If you’re familiar with the Overcooked video games, then you’ll be right at home with Kitchen Rush from Artipia Games and Stronghold Games. Designed by David Turczi and Vangelis Bagiartarkis, Kitchen Rush was first released in 2017 and then quickly followed by the Piece of Cake expansion in 2018.
The first thing you’ll notice about Kitchen Rush is the gorgeous artwork, which brings the hustle and bustle of the kitchen to life. The board displays the various cooking stations, as well as the pot washer, the store and a walk in refrigerator, not to mention the pass of course. Piece of Cake adds a three dimensional ice cream chiller plus a load of colourful ice creams that add further character to proceedings.
The base game is already a busy affair in its own right, with not just the on board artwork to consider but also an absolute ton of additional wooden components that represent meat, vegetables and other ingredients that will contribute towards the meals that you’ll be cooking. Perhaps most unusually, each of the players will be represented on board by sand timers, which might give you a bit of a hint towards the fact that Kitchen Rush is played in real time.
Just like Overcooked, Kitchen Rush is a game where the players work cooperatively in the same kitchen rushing from station to station in an attempt to manage and complete the dishes that they have taken from an order list. On a players turn, they will put a sand timer down on an open space and then take the action immediately (such as drawing an ingredient) but the catch is, that sand timer must stay in place until it runs out, at which time it can be picked up and used again.
Space at each station is limited, with some locations supporting just one player at a time (depending on player count.) This can result in some fairly hectic maneuvering as players jostle around each other to grab spaces and make sure their orders are fulfilled. Since Kitchen Rush is fully cooperative, it’s necessary to work collaboratively and plan effectively, so communication is key and it doesn’t do anyone any favours if you lock them out of a space at a key moment.
Each game of Kitchen Rush consists of four rounds, each of which will consist of the real-time section that I’ve just mentioned, plus a number of clean up steps that happen between each round. The real time section lasts just four short minutes and begins with the players taking an order card and a plate, then using their timers to take actions as needed. In addition to basic ingredients, it’s usually necessary to add seasoning as well, which like everything else, comes from a specific location.
At the end of the real time part of each round, the players check to see which orders have been satisfactorily completed, with any failed orders being rejected at a cost of points. At the end of the fourth clean up phase, the players check to see if they have completed the objectives that were dealt out during setup, which usually involve focusing on certain kinds of orders, making money or some other similar idea. Since this is a cooperative game, these objectives are shared, making them more or less difficult at different player counts.
In the base game of Kitchen Rush, orders range from simple dishes that require only two or three ingredients, to complex ones that have special requirements and numerous processes. The objective cards will dictate something that must be achieved by all, but there are also event cards that can disrupt the natural flow of the game, essentially making it harder, easier or at the very least, less predictable. A Piece of Cake adds desserts into the possible orders, which come with their own complexities in terms of how to construct a dish.
With the real time section done, the first element of cleanup involves checking the orders and then taking money and prestige for them. Players will then use the money they have to pay their workers, with each one taking three coins — or quitting, which results in a loss of prestige and the need to rehire them later! Even though Kitchen Rush is cooperative, clearly you may determine that the player who earns most prestige is the actual winner — but that’s up to you.
When you add A Piece of Cake into the mix, Kitchen Rush becomes an even larger undertaking. There are dessert orders which are mixed into the basic order deck, then there are various board extensions and additional pieces. Most notable are the dessert pieces themselves, which includes five different kinds of ice cream, several fruit or sauce toppers and, of course, nuts as an additional spice.
The expansion also includes a specialist timer, which is basically a new hourglass that runs for about twice as long as one of the normal ones and has some special effects that are either chosen (or dealt) via a set of cards. The specialist will have one of several different bonus actions, such as creative, which allows him to pay extra coins in order to take up to six different spices when the appropriate space is used.
When Kitchen Rush (with or without Piece of Cake) is laid out on your table, it’s an impressive sight. There’s the visual strength of it which I’ve already mentioned, but there’s also the theme which comes through really strongly. The components are great and it’s obvious once play begins that this is a busy, working kitchen. The fact that players are all on the same side is a good thing, as I think a fully competitive version of Kitchen Rush might end up being a bit too heated thanks to the already common bumping of hands and competition for spaces.
Unless played with the single “very easy” objective, Kitchen Rush is also quite challenging for players who don’t work well together, so there’s always going to be a level of challenge for new players. Thankfully, the playtime is generally under an hour once setup, which means that it’s possible to get two or three games under your belt in a single sitting, and I’ve found that players improve rapidly with repeat playthroughs, even when the scenarios are changed.
Whilst I’m on the note about setup, even the base game of Kitchen Rush is a large undertaking to setup, but with a Piece of Cake thrown into the mix as well, it takes an absolute age to prepare. Similarly, teardown time can be significant, especially if you do wish to separate the expansion components from the base game. With this in mind, what is actually a light, simple game to play has to be considered as more than just filler because it will dominate your whole evening.
Kitchen Rush occupies a rare space in my games library. It is one of the very few (but admittedly increasing) number of real time games that I actually like, and I think much of its success is related to the relevance of its theme. Kitchen Rush is fast, it’s frantic and in general, it’s tough — which is just what I want from a cooperative game. The exceptional build quality is the icing on the cake (pun intended) but the laborious setup and teardown can take its toll. Overall though, I’m a big fan of Kitchen Rush, and I think most others will be too. Recommended.
Kitchen Rush and Kitchen Rush Piece of Cake expansion are available now, find them over on Amazon.