When your new neighbors invited you to a welcome dinner, you couldn’t imagine you were visiting a house of monsters! Leg cheese, smelly morsels, larvae rice, wax sauce, and other disgusting feasts will be served tonight. Can you outsmart your horrific neighbors and avoid eating their stinky and spicy meals? Monster Chef is preparing his ghastly banquet. Now, it is up to you to push the horrible meals to be served to your opponents in this amusing card game. Originally named Inferno, Monster Chef was re-designed by one of the world’s most prolific game designers, Reiner Knizia.
Monster Chef is a card game about hand management and push your luck. It is an excellent family or party game for 3 to 7 players, and it is best played with a higher player count and is well-suited for those from eight years up. Each match lasts around 20 minutes.
After the game begins, each player must play a card in the discard pile at each turn; the card color or value must match the condition card. If a player cannot (or does not wish to) play a card to match, they must take all the cards from the discard pile (and then start a new turn). If the discard pile has fewer than three cards and a player does not play a card, they can place a new condition card from their hand and of their choice on top of the previous condition card. When a player plays their last card, they must announce it to others, and the last turn begins. If the turn ends back to the player with empty hands, the player must take all cards from the discard pile because they don’t have any cards to play.
At the end of each round, players compute their negative score and write it down. Any remaining cards on players’ hands are discarded and not counted towards the player’s score. Only the score pile cards are used to compute a player’s negative score. All the red cards are worth their face value, and all other non-red cards are worth one point. You play as many rounds as the number of players. After the last round, the player with the least amount of negative points wins.
Monster Chef is a welcome re-theming of the game Inferno (2005), and I love the new artwork, which is a much better fit for this game. You are invited to a dinner at your monster neighbors, where you try to avoid eating disgusting meals made of sickening ingredients. This light background story adds to the comic and amusing narrative involvement of the game.
Being a Push-Your-Luck type of game, randomness has a decisive role in playing a good or a bad turn. Your hand cards are drawn randomly, and you may not have had a choice in determining the condition card. The combination of your hand cards and the condition card may give you a good synergy or put you in a difficult position during a turn. Players still have some level of agency both when in the role of selecting the condition card and when deciding to grab the current discarded pile or to keep playing. If you bet and keep playing, you are raising the risks of having to get the discard pile with a higher negative score later in the turn.
However, it is a game strongly based on luck; tactics and bluffing can help, but if the odds are not in your favor, you may not have a chance of saving the round. Yet, it is indeed the game’s designed uncertainty that keeps it engaging, entertaining, and even addictive. Countless times, I saw players wanting to play just one final round of Monster Chef.
Player interaction is about deception and outwitting your opponents. Every time you play a card, you are effectively gambling that one of the opponents will lose the turn before you. Bluffing and trying to deceive others about your intentions is a significant factor in how social contingency was designed in this game. Downtime is always quick and compelling; as the round evolves, the tension rises, and everyone gets increasingly involved in the game.
Minimal setup time, quick and engaging downtime, straightforward rules that are easy to learn, and low complexity make for a perfect gateway game. I have successfully introduced it to board game newbies, and they immensely enjoyed the game and look forward to playing it again. For those who find this game enjoyable, replay value is high because there is absolutely zero friction to get this game on the table and have a go.
This game was designed to appeal to a broad audience, from kids to adults. If you are into straightforward, fast-paced, push-your-luck card games, you can take for granted that you and your friends will have a blast playing Monster Chef. And when the round ends, everyone will want to play just another round.
Monster Chef will be released soon. You can’t wait for this beautiful and entertaining game to arrive. Keep an eye out for it.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – It is a fantastic gateway game, a perfect filler, gorgeous, and entertaining. Yet, it was a bit shallow regarding game tactics, with outcomes strongly determined by luck.
• A welcome gorgeous re-theming of the game Inferno.
• Appeals to a broad audience, from kids to adults.
• It is a straightforward, fast-paced, push-your-luck card game.
• It is a fantastic filler and gateway game.
• Outcomes are strongly determined by luck.
• Shallow game strategy
• Not for the Eurogames player.
This article was originally published in Roll & Mind.