We perfected our recipes for an alien delicacy – human – in an intergalactic cooking competition in How to Serve Man, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.
Basic Info: How to Serve Man
Time: 60 Minutes
Designers: Joe Babbitt, Jason Mayer, Joe Ploch, Jamie Toon
Artists: Eric Hibbeler, Jamie Toon
Publisher: Gateway Games
How to Serve Man is a fairly basic worker-placement game where players take on the role of alien chefs competing in a cooking competition. The main meat product in their recipes? Humans! The chef who pleases their judges most will win the game.
The game is set up with the game board in the center with all of the available raw and cooked ingredients near their spaces on the board. Each of the judge, appetizer, entree, dessert, and event decks are shuffled separately and placed near the board.
Players receive a player board, their chef markers (two sous chefs and a master chef), two of each recipe type, one of each raw ingredient (human, vegetable, starch, spice, and fat), and three judge cards. After they choose one judge to keep, the rest are shuffled back in the deck, and three placed face-up. The start player gets the “knife” – the start player marker – and players are ready to go.
The game is played in rounds – each round players take turns playing one of their chefs on an available spot on the board. The places on the board include the pantry, meat pen, and vegetable bin where players get raw ingredients. There are also cooking stations where players can combine raw ingredients to fry, bake, or boil the veggies or humans. There is a blender where players can combine any two ingredients to make a sauce. There are two special spaces that allow players to take a point-penalty to replicate a cooked ingredient or use an already-used space. Players can also place their master chef on the recipe book space to draw new recipes.
Finally, there is the presentation table where players present their completed dishes. The ultimate goal is to gain points by completing recipes and impressing your panel of judges. This is done by collecting the cooked ingredients shown on a recipe card and presenting it at the presentation table. When a player visits that spot, they place the recipe face-up in front of them, turn in the required cooked ingredients from their player board, and claim one of the three face-up judges. Then they total up their points, first from the recipe itself, and then from the preferences of the various judges they’ve claimed. Finally, they draw and resolve a card from the Event deck.
The round ends when players have placed all of their chefs, then players collect their chefs, the start player marker moves to the next player, and the next round begins.
Play continues until one player crosses the 50-point mark (even if they subsequently go back below 50 points). At that point, players finish the current round and apply any end game scoring from claimed judges. The player with the most points wins.
How to Serve Man caught my interest when it was on Kickstarter – not sure how I first heard of it, but it’s possible I was just perusing Kickstarter (which is very, very dangerous).
I was drawn in by the theme, which is perhaps ironic, since I’m vegetarian. However, I liked the humor and the art – and, of course, the callback to the classic Twilight Zone episode (which was based on a short story by Damon Knight)!
I remember the first time we brought it out with one of our friends, she was HORRIFIED at the theme! She has since come around, but I was very confused by her reaction, since we usually have similar humor. Plus, we have other games with dark themes.
As for the game, it is a very basic worker placement game. It’s fairly quick and a good introduction to less-experienced players. Despite it’s simplicity, though, we love it for the theme and the player-count. Since it goes up to six players, we can pull it out when we don’t want to split the tables on game night – and it still plays fast enough at that player count not to drag on.
How is it as a 2-player game? How to Serve Man plays fine with 2-players, though, as with most worker-placement games there just isn’t as much competition for spaces with two players. We’re unlikely to pull it out for just the two of us.
How about the art and component quality? The art on the player boards, recipes, and judges is great. I especially love the different alien chefs and all of the recipes. The board itself is kind of boring, but it is clear which space does what, so it does its job.
The different ingredient pieces are nice – each is a different shape which makes it easy to figure out which one is which. The player colors were clearly chosen to help with color blindness.
Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. We love bringing this out when we have more than four players and is a great game for teaching worker placement as a mechanism.