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Friday, 2 October 2015

Feasting & Farting For Fun

Not counting the snacks in between, every good Halfling likes to get in seven good meals per day—Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevenses, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, and Supper. After all, there are corners to every Halfling’s belly that need filling. Now those hairy-footed, pot-bellied, rosy-cheeked, ever-hungry cherubs have gone one step further and turned their love of a good meal—and a snack before and after—into a competition. And Triple Ace Games has turned it into a game.

Of course as publisher, Triple Ace Games is better known for its roleplaying games and supplements, such as Sundered Skies, Hellfrost, Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age!, and All For One: Régime Diabolique. It is no stranger though to card games, having published Rocket Race: A Steampunk Rocket Building Card Game after funding it through Kickstarter. Now it returns with another card game, previously launched at UK Games Expo 2015.

Halfling Feast: a card game of competitive eating for 2-4 players is game in which Halflings race to eat, digest, fart, burp, visit the outhouse, cheat, and race to eat something else all to see who can eat the most. Before them are twenty-four dishes, ranging from something as simple as Gundroast Muffins and Ice Crown Tartlets to the complexities of Dragonfire Crumble and Mighty Game Pie. Whoever has eaten the most by the time the table is cleared will have won the competition.

Each Halfling begins the game with two cards. The first is a Halfling card, each of which has a name, an illustration, and two special actions—one that can be done for free on his turn and one that requires the Halfling to discard an Action card his turn. For example, Bell Maggot can steal an Action card from another Halfling for free, but must discard an Action card of her own to take two Dish cards and record their Fullness value for both cards as normal. The second card is a Halfling Fullness Track, which is the same for every Halfling. Marked between one and ten, this is where a Halfling keeps track of how much food he has in his stomach. Of course, a Halfling can have no more food inside in his belly than his Halfling Fullness Track, but through magic a Halfling can increase his Fullness to eleven or even twelve! (Of course a rival Halfling could equally use to decrease a Halfling’s Fullness Track back down to ten—or worse, less than ten!).

The twenty-four dishes each have a Fullness rating between one ('Gundroast Muffins') and nine ('Ice Crown Tartlets'). The total Fullness of the Dishes before a Halfling cannot exceed his Fullness Track, but by reducing the Fullness in his belly, a Halfling can find more space in those all important corners. Each Dish is described as either a Savoury or a Sweet, a tag that many of the game’s Action cards depend upon. There will be four Dishes laid out on the table, ready to eat, at any one time.

The bulk of the cards consist of Action cards. These do a number of things, including increasing a Halfling’s Fullness Track ('Spell of Expansion'), reducing a Dish’s Fullness value ('Potion of Devouring'), increasing a Dish’s Fullness value ('Talvon’s Elf Chutney'), preventing an opponent from eating a particular Dish ('Spell of Aversion'), reducing a rival Halfing’s Fullness Track ('Spell of Belt Reduction'), releasing space in a Halfling’s belly and thus on his Fullness Track ('Off to the Outhouse'), and countering another Action card ('Halfling Manners'). A Halfling can have as many Action cards as he wants in his hand—the other hand is, of course, being used to cram another Dish into his mouth!

Before play begins each Halfling sets his Fullness on the Fullness Track to zero and receives two Action cards. On his turn, a Halfling can conduct just the single action—consume one of the Dishes on the table (as long as a Halfling has room in his belly); play an Action card; release two Belly spaces on his Fullness Track; draw an Action card; or use a Halfling skill. It is as simple as that.

At its heart, Halfling Feast is a resource management game with one resource—Fullness. A Halfling uses up his Fullness by eating Dishes and then gains more Fullness by releasing space in his Belly (and on his Fullness Tracks), either through the single action of releasing two spaces or by playing an Action card like 'Mighty Fart' or 'Satisfactory Burp'. This simplicity means that the Halfling Feast turns into a race to empty the Halfling bellies as soon as a Dish with a high Fullness value comes to the table. Once a Dish has been eaten, then it goes into a Halfling’s Victory Point total and thus towards his total at the end of the game.

If there is an issue with Halfling Feast it is that the status of a Dish between it being eaten—taken from the table as an action and it being consumed and going into a Halfling’s Victory Point total. There are various Action cards that reduce a Halfing’s Fullness Track such as 'Spell of Belt Reduction' or increase the Fullness value of a Dish like 'Talvon’s Elf Chutney'. The first of these forces a Halfling to expel Dishes, whilst the latter makes it too large and thus impossible to eat. The rules in Halfling Feast do not make clear that there is such a stage between eating and digesting, but it would seem to make sense if there were.

Physically, Halfling Feast is nicely produced, the artwork pleasingly and charmingly fulsome. In other words, there is something just a little grotesque about this card game, but that is perfectly in keeping with a competitive eating contest. Halfling Feast: a card game of competitive eating for 2-4 players is a silly filler of a game, perfect for filling in the corners between more substantial games.

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This review is of the original version of Halfling Feast that was launched at UK Games 2015 and came packaged in a wooden box. As with Rocket Race: A Steampunk Rocket Building Card Game, Triple Ace Games has now launched the game on Kickstarter. This new version of the game will include new text on the cards to make their effects clearer, bigger cards for each of the halflings, and more importantly, add two new halflings to increase the maximum number of players to six. If you enjoyed this review, please check out Halfling Feast: a card game of competitive eating for 2-6 players and support the Kickstarter.