Backed by 663 players on Kickstarter - all named, alphabetically, on the back cover of the rulesbook - ON the ROCKS from Pentree Games is a 1-4 player game featuring bar-tending of the highest order. The £40.00 average store price is a fair cost for the number of the components, all, bar one (pun meant), of which are very good in quality and as in-game pieces.
It is the sad-looking Lemon Slices that have the appearance of being added as an afterthought. Don't misunderstand me, I think Lemon slices are a good idea, as would be Cherries or better still, little umbrellas, (or cucumber, olives, orange slices, palm trees etc) it's just that they don't look as good as the other components.
I like to get my 'cons' out of the way as quick as I can, leaving the rest of the page for the 'pros'. Now I can get on with my appraisal of the game itself.
Each bartender has their own Drinks menu, a creative folding player board with images of the four most popular Cocktail glasses; Old Fashioned, Hurricane, Martini and Highball. There are sunken spaces on each glass where the drink components are to be placed. The Old Fashioned and Martini glasses each have 6 holes, the Hurricane and Highball glasses have 8 spaces.
The ingredients for the Cocktails are represented by small, different coloured, marbles, hence the indent/sunken spaces on the player boards and the game Coaster. Only Gold and Black marbles are placed on the Coaster. When 3 Gold marbles are in place they are immediately removed back to the bag, when 4 Black marbles fill their places on the Coaster, they too are immediately placed back in the bag. Neither Gold nor Black marbles are replaced into the bag at any time before all of their Coaster places are filled.
From the four separate decks of Cocktail recipe cards each player selects either three or four cards, always ensuring they have only one of any type/colour. They position these recipe cards below their Bar under their representive glasses - these are the drinks they need to make this Round - they each have a points value and display the necessary ingredients in number and position in the glass.
There are five different colours of ingredients; Green, Yellow, Red, Blue and White. There are also a few Wild ingredients - clear marbles - that can be used as substitute ingredients, four Black marbles (known as 'spills' and likely to cost you) and 3 Premium marbles which are Gold (these allow the player who uses them to select, collect and save 2 ingredients of their choice from the mixing bag. Once used the Gold and Black marbles are placed onto the Coaster - Black in the top 4 holes, Gold in the lower Yellow holes.
There are five Jigger (mixing) bowls in a bright blue rubber material. Depending on how many players place either 4 or 5 of these spaced around the Coaster. The ingredients (marbles) are shaken (not stirred) into the bag and the two dice rolled; the resulting total of the dice roll being the number of ingredients drawn out randomly by the chosen first player.
These ingredients are then deposited in the Jiggers, start with an empty bowl and put one per bowl in a clockwise order. The player has control of which marble they place in each bowl as long as they follow the clockwise order and do not jump any bowls.
After the first round there will always be one empty bowl and it is from this bowl that the new ingredients start. It is important to note that all player boards are visible all the time and that the player at turn selects from their hand which ingredient, again following the clockwise order.
On their turn each player has to follow a short order list. If there have been any complaint cards played against them these must be replaced before rolling the dice. After rolling the dice they can be flipped over (so one's become sixes and two's become fives etc) at the cost of one ingredient per die. Ingredients must come from drinks not from the three possible marbles in supply on the player's board.
Once happy with the dice roll the ingredients are drawn and placed into the Jiggers as explained above. Now the player must select one Jigger and place ALL of the marbles from it onto their board, filling only the glasses that have recipes or placing them in any empty spaces in your 3 space supply. You may never discard ingredients, thus you may not select a Jigger to empty unless you can use all of the marbles.
When a player has completed all of their order, 3 or 4 drinks/recipes (some glasses do not need to be full but they must have the required ingredients, and Cocktails may never be made in the wrong type of glass), the Round ends and the player places one of the Lemon wedges onto a space on their board. That player then draws 3 or 4 recipe cards and passes the player Turn marker to the next player.
The other players continue, part of a Round behind the player who completed their drinks order first. Play continues from the next player until one player has completed three drinks orders of 3 or 4 drinks each. After placing their third Lemon slice that players game is over. The other players have one more turn each - it clearly states ALL other players have one more turn, so this may give a slight advantage of players having an extra turn. For fair-play our group plays so that all players have had the same number of turns.
There are adjusted rules for one, two, three or four players, though overall we found three or four players was more enjoyable. It is easy to misread the rules for placing ingredients into the Jiggers, as we did on our first game. On our turns we took the dice number of marbles from the bag and then randomly distributed them, keeping clockwise from the empty Jigger. Once we realised our error it became a far more intriguing and strategic game.
It is simple enough for a fast paced family game, but it also has enough scope to be an interesting gamer's game. Fine fun for all.
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