Fire up your oven, get your recipe book, prep your ingredients…and made sure you’ve got a rat handy to toss into your competitors’ kitchens.
Cooks & Crooks is a new family game hitting Kickstarter from Aether Tower and Detestable Games, the same combo that launched Seat Wars. In the game, players take the roles of chefs in an international cooking competition. Each is trying to complete as many recipes as possible while stealing ingredients from other chefs, swapping items out of other ovens, and even tossing disgusting ingredients into others’ recipes.
The game starts with each player choosing a chef and taking their oven. The ingredients are shuffled and 3 are given to each player before the deck is placed, face up, in the middle of the table. The recipes are sorted by type and their individual piles are shuffled before being placed, face down, around the deck. Each player takes a single recipe of their choice and places it face up in their oven. The Turn Counter is set to one and play begins.
Each turn players may take the following actions (actions are optional, but must be taken in the order listed. If you skip a step, you cannot go back and take those actions once you’ve taken an action lower in the list):
- Supply: A player may discard as many cards from their hand, face down, as they like. They then can draw 1, 2, or 3 cards from the draw pile. A player may never have more than 7 cards in their hand.
- Action: (choose ONE of the following three actions)
- Pantry Raid: A player steals two cards from another player, keeping one and giving the other back along with another from their hand.
- Oven Theft: A player steals a card from another player’s oven, replacing it with an ingredient they’re missing from their own hand.
- Clean Oven: A player may take any card from their oven back to their hand. If their oven is filled (7 cards) they may take 2 back to their hand.
- Prepare Dish: A player can play up to 3 ingredients from their hand to their oven. If all the ingredients needed for their current recipe are placed they can score that recipe by discarding the needed ingredients from their oven, placing the ingredient card in front of them, scoring negative points for any face-down cards in their oven, and drawing a new, unique recipe type card.
- Sabotage: Place a nasty ingredient into another player’s oven, face down.
A quick note on cards. There are two types of special cards in the deck, Grandma’s Mystic Seasoning, which acts as a wildcard, and Radioactive ingredients. Radioactive ingredients are worth negative points in any recipe type no specified at the bottom of the card. They’re worth bonus points if added as an additional ingredient to a recipe that matches the icon on the card. An example would be Anchovies. They’re worth bonus points in any pizza, but you don’t want them in any other type of recipe!
Play continues for 6 rounds. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. For full details on the rules, check here.
Cook & Crooks is a great family game with simple to learn rules, colorful artwork, fast gameplay, and keeps everyone involved with plenty of player interaction. There’s a lot of strategies hidden away for more experienced gamers, yet the game manages to cater extremely well to casual and younger players. My kids and I have had a blast with this one as we race to cook our dishes while tossing rats, hairy band-aids, and dead flies into each other’s ovens.
Both Aether Tower and Detestable Games have a good track record in my book. Their games are approachable and far better than most mass-market games you’d find at a big box store, all while keeping that market in mind. Cooks & Crooks is a game you should seriously consider backing if there’s young gamers in the house. You won’t be sorry. At around $25 it’s a steal, especially with the known quality of Aether Tower’s previous releases.
A prototype copy of Cooks & Crooks was provided by Aether Tower for this preview.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.