Review: Surrealist Dinner Party

If you like Surrealism, parties, and drama, you’re going to like Surrealist Dinner Party. Honestly, though, if you have no interest in surrealists, you might want to give this one a pass. Here’s my take on the game, which I backed on Kickstarter.

Two player game IRL

Surrealist Dinner Party is a card game for 2-4 players, and plays in 30-45 minutes. The basic idea of the game is that you are throwing a party for a number of surrealists, and you want to send them home satisfied. Each surrealist needs some combination of things to be satisfied – food, drink, dessert, compliments, or drama, all of which are tracked with tokens that sit on corresponding spaces on the surrealist’s card. When you send a surrealist home, you collect all the matching tokens – but not any mismatches. If all spaces are filled correctly, you get two bonus tokens.

The serving tray partway through the aperitifs course.

The game runs, as is appropriate for a dinner party, in courses. Each course serves up a limited number of food, drink, and/or dessert tokens. On your turn, you can try to satisfy needs by taking a token from the serving platter and placing them on one of your guests (or, to mess up another player or progress to another course, send the token back to the kitchen). OK, but what about compliments and drama? This is where things get interesting. Instead of taking a token from the tray, you can specify one of your guests to give compliments or start drama. That guest gets the appropriate token, as does a guest to his or her right or left – including other player’s guests. This provides an interactive element where you can give unwanted tokens to your opponents to take up space on their cards and reduce the benefits they get when the guest goes home.

Ce n’est pas un pipe. There’s been some drama happening here!

There are two other possible choices for your single action on your turn. You can send a guest home and/or deal a new guest from your hand of six; however, you can only have three guests in front of you at a time. Guests also have special abilities, and those marked with a plate can be activated as an action – this means you can activate ALL plate abilities in one turn. For example, one guest might be able to take two tokens from the tray rather than one, while another might let you discard unwanted tokens from your guests.

The basic mechanics of the game are pretty simple, and it’s very easy to teach. It works well at both two and four players, although more seems to be better in this case. One significant expansion is available, Faux Pas cards, which add extra points(tokens) if you meet certain criteria at the end of the game, like having the most drama tokens. These, combined with the special abilities and the fact that not all food and drink items are available at any given time, really add to the strategic depth of the game.

Where the game truly shines, though, is the theme. Mechanically it’s a pretty straightforward set collection game, but thematically… well, let’s just say it’s very enjoyable to say “Salvador Dali is starting some drama!” The components are beautiful in the Kickstarter edition, with a little silver serving tray and art from each surrealist on their guest card. The game also includes a little book with biographies of the artists and writers depicted. There’s no question that the theme adds tremendously to the fun here, so if the theme doesn’t appeal, the rest of the game might just be average. As for me, I’m married to an artist and have another in my gaming group, and they absolutely loved the game (although we had to remind Lillie to play once or twice because she was reading the biography book). So if Surrealism is your jam, I highly recommend Surrealist Dinner Party.

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