Boba Majong is coming to Kickstarter in 2022. I was able to get an advanced preview copy from the Sunrise Tornado Game Studio stand when I was fortunate enough to meet their charismatic owner Ta-Te Wu.
I was very interested in the back catalogue of games from Sunrise Tornado, and my interest was peaked from the cute box art and simplicity of play of Boba Mahjong. I love RummiKub, and all card games where you are creating sets and runs. This harks back to my days playing Canasta with my family as a child. So, I was keen to try this, especially as it was billed as a two player only game, which I always like.
Boba Mahjong plays very much like other game where you are creating sets and runs, but with a few interesting twists. In the deck are 48 cards. All beautifully illustrated with different ingredients used within a Boba drink. There are 12 toppings cards with options such as Green Beans, Grass Jelly, and Cheese Foam. And 36 other ingredients cards, set across four different flavours running from Zero to Eight. Butterfly Tea, Matcha Tea, Taro Tea, and Strawberry Tea.
To play, each player is dealt five cards. Three cards are placed face up into three separate 'Mixing piles. On your turn, you will draw two new cards or one card from one of the mixing piles. You can then create a set using a minimum of three cards from your hand. A set can either be cards in a sequential order, usually called a run in other games. Or of at least three cards of the name number. You can use the Zero cards as wild for either sets or runs. A set can also be three toppings cards, used as three of a kind.
Once the set or run has been made, players will then chose one of the cards in the set or run to keep. All other cards must be placed into one of the three face up mixing piles. The cards you keep are how you score at the end of the game. The round ends when the deck is exhausted or one player has five or more stacks of score cards in their tableau.
At this point, each player will choose up to six cards to use for this rounds scoring. You are scoring for freshness, smoothness, complexity, and presentation of your drink. Lets look at each one.
Freshness: If you have a pair this will bring you three victory points. Three-of-a-kind gets you six points. If you have four numbers all the same, (but different colours), this will get you ten points.
Smoothness: This is how you score your runs. Three sequential numbers gets you two points. Four will get you four points. A run of Five will be eight points, and six cards in a run will be 13 points.
Complexity: This is how you score your toppings. Each one will get you two pints each. However, three toppings scores seven points. This is the max you can have.
Presentation: Three cards of the same colour will get you three points. Four will be six. Five will be nine and six will be 12. You can also score from having different colours. Any four different colours will get you three points. If you collected all five then this is worth five points.
The clever part of the scoring is that you can use cards multiple times to score with. For example. If you had a final hand including a green 1,2, and 3. This would score you two points for the run, your smoothness. But also three points for the colour, you presentation. This is the main difference here with this game to others that use runs and sets. Being able to create multiple uses for each card, and multiply each cards scoring potential is a fun and interesting puzzle to solve as you play the game.
Once you have calculated your score, you will round that down to the nearest five and take a victory token for each five points you got. The game ends when a round ends with at least one player with six or more tokens. The player will the most tokens wins.
Playing Boba Mahjong is quick, and a lot of fun. If you are a fan of games where you create sets and runs, you will love this. It has enough of a difference to make it stand out. The first being how each card can be used multiple times in the end round scoring. The second being the multi-layered way in which you get the cards. A run or set is needed to get the card, and then that card will be used with others to create more runs or sets.
I really enjoyed this process. It made me feel involved thorughout. I was not simply creating sets or runs and moving on. Doing one thing to get something else to then use as a resource to do another. thing. It feels a little Euro in parts! Although this is not a Euro game at all. Don't get me wrong. This is a set-collection card game, distilled into its purist form. But the process you go through is quite interesting and feels a level above the 'norm.'
The art and theme are wonderful. I love the design of each card, and the idea that I am making the perfect tea. My children love going to shops that sell these drinks when we go into London. And we are huge fans of RummiKub as a family. So, this theme, mechanic, and well oiled gameplay was a huge winner for us. Anyone looking for a quick, light, but fun two-player card game will be very happy indeed with Boba Mahjong.
I look forward to seeing the full and final version at kickstarter. I will add a link to that here when it is live.