Just Desserts Review


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Posted by Drew on Jun 10, 2015

No salad, no soup, no entrée. Just desserts. It’s a great tagline for what turns out to be a fun but unremarkable little filler game. The players are servers at a dessert bar competing to satisfy the customers. But the customers are picky. They like what they like and don’t what they don’t.

Players start with a hand of dessert cards. Each card is unique and depicts a particular dessert. Each dessert can have one or more of ten or so different symbols. Things like nuts, marshmallows, chocolate, veggies, or cake. “Veggies?” I hear you ask incredulously. Those are saved for things like carrot cake or zucchini bread. Who eats that stuff? I’d be like the Little Girl who puts that on her do-not-want list.

On a turn, a player first draws a new dessert card and then adds a guest to the table. Guests come in six different colors with four in each. Then, a player can either draw one more card or satisfy up to two guests.

Each guest also indicates what kind of dessert they are looking for. Their likes and dislikes are shown by symbols on the card. The Little Boy wants s’mores, but he’ll take any combination of marshmallows, cookies, and chocolate. Meanwhile Fuzzy is looking for peanut butter cups, but whatever you serve him, he won’t eat marshmallows. And of course, you can’t combine peanut brittle and chocolate covered marshmallows to meet his wants.

To satisfy a guest you just discard the matching symbols and, voila, he’s your friend for life or at least a valued customer as the case may be. Regardless, you’ll forget about him as soon as the game ends. But he’ll at least be in your tableau for the duration and maybe help you win the game. A player wins when he has three guests of one color or five guests of different colors.

It sounds simple because it is. It’s mostly a set collection game with a fun little food theme layered over the top. But, it doesn’t have to be that simple. The game comes with some advanced variants to add a little kick to the flavor. You can season to taste and all that.

The first allows stealing. Just as you can satisfy a guest in the middle of the table, you can satisfy a guest that someone has already taken and take them for yourself. Friend for life, indeed! That action can only be blocked if the current owner discards the guest’s favorite dessert (each has a specific dish listed). Doing so prevents the theft.

Or, you can add buffet rules. Some dessert cards have only one symbol. The Chocolate Bar just has chocolate – nothing else. But if you discard four of those singles, you can start a buffet. Then every other player has to put one guest back in the middle of the table. You thought they were satisfied? Nope! They are going back for seconds and now they’ll go to any server who has what they crave. Finally, there is the interrupt. If a player satisfies a guest with anything but their favorite, you can jump in, out of turn, with their favorite and take them immediately. “You could settle for those items, but I have the Apple Pie a la mode you ordered right here…”

Even with the advanced variants it’s still a simple game. But you know what’s great? It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Too often, I’ve played simple filler games which add a bunch of nonsense to extend the playtime and try to create epic experiences. They don’t. They are boring and dull. But Just Desserts is a simple little filler that’s easy to play and enjoy. And the theme is accessible so you don’t have to convince non-gamers or family members to see past the orcs and wizards. Everyone likes dessert.

The additional rules do make it a little more interactive, though. Stealing from other people becomes important when they are close to winning. But it doesn’t bog down into a bash-the-leader type game. Why not? Because there are a lot of wants out there and you only have so many cards. Players cannot consistently steal from one another and often have to rely on matching from the main board or drawing an extra card. This keeps the game from overstaying its welcome.

On the whole, Just Desserts is an good time-passer. But it’s not an entrée. It is, itself, just a dessert. It might be a fun little cooldown game. Or something inoffensive you can bring to grandma’s house. But that’s the target. Gamers are not going to find enough here to warrant repeat plays. If you’re looking for a light family game, though, Just Desserts is likely to deliver the good(ie)s.