One Board Family: Stew Review
Can I let you in on a little secret? I haven’t played a board game in like two weeks! I know, the board game reviewer hasn’t played board games. What am I doing telling people what they should and shouldn’t be playing?
Well, life is a bit hectic. At the time of this writing, final exams are taking place and final projects are being submitted. So I got lots of stuff to grade, and we’re trying to prepare for a baby…. it’s all just crazy hectic at our house.
So when life gets chaotic, we don’t always have time to play a complicated game with lots of setup time. We really might just have time to break out a deck of cards – and the fewer cards, the better. And we might need the rules to be simple so that we can just jump right into the game.
Mmm Mmm Good
Enter Stew, a game released in 2018 from Button Shy Games and designed by Jason Glover. Consisting of only 18 cards, it’s a simple, portable game that you can learn in two minutes and that you can play in about the same amount of time. To me, it’s the epitome of filler games, serving as a great placeholder while you wait for other people to arrive. But it can also work by itself as a quick, fun way for a group of folks to pass five minutes.
In Stew, two to four players take on the role of farmers who are creating a stew from what they’ve grown (or found) in their fields. On your turn, you draw a card. You can then place that card in the stew – a central pile of cards – or you can use that card to satisfy one of the six vermin that are trying to steal some of the goodies from your pot. At any point during the round, a player can shout “Stew!”, which causes the game to end.
What’s In the Pot?
The cards that are in the pot are then revealed, and the vermin that have not yet been “fed” will likely take some of the cards out of your pot. The raccoon, for instance, will take a potato card, while the fox will steal your high-value chicken.
Different foods give you different amounts of points. Some are just worth a certain number every round, like leeks and carrots. Others, like garlic and potatoes, have varying point values depending on how many of that type of the card ends up in the stew.
After taking care of the vermin and figuring out how many points everything is worth, the total points of the stew are calculated. If the stew is worth 12 or more points, the player who called “Stew!” gets 2 victory points. Otherwise, every other player gets 1 victory point. Play continues until someone gets 5 victory points (or until you get bored, honestly), at which point the player with the most victory points wins.
I Like My Stew Simple and Straightforward
I kinda feel bad for writing out that description, because I believe it does the game a disservice. The game plays so smoothly – you simply look at the card and either put it in the pot or on a vermin. No real opportunities for analysis paralysis, though I’m sure some will still fall victim. Given the limited options for moves, you can’t really overstrategize. You really can either try to get as many points in the pot as possible, or you can try to sabotage the pot and convince others to call “Stew!” and lose. Both strategies are equally as likely to be successful, so you can easily switch between them based on what cards you draw.
The game isn’t one that you should be taking very seriously, and I feel like the artwork and some of the game elements add to that. I’m a huge fan of the back of the cards – something about that face just makes me smile. I also love the rock card, which causes you to lose points if it is added to the stew. I don’t know why, but I always get a kick out of doing this. It’s dumb, but each time it shows up after talking about carrots and leeks and chicken and whatnot, I always giggle a little bit.
It Eats Like a Meal
When I’m looking for a filler game or something that’s just going to pass the time, I need two things – something that we can learn quickly, but that also won’t wear out its welcome quickly. This is a difficult balance to strike. Usually, if it can be taught in two minutes or less, it becomes stale after three or four rounds because there isn’t enough variety in the actions. Stew seems to avoid that staleness with the randomness of the cards and the opportunity to sabotage.
Revealing the cards when someone says “Stew!” is one of those gaming moments that I treasure that gets everyone involved, no matter how experienced of a gamer they are. It’s very similar to Liar’s Dice, when the last person reveals what they have rolled. I think players love it because they are all involved – everyone has made a decision on whether or not “Stew!” should have been called, and they are all equally excited to find out if they were right.
I’ve already written way too much about such a simple game, but I want you to understand its role in your game collection. You won’t make this a centerpiece. You won’t feature it on a game night. Some people might not even remember they played it at the end of the night. But it’s one of those games that I think every good game night host needs to have. Something that you can quickly grab off the shelf, teach, and play while someone goes to get a bite to eat or to check on the kids. You need those types of games to keep the momentum going, and Stew is one of the best candidates to fill that position.
You can get a copy of Stew from Button Shy Games’ website. Check out the print n’ play option for a more affordable approach!
You’ll learn it in less time than it took to read this review
It’s just so silly
Can begin so quickly and can end just as fast
Not a lot of… meat to it?
Some luck involved, which might bother some people