What the Food?! is the newly released food-fighting card game from designer Peter Vaughan and his company Squirmy Beast. What the Food?! successfully funded on Kickstarter in June and is now available for purchase. I had the chance to talk with Peter at BGG.Con. Due to time constraints we weren’t able to play a game of What the Food?!, but Peter generously sent me home with a copy to review.

We got the What the Food?! to the table last night. For a game about school lunch cafeteria food-fighting I expected What the Food?! to be a fast simple-to-learn take-that style game that would appeal to my kids (and adult kids-at-heart) – and it was. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a lot more. Sure, there game involves a lot of silliness as food is chucked about: “I’m hitting you with a Steaming Hot Beefsteak Tomato dripping in Nacho Cheese!” – but there is also a surprising amount of strategy. Since What the Food?! plays up to 8, I was able to sit down with a few power-gamer friends and my 8 and 9 year old and we were all able to enjoy the same game (which we completed in under an hour).

Gameplay

Each player selects a character to play – each with it’s own special action. With the special edition included we had 15 characters to choose from including “Susie Floozy” (special action: Flirt), “Obese Denise” (Eat), and “Sick Vic” (Sneeze). Each character starts with a total of 4 actions (3 basic actions plus their special).

To begin, each player selects one of the other players to be their target. Then players choose 3 of their actions to execute this round and places them face down in a pile. Players reveal their first action simultaneously and carry out its effects in order. Some actions allow you to pick up food off the cafeteria floor. Others allow you to throw food at your target, or duck out of the way of food being thrown at you. Special actions allow you to take cards from the deck or discard pile, inflict humiliation upon your opponents, change targets, etc. Once players have executed all three actions they may re-select targets and a new round begins.

Throwable items come in three flavors: Food (“Raw Eggs”, “Chili Con Carne”), Toppings (“globbed in Peanut Butter”, “and a side of Tater Tots”), and Conditions (“Juicy”, “Steaming Hot”). You can throw a food, a food with a topping, or a pair of toppings. You can also add a condition to any set of thrown food/toppings. Thrown items inflict humiliation upon your target. When a player accumulates 10 humiliation (or 15 in the advanced game) the school Principal is called in and the player with the least humiliation is declared the winner.

Conclusion

As expected, my kids loved it. My gamer friends (who were skeptical at first) had a great time. The kids asked me if we could play it again tonight and – unlike some of their other picks – I was excited to get What the Food?! out again. This fills a nice niche in my collection since it scales well up to 8 players (without slowing to a crawl), plays fast (even with kids), and can be picked up quickly by most anyone while still possessing enough depth to keep the more hardcore gamer interested.

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One small gripe was with the components. Each targeting card depicts a ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, or relish bottle which you orient to point toward your current target. While very thematic and flavorful (no pun intended) they tended to get bumped and change direction. It wasn’t much of a problem but once or twice the kids bumped their cards and then were confused as to who they were targeting. Also, near the end of the game it became difficult to see at a glance how many humiliation tokens each player had. This could be simply fixed by using alternate tokens with denominations of 3s and 5s, using a d20 to track values, etc. These problems were very minor in nature and were quickly sorted out in a few seconds allowing us to return to the excitement of gameplay.

What the Food?! is available for $24.95 from the publisher’s website – and is more than a good value for the cost. The Special Edition expansion can be purchased for $9.95 and adds 38 more cards (including 5 new characters). There’s a promo pack that adds a zombie character with a different win condition which was a Kickstarter reward (but can also be collected at conventions) and another 4-card winter promo pack available from the BGG Store.