Like most Americans, I had my fair share of "Chinese food" growing up. Granted, a lot of it is wildly different than what you'd actually see in Asia, but it was still pretty good. It was only until well into my adulthood that I got to discover wonderful foreign cuisine like ramen, Korean barbecue, and sushi. Tau Leader Games had a tabletop title at Play NYC 2018 called Kaedama: A Ramen Story that instantly caught my eye and I was keen on sitting down and playing it for a bit.
Tony Go of Tau Leader Games was making good use of his table at Play NYC. He had three games before him: Kaedama, a solitaire spaceship game called Deep Space D-6 that had an upcoming expansion, and the just-shipped Mythic Arcana. All of the games looked wonderful, but Kaedama: A Ramen Story was front and center, and it was the one that intrigued me the most.
In Kaedama: A Ramen Story, two players must work cooperatively to run a ramen shop. One player takes on the role of the Host and the other takes on the role of the Cook. Each player has five action dice that determine what they can do. The cook could add noodles or toppings, cook the ramen, or wash dishes. The host was tasked with things like seating customers, upselling drinks, and cashing out satisfied clients.
Taking a turn began with each player rolling their five action dice and deciding which they'd like to keep. The most dangerous part of this is the risk of advancing a time counter, something that could cause new customers to pile up and seated customers to get fed up with waiting for their food. Both players draft dice by re-rolling whatever they like up to three times.
Once your actions are chosen, one of the players then rolls number dice. The number dice have 1-3 in kanji on half of the sides and blank spaces on the other half. You only get one roll for the number dice. After these are down, the players decide which numbers they'd like to assign to which of their actions. As an example, putting a 二 (2) die next to the chair action die means that the host can seat two customers. This double-layered dice-drafting system was one of the more interesting tabletop mechanics I've seen in quite a while. The actions are then executed according to the numbers and you play another turn.
Kaedama: A Ramen Story makes a strong point of trying to capture the experience of running a small restaurant. A divider sits vertically on the middle of the board, separating the players and slightly obscuring their view. It's meant to evoke the idea of the cook being able to poke his head out of the kitchen but not really go out there - you can get an idea of what things are like, but you won't know the specifics of the other side of the board.
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Mr. Go and I happily played through a few rounds of Kaedama: A Ramen Story. Normally I'll play a game for a few minutes to understand it so I can do my job at the end of the day, but I was having so much fun with the game that I must have been there for at least a half hour. Kaedama is a game that's easy enough to understand but can quickly throw a wrench in the works if you're unlucky, and I had a fantastic time playing it.
Kaedama: A Ramen Story should be making its way to Kickstarter sometime soon. In the meantime, you can follow Tony Go of Tau Leader Games on Twitter and check out the official Tau Leader Games website.
What do you think of Kaedama: A Ramen Story? Does the idea of a co-op cooking game appeal to you? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub.