We were given the opportunity to review On the Rocks by 25th Century Games. The premise is simple, you are a bartender trying to make the best drinks, faster, and better than the other bartenders and thus make the most money before last call. It is a unique premise and the theme is carried throughout the game in a charming manner. The game goes as far as to say the recommended age is 14+ (We Card).
Set up is easy but a little involved. You have silicon jiggers that hold marbles and drink cards for 4 types of glasses (old fashioned, hurricane, martini and highball). Depending on the player count you set up the appropriate number of marbles (which are cocktail ingredients), jiggers, and play mats. You have a handy little coaster that holds spill marbles and premium marbles as well. Overall you have a very busy looking game that is well organized by the great player mats, jiggers, marble bag and coaster.
During your turn you must do a few things. Your reference card will give you a great reminder of everything throughout gameplay but generally the first thing you do is roll the dice (two frosted/clear dice that look like ice cubes!). Secondly, you take your marble bag and take that many marbles, at random, from the bag (i.e. If you rolled 8, take 8 marbles). Third, you place a marble of your choice into the empty jigger (or your choice on the first turn) and continue to place them in order across as many as you can. You can pick whatever marbles you want to place in each jigger as you go, but you must distribute them as evenly as possible. Fourth, you select any jigger you want. Fifth, you place your marbles across your cocktails, keeping up to 3 extras in your slots).
Your goal is to complete the recipes on your cocktails by placing the appropriately colored marbles on the appropriate glass that corresponds with your recipe. There are 4 types of regular marbles (red, white, blue and green) and 3 special types. Spill marbles are black and will give you a small penalty such as removing all your red marbles from a cocktail. Spill marbles are resolved after taking your full turn. Clear marbles count as wilds and can be used as any of the 4 regular marble colors. Gold or “premium” marbles are special marbles that allow you to take 2 marbles of your choice from the bag. Any premium or spill marbles that are used go on the coaster slots and once the slots are filled, the marbles are returned to the bag. This was a nice way to balance the game so that there aren’t an absurd amount of premium marbles or spill marbles at any given time.
Any time you finish a cocktail recipe (after resolving any spill marbles) you take a tip card. Tip cards work in two ways. Firstly they serve as extra money in your pocket at the end of the game. However, they can also serve as an extra bonus for yourself or as a penalty to other players at the cost of money in your pocket. So say you really want to sabotage your opponents and you have a complaint tip, give it to them during your turn and they must resolve the consequences at the beginning of their turn. Perhaps you need a little help because you’re falling behind, use a tip card to roll an extra dice and get more marbles for ingredients. At the end of the night, your tips will either be extra money or will have helped you win the game (hopefully).
Players take turns until all 4 of their drinks are fulfilled, then they take a lemon wedge and place it on their round marker and take another 3-4 drinks and start another round of orders. The drinks are all unique and have different recipes, artwork and point values. This continues until someone completes their third order and “last call” is triggered. Last call is the classic, “everyone gets one final turn” in board games. After everyone has their final turn, you count up your drink total, any bonuses (depending on the player count) and any unused tip cards. Highest points win.
Language Barrier Playability: for the most part, this game is very reliant on symbols and color. The only downside is that the tips cards do require reading/understanding of language. One way to get around this is to simply say that the tips are just money and cannot be used for bonus actions. Overall playable with a language barrier with some minor tweaks to the rules.
Replayability: great! The game has a lot of cocktails to choose from and a lot of tips cards to keep things fresh whenever you play. This game can be played again and again without feeling stale.
Artwork: the artwork on the cards, instruction manual and play mats is very well done and works well with the theme of being a bartender. However, the box art seems out of place and the woman in the red dress feels as though she was added as an afterthought.
Quality: fantastic! The marbles are very colorful and the premium/gold marbles are beautiful. The jiggers are made of silicon and the player mats are recessed for pieces and organization. Very high quality pieces and sturdy construction. The marbles are even shatterproof since they are made of plastic!
Strategy: moderate. The main strategy points are the placement of marbles into the jiggers and whether or not you decide to use your tips as points or as the bonus. Outside of these two elements a lot is determined by luck. You can’t choose which cocktails you will end up with, you can’t choose your tips, and the marbles you take are random. This is not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just a little dependent on luck.
Instruction Manual: very well written. The rules are clear and examples are easy to follow.
Organization: very good! Everything fits neatly into the box. The jiggers stack well together and the marbles all fit well and don’t have to be squished down and nudged to fit.