Real-time board games exist in a tenuous space in the board game hobby. These are games where the game and its players are under time pressure. There’s often a sand timer or smartphone app that affords scant time to work towards victory. Sometimes, real-time games don’t have a turn order, and players act and move pieces around without any boundaries. Real-time games can seem intimidating, by introducing a new kind of restriction on an already challenging game.
But, hey, it sure seems exciting, doesn’t it? These are fast-paced games with no downtime. They reward quick thinking, which other board games don’t. And the new kind of challenge seems tantalizing.
Real-time games can be polarizing because of these factors. But there might be a game that bridges the gap. Fast Food Fear is a real-time party game with a couple of interesting twists that might make it a real-time game for people who don’t like real-time games.
Learning the Menu
As real-time games and party games should be, Fast Food Fear is simple. There aren’t a lot of rules, and there isn’t a lot of complexity, so players can keep all the rules in their head during play. As a bonus, this also makes Fast Food Fear easy to teach new players.
There are two decks of cards, one of Food Items, and the other of Customers with orders of those food items. There’ll be a queue of Customer cards face-up in the middle of the table, and a player can discard Food Items from their hand to satisfy one of the customers and remove it from the queue. Which is good - the players win when the Customer queue is empty.
On their turn, a player either fulfills a customer order; or plays an Event card (which will be explained soon); or discards a card and draws a new one.
There are two speedbumps here that give the game its challenge. One, when a player fulfills a customer order, they have to have all the items the customer wants. Players can’t partially fulfill an order, it’s all or nothing. Two, when the Food Item deck is empty, another Customer joins the queue, pushing victory a little further away. If there are Customers in the queue when the sand timer runs down, the players lose.
So what about this sand timer? And what about those event cards? Well, they interact in a really clever way. The sand timer, obviously, determines the pace of the game. It gives the players a limited amount of time to empty the customer queue, but not a whole lot. To help with this, some of the event cards will flip the sand timer over. Which seems neat, but here’s the clever part: players want to flip the sand timer over at the right time. Play that event card too soon, and you might actually take time away from the team. And of course, there are other event cards with other helpful - or not so helpful - effects.
Adam and Eve on a Raft with a Black Cow
Woven into those rules are a couple of really smart ideas that make Fast Food Fear stand out amongst other real-time party games. First off, Fast Food Fear is cooperative. This makes tackling the challenge of the game easier. When a game ends, there’s no jealousy or saltiness amongst winners and losers; everyone was working together on the same journey. And while there are indeed many other cooperative real-time games, Fast Food Fear also keeps a turn order. There isn’t the unmitigated chaos of other real-time games. Players take their turn one at a time, giving everyone an opportunity to act - but they must still act quickly! The turns are so simple and straightforward that there still isn’t any downtime. Players have just a few moments to consider their cards before their turn comes around again.
The combination of these two elements makes Fast Food Fear more accessible than other real-time party games. Fast Food Fear still provides all the excitement and tension of a real-time game, while easing off the time pressure and chaos. Combined with cute monster artwork that’s still very readable, Fast Food Fear may be the easiest real-time party game to get to the table
Fast Food Fear has found its way into our hearts at Level One Game Shop. When we’re exposed to so many different games, the subtle differences begin to shine through, and the subtle cleverness baked into Fast Food Fear has made it a favorite here. If you’re looking for an exciting family game to keep kids engaged, or if you’re looking for an exhilarating filler game for a party for grown-ups, we’re sure Fast Food Fear will satisfy.