Bacon, Letters, and Tomatoes: Review

Everything is better with bacon. And in today’s review, Fairway taste tests that theory in this burger-building, word game, Bacon, Letters and Tomatoes. 

Bacon, Letters and Tomatoes is a two- to four-player word-building game by Pacdude Games in which players are tasked with spelling words to make complete burgers that “match” open tickets.

Initial Impressions

  1. The art is really quite vibrant and fun. The food art has that recognizable mobile-app, vector feel.
  2. The word-building mechanism isn’t “unique” but establishing that burgers must have a bun adds quite the challenge.
  3. There is definitely form factor issues with using the double-sided cards in which the letters don’t fan out easily. This means that it’s hard to rifle through your cards to figure out which letters you have and which of the cards have buns.

How to play

In Bacon, Letters, and Tomatoes, players are trying to spell words to build “word burgers” in order to fulfill outstanding guest checks. The guest checks are worth a number of points plus a tip.  The game ends when a player completes three guest checks.

To start, the decks of ingredient cards, guest checks, and tips are separated and shuffled.

Each player is dealt a starting hand of eight ingredient cards.  The ingredient cards are double sided (top and bottom). Each side has an ingredient, a letter and a dollar value. Throughout the course of the game, players will play ingredient cards from their hand in a stack to form a word burger. The value of the word burger is the sum of all the value of the cards in the stack.  There only real limitations to word burgers: first, burgers must have a top bun to start and a bottom bun to end (though you can have bottom buns as intermediate layer. Second, breads must be separated by another ingredient. Third, no word burgers taller than twelve cards.

The guest check cards have a number of burger orders and a point value. The burger orders are for some “value” of word burger.  To complete the guest check, players much have one word burger that is at least the requested value for each order on the check.  If they do, the player collects that guest check, will score that number of points, and earn a “tip card.”  The tip card are a random number of additional points.

Play begins with a first player and continues clockwise.  On your turn, you can do any of the following things until you’re done or run out of cards: start, build or finish word burgers; cash out a guest check; discard cards and draw new ones to replace them; trash a started word burger; and, at the end, finish your turn and draw back up to eight cards.

Players can have at most four word burgers going in front of them. You must start your word burger with the rounded top bun. The word is then built, in order, by stacking ingredients on top of it. A word burger is done by adding a flat, bottom bun. During a turn, you don’t need to “finish” any burgers and you can continue them on subsequent turns.

If a player has enough completed word burgers, he or she may cash out and collect a guest check and tip.  The burgers don’t have to be “exact” but must be at least the values indicated.

Once a player has done all that he or she can do, play passes to the next player. The game continues this way until someone finishes three guest checks.  At this point, all the other players have “one more turn” to finish their burgers and final scores are summed up. The player with the highest score wins.

On the green

Art and theme.  Okay, the art and theme were an instant draw. Who wouldn’t like a game about building burgers in a diner? The art works well too: shiny, bright, vibrant illustrations that look tasty.  Well done. [ed. ugh.]

Learning and play time.  This game is a breeze to learn.  Spell words, match tickets, score points.  The limitations on word building were also generally sensible (start and end with a bun, no bread touching) that it made sense.  We were up and running in no time. Also, none of our games took much more than about 30 minutes even with the higher player counts, but I’d think most were nearing the 20 minute mark.

Burger building & guest check mechanism.  This word-building mechanism is clearly the draw. The combination of burgers people came up with wasn’t quite as crazy as the recipes in Foodtown Throwdown and yet it was fun nonetheless.

The guest check mechanism was interesting for one important reason: it worked to normalize the difference between players with larger vocabularies.  It didn’t really matter than you could spell a huge valued words. Those values were wiped out in favor of “middle” valued words required on most checks. So while the worked, they weren’t necessary. Really clever.

Where it comes up short

Format. If there’s one place that this game falls down its on the difficulty of actually building the burgers.  Lots of flipping, spinning, and rifling through your eight cards to find what you’re looking for.  It would have been super helpful if the cards put the letters in the actual corners of the cards along with a bun icon so that they were readable without a lot of sorting.

This was exacerbated somewhat by eight cards in a hand (i.e., 16 letters).  That’s quite a bit of sifting through of cards to formulate burgers.

The only mitigating factor is that you had plenty of time between plays to do some strategizing.

Gap between plays.  In many ways this game is a multiplayer solitaire. Players don’t really have to interact with each other much. While there’s some competition for the guest checks, they’re quickly replaced with new ones anyway which “usually” hit on words you were building. The likelihood that another player’s word burgers interfered with your game play was pretty low. This meant that there was a good amount of “not playing” especially with three and four players.  Turns could take awhile as other players worked really hard to use all eight cards.

Box.  The game is for sale on The Game Crafter. I’ll note that it uses my least favor box from there: the medium game box. With luck, the designer will think about using another box (medium pro box or small pro box), or, if the designer brings this to Kickstarter, using a more custom box.

In the hole

Bacons, Letters and Tomatoes is a fun addition to a word game collection. The light-hearted theme and bright illustrations breaths good life into the word-game genre. Like any word game, this one will favor those with larger, more robust, vocabularies, but the guest-check mechanic normalizes this result, which was a nice feature. If you’re a fan of word games, you should definitely check this one out.

The game is available on The Game Crafter.

Bacon, Letters and Tomatoes is in the hole for a par.

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