In Pressure Cooker, a new game from Rio Grande Games, two to four players become chefs in a crowded kitchen, each competing to complete orders as fast as they can.
Players set out four rows of colored tables, each with a numbered table. Then, each player gets a kitchen player mat with four rows corresponding to the colors of the tables and numbered sections. Players place order cards upon each of the tables that contain the various ingredients each table needs as well as other information. In between all of the players is a pile of upside down ingredient tiles that players will need to fulfill the orders.
Over the course of three rounds players will frantically search through the tile pile searching for what they need to fulfill as many orders as the can. Players can only use one hand, must bring the tile back to their kitchen to look at it, and if they don't want it, must put it back into the pile face up. Once a player has placed all of the tiles corresponding to an order card on his kitchen mat, he or she places an order token and yells “order up.” Each order card has spots for only three completed orders with diminishing point values.
As soon as one player has completed a set number of orders depending on the round, he or she may flip over a sand timer. While that player may take no more actions, the other players have only a limited time to complete the orders they're working on.
Once the round is completed the players must score their orders. If orders were handled incorrectly, or if the ingredients weren't of a high enough quality value (numbers on the chits and order cards give you this information), the player will not score those points.
All points are added up and applied to special dials on the kitchen mat. After three rounds, each player's lowest-scored kitchen mat is considered, prompting players not to neglect any of the table rows. The player with the highest score wins the game.
Pressure Cooker generally succeeds in creating a fun, fast-paced, real-time game. It is a race filled with frantic energy and more than a little frustration when it turns out orders weren't properly completed. Pressure Cooker contains little deep strategy, and some players might be turned off by that.
With its fun theme, however, players who enjoy the pressure of fast paced tile placement games will no doubt get a kick out of Pressure Cooker.
Pressure Cooker is recommended for ages 8 and up and plays in about 45 minutes.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org