Over the years we’ve reviewed an absolute mass of board and tabletop games, in fact, we’ve got over 400 tabletop reviews on the site already. What you might not know is that we’ve got a penchant for food-themed ones; We’ve actually reviewed over 25 of them over the past few years. As such it makes sense that we pull together a best-of list, a kind of master list of the best food-themed board games.
However, with so many games out there it makes much more sense that we also spend some time highlighting what makes each of them so great, why we’ve picked them out from the dozens and dozens of other titles; and that we also outline how strong the theming actually is. It’s quite easy to layer a theme, or setting, over the top of a functional set of game mechanics, but this list will celebrate those which were clearly designed with the food, or drink, theming from the ground up.
Best Quickplay Food-Themed Board Game: Frenemy Pastry Party
Sometimes you don’t want to play a long game, sometimes you want something quick and accessible that you can play as a warm-up game before a larger game, or even just as a throwaway game while you’re waiting around for time to pass. Frenemy Pastry Party is easily one of the best food-themed board games out there, and it can be played in a snap.
The concept of Frenemy Pastry Party is incredibly simple, you’ve got to work together with the other players to create beautiful pastries. Points are assigned by completing cakes or by contributing ingredients to other players’ creations, however, there’s a bluffing element at play because each player has a character card that awards bonus points based on certain qualifiers: Have the most strawberry cards in play at the end? That could be enough bonus points from your character card in order to push you into first place. As such there’s a little room for deception; Players will often only have a percentage of the cards they need to complete a cake (and, as such, bank the ingredients) and so they’ll need to ask others for help. The other players will gain points for contributing, but if they’re on to you then they might not want to help at all.
We reviewed the original version of Frenemy Pastry Party back in 2019, however, it’s now available with localised rules due to a crowdfunding campaign that came later.
Best Family-Friendly Food-Themed Board Game: Nice Buns
Some board games can be incredibly complex or can set players against one another in a way where there’s a lot of options, plays, or rules in effect at any given point in time. Nice Buns is an incredibly approachable game with an incredibly clear set of rules that mean that it only takes a few minutes to fully grasp the rules.
Nice Buns is extremely easy to play. You have to collect three buns of the same colour and then bank them, ultimately aiming to have three sets of three different colours banked. How you gain buns is based on a series of dice rolls. There’s a small die, a medium die and a large die, each of these have different effects: Small takes from the bun bag (at random), medium lets you take from the communal plate and large interacts with other people around the table. The first twist comes in that you need to divide these three dice into two piles, and then the player next in line picks which pile they want. As such, you can play smart and make one pile look more attractive to the other player in order to pull off a great move yourself, but, ultimately, Nice Buns moves so fast that there’s no need for a big play around the turns. The second twist comes in that you can’t have more than three of a bun colour on your plate, so you can ruin other player’s plates if you feel like sabotaging other people, but you’ll have to get the right die to do that, and both options to get die to your hand involve other players.
We reviewed Nice Buns back in November of 2021, making a very big deal about the sleek design and fun components.
Best Engine Building Food-Theme Board Game: Viticulture (Essential Edition)
Despite the somewhat ‘relaxed’ appearance of winemaking, there’s an incredible number of things that need to be balanced in order to successfully run a vineyard. Even the wine-making part of it, which Viticulture focuses on, includes several steps: you have to pick a vine, plant it, harvest it and make the mushed grapes into wine.
Unlike real life though, you’re battling over shared space. There are only so many workers and so many places you can use them, if you wake up earliest then you can get your workers out to the field first — which might mean that others simply can’t get out there — which means you can hit every note of the wine production… however, those who don’t make it out first receive bonuses. These bonuses might open up other routes, cards that give you access to more grapes or allow you to attract different buyers. It’s an unforgiving game, and it can definitely feel like you’re on a losing streak at times, but as Viticulture opens up and you start upgrading your set up it won’t matter as much if you don’t hit every link in the production chain.
We reviewed Viticulture (Essential Edition) back in 2017, commenting that the refinements made in the new edition (including a worker who defies normal rules) massively improved the original release.
Best Intuitive Food-Themed Board Game: Chocolatiers
If life is like a box of chocolates, then Chocolatiers is all about making life work, at any cost. While we praised Nice Buns for its incredible accessibility, Chocolatiers has got an even more streamlined gameplay loop, and while it has plenty of room for tactical play, most of the thinking will be about end-game score rather than the game in play.
That’s not to say that it’s an incredibly simple game. The aim is to complete boxes of chocolates and these are on show in a communal area, as are a selection of available pieces to take. In fact, if people are watching each other’s hands then there are only a few ways to keep the other players unaware of your plans… those are either using your starting hand in a slow, tactical manner or by using the wild chocolate token to claim a box ahead of other players before you finish them. Ultimately you’re aiming to complete six orders, building a mega box of chocolates, and once that happens everybody scores up based on the frequency and any patterns that form in their completed box.
We reviewed Chocolatiers back in 2019, celebrating its ease of set-up and play.
Best Competitive Food-Themed Board Game: Churrascaria
Churrascaria is a game all about filling up your stomach with as much meat as you can, whether you steal it from other people’s plates or do it by filling your own plate. It’s a strategic game that involves using action cards against one another to force them to eat healthier foods rather than meats, and managing your own request token to make sure that the biggest, meatiest dishes come to you.
It’s a game with absolutely amazing artwork, and it also came with a cookbook filled with fantastic Brazilian recipes. Gameplay was fast and competitive, with every turn seeing players flipping over request tokens to try and sabotage other players. I don’t think anybody actually saw through any of their initial plans, with rough alliances and rivalries forming very quickly. The reason for this is the snappy decision-making and limited options available in each round; flipping over any request token, eating an item, playing an action card or cycling any number of cards from your hand with those from the deck. Because of this, and the fact that you can take any two of those options, most people lean towards one move of sabotage while trying to cycle their hands… and sabotage, in turn, means that most people aren’t drawing more food to their plate through tokens.
We reviewed Churrascaria back in 2019, and couldn’t help but comment on how delicious the artwork looked.
Best Production Line Food-Themed Board Game: Chocolate Factory
If you’re looking for something you can lose a good hour to, or where you can continue refining and building on your systems in order to score big, then you can’t really go wrong with a production line, engine builder or deck-builder game. We’ve already dipped into Engine Builders earlier, with Viticulture, but Chocolate Factory requires a massive shoutout here because it has a literal production line in it, as well as a conveyor belt of sorts.
Players are placed around a factory, complete with a ‘sliding’ conveyor belt. They must use the options available to them to manufacture cocoa into progressively more complicated chocolates. However, each level of refining uses more coal, and coal is gained through burning, or wasting, chocolate. You’ll need to upgrade your equipment in order to get more things into play, but while you’re doing that there are more and more options for players to bank what they’ve built for endgame points. You can choose to focus on trying to play a long game if you wish, but you’ll be left behind in points as other players snap up smaller orders… that said, the bigger orders give massive rewards, but take multiple stages of refining. It’s a balancing act, for sure, and with a great theme that runs throughout.
We reviewed Chocolate Factory in early 2020, when we expressed delight in the ‘conveyor’ mechanic, although noted that the early stages were quite divisive.
There are tons of food-themed board games out there, but these are the ones we feel are the best of the best! Do you have a favourite food themed game?