Gather up Bartenders! The Happy Hour clock is on. Pull yourself together and get ready to take orders from your precious customers. The night will be tight, since you will have to compete with your fellow expert mixologists. “On The Rocks” lounge is waiting for the best bartender of the night.
When Bartending meets Board Game
“On The Rocks” is a competitive bartending game, which simulates the experience of being a bartender at the lounge. Everyone will start by receiving an order, which can be a combination of 3 or 4 different recipes. Players will start their turn by adding more ingredients to the jigger bowls. First, they will have to roll two Ice dice. The result indicates the amount of newly added ingredients. After adding ingredients, the active player will select one of the bowls, to use all the ingredients to complete the recipes.
Players complete the recipe by matching the ingredients with the requirements on the recipe cards. There will be up to 6 ingredients for Old Fashioned and Martini, and 8 ingredients for Hurricane and Highball. Depending on the difficulty of the recipes, players will get awarded differently. As soon as players complete a drink, they will receive a Tip card, as an additional reward to what players earn from the recipe. When players finish an order, they will place a Lemon marker on the Rounds indicator, representing the Order Round completed. Then they will start a new Order by selecting another set of 3 or 4 recipes again. They can use extra ingredients from the selected jigger bowls for the new recipes. When any player finishes the Third Order, the end game triggers. Other players will have one last turn to complete the recipes, or fulfill their current Order.
The extra flavor for the drinks
On The Rocks offers a lot of extra flavors to spice up the game. Besides the normal ingredients, there are also three special ones: Gold, Spill and Clear marble. By selecting the jigger bowl with Gold marble(s), players can select two Ingredients from the Shaker Bag. On the other hand, picking up a bowl with Spill Marble(s) will penalize the active players. They will draw the first card from the top of the Spill Deck, and try to complete its effect. After selecting Gold or Spill marbles, players will place them onto the Coaster. When all the marbles of the specific types are on the Coaster (3 for Gold and 4 for Spill), they will return to the Shaker Bag. The Clear marble works as a Wild marble, which can represent any other Ingredient. However, players have to indicate which Ingredients it will represent.
Another flavor in this game is from the Tip cards. If the card has a “Pass” icon, players can give it to one of their opponents to sabotage their progress. These are a real headache for whoever receives them. At the right and crucial time, these Tip cards can completely destroy the plan for completing the recipes, or even the round. The Tip cards also provide one-time effects that assist active players in their turns. In my opinion, these effects are very useful. Not only do they help active players catch up in the race, they also help players to get ahead in the game. Some Tip cards even allow you to share the power with other players. I am not sure if you want to help out your fellows though. Regardless, players can keep the Tip cards for the end game bonus, instead of using them.
The thought while being sober
One of the factors that I enjoy the most is how simple this game is. The rules are straightforward. Players take turns in drafting the ingredients, selecting a jigger bowl to complete their drinks. When all the recipes are completed, they finish their order. That’s it. There are some extra rules here and there about the special Tip cards, and Ingredients; but they are not a part of the core game. The game also has a lot of interaction among players, even though everyone has to focus on their own puzzle. The Complaint Tip Card is a typical example of the “Take-that” mechanism. For the reward it has, it is worth more to pass it to someone else rather than keeping it.
Another thing that I really enjoy is how this game gives freedom of choice to each player. Whenever they start a new Order, there are no set numbers that players have to take. Depending on how ambitious they are, they can hoard all 4 recipes. This also gives the players the flexibility in their tactics, approaching the game. In some cases, players might want to rush to trigger the end game conditions, to prevent others from earning more money. If so, they can select the easy recipes, and try to finish the drink as fast as they can. This factor introduces a lot of climax and unpredictable moments in the game. Players cannot only focus on their own boards. They have to be fully aware of what others are planning and capable of as well.
On the other hand, there are still some debatable factors that others might not enjoy. First of all is the randomness. Some people might not like it when they have no idea what recipe cards they will get, or what ingredients will be pulled out. This makes it harder for them to plan their move. However, when I think of being a bartender, this factor makes sense. They completely have no idea what drinks they will receive for each order. It is totally random. Hence, I think the game stimulates this experience well enough.
However, there is one thing that I don’t really enjoy in this game: the downtime between players. This didn’t come to us when we played a 2 player game. However, it happened a lot in a more player count game, especially a 4 one. After finishing my turn, I have to wait for three more other turns for me to play. I can’t even plan on what to do next since there are too many changing variables. The Jigger Bowl I want might get picked. Other players can give me a Complaint Card to slow down my game. I really wish there was a way to minimize this downtime.
Regardless of the minor problems, my group and I still enjoy On The Rocks a lot. It is a fast paced game with a lot of climax and sabotaging. The quality of the components are top-notched; especially the player board. Also, have I mentioned this is the debut from Michael & Christina Pittre? It is unbelievable. I, myself, can’t wait for more amazing products from them. Meanwhile, it is time for me to get myself another Rusty Nail.
You can purchase a copy of On The Rocks at this link.