What's Eric Playing? #194: Filler [Preview]
Full disclosure: A preview copy of Filler was provided by Green Couch Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
As I’ve mentioned several times, we’re in a bit of a Kickstarter rush right now, and I’ve been pumping out reviews of various Kickstarter games in a not-quite-futile attempt to stay on top of previewing. It’s mostly going okay. Today’s preview comes from Green Couch Games, makers of the Best Treehouse Ever series, which I’m really looking forward to.
In Filler, you play as a pastry chef just … filling pastries. Hopefully not using the machine I saw at a donut shop once that makes a terrible squelching noise and really turned me off of filled donuts for a bit, but that’s a conversation for another time. You need to make sure you wake up early to start prepping pastries, lest your opponents take your ingredients or fill your orders. Will you be able to push through the pastry preparation process?
Honestly, it’s very fast setup. Give everyone three Chef cards in the color they like best:
They’ll add these cards to their hands. Shuffle the recipe cards:
Yeah, it’s a preview copy; how’d you guess?
Either way, put 10 cards in the deck for each player (2 players, 20 cards; 3 players, 30 cards; etc), and then flip X + 1 cards face-up into the center, where X is the number of players.
Do all that and you’re ready to start!
Filler is a rapid-fire game of pumping pastries. On each turn, you’ll perform an action: Fill, or Restock. However, your turn order is determined by your bid, essentially.
At the beginning of a round, every player places a card from their hand face-down in front of them. The number in the top-left corner of the card is their personal Start Time. Once everyone’s ready, reveal. The player with the lowest Start Time goes first. All players now discard the card they used to determine Turn Order. It cannot be used for anything else this turn, other than Restocking. Now, when it’s your turn, perform one of the available actions.
When you perform a Fill action, you may fill one pastry. To fill a pastry, you must discard cards from your hand whose ingredients match the required ingredients for the pastry. You may need to discard multiple cards to perform this action, but a single card may only be used to fill one pastry. The other unused ingredients are just wasted, sorry. The ingredients a card produces are in the top-left corner, below the Start Time. The ingredients a card requires are in the dead center of the card below the pastry’s name. When you purchase a card, set it aside and add it to your hand at the end of your turn.
Some cards, when purchased, allow you to take an additional action, as specified on the card. The actions are:
- Extra Fill (The Pastry Filler Thing): You may perform another Fill action, provided you use cards that are currently in your hand to perform another Fill action.
- Extra Restock (The Hand of Cards): You may take all the cards in your discard pile back into your hand. You may not reserve any cards in the center.
When you restock, you take all the cards from your discard pile and put them back into your hand. You may then “reserve” a recipe by taking one of the cards in the center and returning it to the top of the deck. Now, not only can nobody else buy it, but it will also come back next round. Hooray!
Once every player has taken their turn, refill the center back up to X + 1 cards (where X is the number of players) and take the cards you got via a Fill Action and add them to your hand.
Play continues until a round in which the center cannot be refilled because the deck does not have enough cards left. When that happens, the game immediately ends.
You’ll notice there are three types of Victory Point symbols on the bottom left of some cards:
These correspond to one of three types of Victory Points:
- Stars (Customer Reviews)
- Money (Money)
- Trophies (Critical Acclaim)
Count the number of each and then gain a bonus 2 points for each set of (Star + Money + Trophy). The player with the most points wins!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
The gameplay doesn’t change much with player count differences beyond highlighting the importance of being first; if you’re going last, you’ll get the “worst” out of 5 cards at higher player counts rather than 3 cards, which may cramp your style if you’re doing that consistently. It also means that you might get locked out at a certain point, in that other players are restocking or filling with enough frequency that they can consistently block you from getting early start time cards.
This is a bit concerning at 5, but I haven’t noticed it being a problem as much at 2 or 3. If you’re playing at higher player counts, though, you should aim to get a < 6:00 start time pretty quickly, lest you get locked out entirely. Sure, it may not happen (if all 6 cards revealed have < 6:00 start times, you’ll likely get one), but there’s an increased risk. My personal sweet spot for this (yes, pun intended) is probably 3 – 4 players. There’s a bit more variety and variability without the risk of getting shut out.
- Going first is important. You should be buying at least one fairly early (< 5:45) card, if you can. This gives you a lot of flexibility, especially since you’ll flip over so many new cards each round, generally, unless your opponents are restocking constantly. This also lets you be strategic about what you buy, since you’re likely not going to be as wasteful since you can choose which fill action will use the fewest cards from your hand.
- Don’t forget to collect points. A lot of players get distracted by combos so they forget to buy cards that are actually worth things at the end of the game. The early cards tend not to have points, and the late cards have lots of points. Don’t buy too many late cards, otherwise you’ll be spending the entire game going last and lacking a lot of opportunity. That said, one player in one of my games consistently went last and still ended up with 22 points because he bought all the high-value cards that we overlooked.
- Don’t forget to collect different types of points, too. That +2 point bonus per set can be a huge game-changer. That’s usually how I end up winning the game, to be honest. It helps to keep track of how many you have of each victory point type during the game so that you can plan for which cards you need to buy to maximize your score.
- Multi-fill combos are great. Provided you have the cards for them, filling multiple cards in one turn is usually a solid play. It deprives your opponents of card options and gives you single ingredients to work with, meaning you don’t have to waste multiple ingredient cards to fill something.
- Comboing into a free restock is good, too. This is the optimal play, in my opinion, especially if you only have one early start time card. That said, it may not get you a lot of points, so try not to do that consistently. It helps if you can use this to get more than one early card, so that way you aren’t always trying to play that card so that you can go first.
- Try to figure out what your opponents are looking for. If you know what your opponents want or what the best available cards are, it’s not a bad idea to banish those to the top of the deck with your restock action. It means you have a shot at buying it next turn and your opponent can’t buy it. Bonus points if that means your opponent can’t buy anything.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- Easy to transport. The whole thing is just cards so it fits pretty easily in a Quiver or a travel bag, which is always nice. It’s also not a ton of cards, which is equally helpful.
- Nice theme. I appreciate (as I’m sure everyone will) the pun on Filler, and I love pastries, so, this whole theme just kinda works for me through and through. Good opening game for a brunch.
- I like bidding for turn order, as a mechanic. I particularly like that your resource cards are also your bids, forcing you to weigh whether or not you want to spend them for their ingredients or for their start time. It’s a good set of tradeoffs; keeps the round interesting.
- I like that you’re never unable to do something. Every player starts with one of every ingredient, so you can always buy something, and you can always Restock since you always have at least one card in hand. It makes the game feel well-designed, and I appreciate that.
- I get what the scoring is doing, and it’s interesting, but a little convoluted. The three different scoring types aren’t super clearly marked and missing the player aid on the first play made things a bit confusing. I’ve seen cleared it up and am doing a better job explaining it, but that definitely threw me off on my initial runthrough of the game.
- Your first few games are gonna take a bit of time. People will take some time to get used to the turn order and the available cards and what decisions they can make, and since you keep all the cards in your hand your decision space starts to expand as the game goes longer. I feel like that’ll slim back down once people are familiar with it, but it’s not the shortest filler I’ve played.
- I wish there were an easier way to see turn order. Turn order cards or something (similar to Honshu) could be a huge help, here, as all I really need is to be able to see who is going in what order. That will likely impact my turn a fair amount, as often it’s worth thinking about what other people might want / be able to buy and trying to block them, a bit.
- Several people had difficulty reading and understanding the cards as we were playing; the graphic design threw them off, a bit. The font on the cards is extremely hard to read from a distance, and it’s still very unclear to players which ingredients are the “provided” ingredients and which ingredients are the “required” ingredients (basically the cost vs. the benefit). I think that’s because many games (7 Wonders, for instance) keep the cost in the corner and the on-play benefit in the center, and this reverses that, so it’s thrown off a lot of players, in my experience. The start time is also very small, making it harder (than already mentioned) to determine turn order. I assume this will be changed in the final version, but it came up enough that it was worth calling out, here.
OVERALL: 6.75 / 10
Overall, Filler is a fun little game. It’s designed for a specific niche and I think it hits the mark well though; it’s light and reasonably easy to pick up. It doesn’t quite play as fast as I’d expect for a game aiming for the “filler” spot in your collection (as I find Love Letter / Lost Legacy are much more the speed and easy pick-up / put-down that I’d commonly associate with that). I think this occupies the “light game” space a bit more, rubbing elbows with games like Medici: The Card Game, The Fox in the Forest, or Harvest Dice. There’s nothing wrong with that category, just that’s how long it’s taken my groups to play and so that’s where it feels like it ends up, for us. Either way, if you feel like breaking out your chef’s hat and pumping up some pastries, Filler might be a good, light game for you!