Chai – Journal Entry #19


Sometimes, I want the atmosphere during a game night to be more relaxed and less competitive. We sometimes get tired of constantly fighting each other and trying to remember complex rules and mechanics that could help us beat our opponents to the ground. We’d rather play something that allows for a more friendly, family-like environment.

I think I’ve finally got a great game for our game nights! Last Christmas I received a deluxe copy of Chai along with metal coins and a playmat from Dan and Connie Kazmaier, the designers of the game. It was the perfect game for our game nights during the holiday season! I played it with my friends and with my family and they all liked it a lot.

How do you play Chai?

Chai is a set collection game that has the players take on the roles of tea house owners specialized in their own variety of tea. They compete to fulfill orders, putting together their tea leaves along with flavors and pantry ingredients to brew the perfect cup for each customer. Some of these orders may require more complex combinations of ingredients, but reward more points if you manage to fulfill them. You can buy some of the necessary ingredients from the market or you can pick them up from the pantry, depending on what you are looking for. Players can also take advantage of special abilities available during each round in order to make it easier to finish an order.

Chai player board
Each player has his own board to store ingredients on

Whenever a player finishes an order, they add it to their stack of filled orders and gains a tip from the customer, based on which cup they put their ingredients into. These tips usually represent a couple coins, but can sometimes award you with free ingredients of your choice from the market or the pantry. After five rounds, the players sum up the points gained from the fulfilled orders and their left-over earnings and the player with most points is the winner.

My thoughts on Chai

The deluxe edition comes with many exclusive features. These include metal coins and 1st player token, a GameTrayz insert, some extra cards and tiles and 2 dice for the AI solo variant. The playmat helps a lot with the game setup, having special areas for all the components of the game. The artwork on it is astonishing, fits the game perfectly and really adds to the experience.

Chai playmat
The playmat helps greatly with the setup

The game is such a great production! From the box to the components, the colors, the art and the amazing overall look, it is absolutely beautiful! You may say that I am biased to say so because my copy was the deluxe version, but worry not, the base game is just as good! Even without the metal coins and the other exclusive components that the deluxe version comes with, the quality is still top notch!

The graphic design makes the game stand out on the shelf! I can only say good things about the design of the cards as well: clean look, great, easy to understand symbology, with friendly characters that would appeal to both adults and children alike. Some customers can be recognized as well-known characters from books or movies (or even real people), such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland, while others depict generic people doing various activities.

Chai customer cards
The artwork is beautiful, having such vivid colors

The mechanics kind of reminded me of Splendor: you collect ingredients to serve customers that want to drink tea based on specific recipes. You can complete any of the available customers or you can reserve customers in order to fulfill their orders at a later time. There are not many rules to keep in mind, and if the other players already played Splendor before, it will makes it very easy to teach them how to play Chai

The mechanic that the market revolves around impressed me a lot. As you purchase ingredients, the tiles slide to the left and line up differently, making for a constantly changing market. When manipulating the market, you are trying to make your purchases more efficient and at the same time you want to avoid leaving cheap tile combinations available for the next player. Being a puzzle itself, the market is a nice mechanic that adds some strategy to the game while remaining not too complex.

Chai market
The market constantly changes as players buy ingredients

If you ever feel like playing Chai but the game night is still a couple days away, then you don’t have to worry about it, because it comes with a solo mode! This is a beat-your-own-score type of solo mode, as you have 10 turns to score as many points as you can. I’m a big fan of this kind of solo games, because they are a great exercise for finding the most efficient combination of actions for each round.

I must admit I first played the game this way to learn how it plays and I really enjoyed it! After the 10 rounds, you compare your final score to a table to see how well you did and I often finished with scores higher than the best rank in the rulebook, so I think that this solo mode may be a bit too easy if you want to compete against the rulebook.

It also comes with a co-op mode that allows you to play against the Chaiwala, an AI that doesn’t interfere on the market but snatches up order after order. He always takes the lowest or highest order available, based on the player count. It is a nice spin on the base game and makes for a different style of play, as you now cooperate in order to beat the Chaiwala instead of competing to be the best tea house manager.

As the game progresses, the tea cups get filled up

Overall we found Chai to be really fun, it provides a great, relaxed atmosphere to the table and is perfect for family game nights. It’s really easy to teach and to get it to the table, and the lovely artwork and quality components will attract many people! It also works well at all player counts, but I would recommend it with 3 or more players for as much fun as possible!

Useful info

Designer: Dan Kazmaier & Connie Kazmaier
Publisher: Steeped Games
Players: 1-5
Time: 40 min
Times played: 5
Full disclosure: A deluxe copy of  Chai was provided by the game designers.
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