Caffeine Hit, made by Ridley's Games, is a card game that embraces humankind's greatest joy in life: becoming caffeinated. Players must collect the most Caffeine Points to win the game and can utilise a few sneaky beverage-related tactics to ensure that other players lose their precious caffeine (a fate worse than death, obviously).
Free Cup, Anyone?
Being a pocket-sized card-based game, it's safe to say that Caffeine Hit doesn't take up much room on the shelf. Perhaps because of this, Ridley's Games has made the slightly strange decision to bundle the game with a travel coffee cup emblazoned with the Caffeine Hit logo – which, I have to say, does draw the eye when you're perusing board games in a shop.
It's also an amusingly obvious marketing tactic: "You there! You like coffee, don't you? Buy this game!" I half-expected the coffee cup to be a storage holder for the game, but as the cards come in their own little box – it really is just a free cup.
At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss Caffeine Hit as a gimmick. However, once you actually start playing, it is surprisingly engaging and funny.
The cards are split into two types: Drink Cards and Action Cards. Drink Cards represent a wide range of hot beverages, and their points value corresponds to how much caffeine they contain: from the mighty Cold Brew, which awards a whopping 12 points, to the innocent-looking-but-deadly decaf drinks, which have minus points. Action Cards allow you to increase or decrease drinks point scores in various ways to the detriment of your opponents.
The artwork on the cards is simple but decidedly adorable – who knew they could make cups of tea/coffee look so cute? My particular favourite is the Earl Grey, a smart little teacup wearing a monocle with a handlebar moustache and smoking a pipe, with a speech bubble that says "By Jove!"
One downside to the cards is that some seem to be slightly mis-printed, with the image not quite in the middle of the card and uneven borders. It doesn't affect play at all (and may be different in other sets, I haven't been able to compare), but it's a little annoying once you've noticed it.
Each turn, players can choose one of four options:
- Play Drinks Cards on your own 'Coffee Table'.
- Play Drinks Cards on an opponent's Coffee Table.
- Play one Action Card.
- Discard cards and re-draw.
Some of the Drinks Cards need to be played in sets to score points, and there are other caveats to navigate – the Cold Brew may be worth 12 points, but if another player places a second Cold Brew on your table it cancels out any points.
A mini-game within Caffeine Hit is the Espresso Challenge, where players must collect the most espresso beans (which only feature on purple Espresso cards). The player who has the most espresso beans at the end of the game is rewarded with 12 points; all other players receive zero points despite their hard-earned bean gathering.
It sounds straightforward, but it can be surprisingly difficult to score points, particularly if you don't receive the right number of cards to make a set or if you're the target of Action Cards, which can easily upset the best-laid of plans. If you're really unlucky, your opponents could play a Complimentary Cookie on a decaf drink (doubling the number of negative points), play a Drinks Spill and remove your valuable Espresso or Cold Brew cards, or hide their valuable cards using a To Go Cup, stealing victory right at the end of the game.
By the end, you'll be cursing those cutesy decaf drinks: "DAMN YOU, DELICIOUS HOT CHOCOLATE!"
Final Thoughts on Caffeine Hit
OK, so Caffeine Hit isn't an epic, hardcore, table-engulfing, hours-long, complex game. However, it is a lot of fun, and its design and humour make it worthy of recognition.
Gameplay is simple enough to pick up really quickly, but it has a level of complexity that keeps play engaging. The variety of drink types and actions (each with their own individual artwork) mean that you can discover new cards every game, and you will have to constantly change your tactics to accommodate a different set of Drinks and Actions.
The artwork is simple but effective and will amuse children and adults alike (having witnessed Cold Brew aficionados, the personified version looks EXACTLY how I imagined). Also, you get a free travel cup - what more do you want?!