By Raymond "DuMeeple" Dumee on March 21, 2019
In the Kingdom of Gloutama, it's a feast, because it is the eve of Festo! Therefore, all the halflings in the kingdom are preparing for tonight's festivities and are busy cooking and baking their very best recipes. I like board games and I like food so, to me, this looks like a match made in heaven. Let's see what all the halflings in the Kingdom come up with when they create the most delicious recipes to celebrate the beginning of autumn.
The board game that I am talking about is also called Festo! and it is published by Belgian board game makers, Game Brewer. Festo! is a worker placement, ingredient gathering, food creating board game. The box is covered with a great piece of cover art, which perfectly fits the theme of the game. Inside the box, you find a game board and five player boards, each with its own coloured meeples and special discs. Apart from this, you'll find one start player card, five player aids cards and fourteen event cards, Three dice and three cover tiles, a bunch of cardboard dishes, a whole lot more ingredient cubes and a pile of victory point tokens.
Using all of these things, you can set up your game. The gameboard itself is divided into a market area and a dishes area. All ingredients must be placed in the supply cache of the matching character in the market area and in the grocery. All dishes are placed in and near the dishes area. Each player gets one player board, six helpers and two special discs in their own colour. A random chosen start player gets the start player card, the dice and the cover tiles. The victory point tokens can be set aside next to the board. Lastly, four event cards will be drawn from the event cards pile. So, when all of this is done, we can let the festivities begin!
Festo! is played in four rounds, each of these rounds consisting of four phases. The aim of the game is to acquire the best possible ingredients from the market, which entails a lot of haggling. This is done by placing your helpers at said markets in the shopping and action phase. With a roll of dice, the start player determines which markets will be closed and where you cannot place your helpers that turn, which is very unfortunate when you're in dire need of a specific ingredient... wait, do I hear a troll laughing in the background? Oh well, never mind. When the ingredients from the markets are divided, it's your task to acquire the most delicious dishes in the cooking phase.
At the busy markets, you can get your delicious meat from the nasty Troll, Sweet honey from the wicked Pixies (which they probable stole somewhere), and the finest spices are sold by the Orcs. Quick tip; don't try to get a bargain from the Orcs, or they will probably eat you for lunch. Mushrooms, brought to market all the way from the enchanted forest are for sale at the Magician. If they run out of magic mushrooms to get you into la-la-land, you can buy salt, which works as a wildcard and can be used as any ingredient. At the Elf's shop, you can get juicy fruit, while the trustworthy Dwarf can provide you with scrumptious potatoes. This brings us to the last stop in the market area, the Grocery store, where various ingredients are sold. At each of these shops, the player with the highest number of helpers there gets first pick of the available ingredients.
When a market vendor is running out of ingredients and you still have helpers in their helper area, you can choose to use one's character ability. These abilities go from moving one ingredient at the markets or the grocery store to or move one helper to another helper area, to reserve a dish in advance in the dishes area or place your special discs in the helper area, these will be treated as extra helpers in the next round. The Grocer doesn't have an ability but when you have the majority there you can choose any ingredient available in the store.
Overall, the group of vendors are a very lovely group of trash selling scum, if you ask me. But, being a Halfling, preparing for the biggest festival of the year, you will have to work with these friendly-acting shopkeepers. Plus, with all the character abilities in the game, you can do a very good part of backstabbing of your very own and thwart your opponent's plans at every turn. After the fourth round is completed, the game ends and players add up the victory points they gathered by cooking dishes, the number of different types of dishes, each left over ingredient and victory point tokens collected during play. The player with the most victory points wins the game and is considered the Master Cook of the Festo! Festival or, better yet, the Kingdom of Gloutama.
I think Festo! is a perfect example of a really cool and fun board game. The game quick to learn and easy to understand, due the use of symbols and smart design of the board. The fantasy theme and the art work are a good match with the game's core mechanics. Plus, I must admit that I really like to play with Trolls, Orcs and Pixies... I mean, who doesn't, right? Personally, I don't really get why there is a fifth player option. By adding the extra player, the rules change slightly. Overall this, to me at least, seems a bit unnecessary, but what the hell; why not! The game itself is well balanced and fun to play. Of course the markets are overcrowded when playing with more players, but this just adds to the fun to be had! I can't do anything but heartily recommend this game if you like worker placement games with a nice setting. The core mechanics, fun theme and simply great artwork make it a true pleasure to play Festo!
Year of release: 2018
Designer: Arve D. Fühler
Artist: Michel Verdu
Players: 2 - 5 players, ages 8 & up
Playtime: approx. 60 minutes