Published by: Rio Grande Games
# of Players: 2 to 4
The edition of Cafe International I have is from Rio Grande Games that was produced in 2015. The original Cafe International was released in 1989. The game has remained the same in components except that the Soviet Union flag was replaced by the current Russian flag. The art maintains the 80s cartoonish caricatures which some may find as offensive stereotypes. Scoring is kept track by plastic poker chips that I have not seen in a game since the early 90s. Cafe International color codes everything, plus has flags on each table so even color blind people know where to place their tiles. The rule book is very straight forward and explains everything. The scoring was a little confusing to understand with all the examples, but by the first game you understood how it worked. Everything is explained with illustrated details that I would expect in a hard to learn game but not Cafe International. Cafe International shows it's age but provides everything you need to enjoy the game.
The gameplay to Cafe International is pretty simple. Each player has 5 tiles in front of them that depict a male or female from a certain nation. During that player's turn they can either seat 1 or 2 tiles at the various tables or send 1 tile to the bar in the middle of the board. The last option is that they may replace a Joker (wild) tile from the board with a tile that would be allowed to be placed there. That player would then add the Joker tile to his tiles in front of him. After a player takes their turn they draw back up to 5 tiles in front of them. Each time a tile is placed, you will score points for it. Except the first tile for the first player, the first tile at an empty table, and replacing a joker tile with a regular tile. Once all the seats are filled at all tables or the bar, or if the bag is empty of tiles, the game is over and you count up your chips. Player with the most points wins the game.
When I first saw Cafe International it did not grab my attention and saw how some could be offended by the pictures representing different nationalities. I remembered the old saying that you should not judge a book by it's cover, so I went into playing this open-minded. While it is not a highly strategic, tense game, Cafe International was fun and there was some meat to the strategy. Looking at what your opponents have and trying to figure out strong combinations that will get you the most points while blocking them can be very taxing on the mind. The bar did not come into play very often and the whole group has to pay attention to make sure each placement is legit. It is very each to see that a tile works on this one table but it is also connected to the second table that makes it not work. I hope the game is not teaching any you life lessons like stereotypes or segregation, but rather take it as a goofy, fun, filler game that works with all ages. 1989 was not a big year for games and I could see why this would win awards for that year. I am not sold that it has a place in my collection in the present. This will probably be a game that I give to family member that enjoys lighter games that work around a night a with friends and family. Mechanically the game is solid and still works to today's standards. I would give this a try before you buy and I would play it again if someone wanted to play it.
+ light strategy tile laying game
+ is color blind friendly
+ a game that all ages can enjoy
- Some may find the Stereotype art and Segregation theme offensive
- Scoring system and tile placement can be confusing at times
- Game shows it's age and many other similar games have been released since