Or you need to find some limes to be able to craft your signature cocktail. So, in those cases, you might just throw something together with the cards you don’t need and save your good stuff for the next judge.
And luckily these judges will drink whatever you throw at them. So, some rounds you may just have to toss vermouth and an orange in a glass with some moonshine and take your ‘L’ like a champ. The strategy in Bar Fight comes down mostly to trying to decide when to take your shot. If you have what you need to make your signature cocktail, but it’s a gin-based one, you might wait until you have a judge who happens to be a fan of gin. Or just go for it and hope the bonus points will win over the judge anyway.
Bar Fight’s ability to scale up to six players works incredibly well. Since almost all actions happen simultaneously you can all pack around a table, beverage in hand, without the game dragging on so long you must leave for refills. It may take a bit longer for someone to get to 10 ribbons, but you can always modify the end goal. I think this is especially important in a light card game as it’s really well suited for all types of gamers.
Bar Fight’s theme is perfectly suited for what it tries to accomplish. I appreciate the number of different bars and their signature drinks to choose from. They give players a bit of identity and special powers to keep a bit of variety in subsequent plays. Easy to learn, quick to play, and just a small amount of strategy to keep things interesting. If you and your friends are sitting around enjoying a cocktail or two, making “tabletop” cocktails to go along with Bar Fight just makes a lot of sense.
Bar Fight is launching this week on Kickstarter, so head over to their campaign page to find out more information or to become a backer.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.