One of the joys of opening a new child-friendly game is the process of letting the Beans explore the components with absolutely no context. Some games are magically intuitive, and my little ones wind up interacting with a game in a way that closely resembles how the designers intend, which is remarkable to watch! Other free play experiences wind up going in a completely different direction…
Big Bean, Little Bean, and myself recently had the opportunity to explore Kushi Express, a new release from Mandoo Games. Designed by Yohan Goh (the mind behind the Fold-it series of games, and Yummy Yummy Pancake – all of which have made their way to my wish list!), with artwork by the ever-popular Vincent Dutrait (if you’re looking for an under the radar game with Dutrait artwork, check out Roar: King of the Pride from IDW Games!). Kushi Express plays 2 to 4 players, and lasts about 30 minutes, recommended for ages 6 and up.
In Kushi Express, players race to complete orders in a busy food truck (the game box says restaurant, but I can’t help but think of it as a tasty food truck business!) that serves nothing but tasty barbeque skewers. Inside the box, we find four plastic skewer sticks, sixteen rubbery blocks in four varieties (green pepper, red tomato, beige shrimp, and brown beef), eight fabric strips in two flavours (bacon and cheese), thirty order cards (including one “closed” card and two “Touting” cards), and one large plate card.
To set up the game, players collect one of each ingredient type as well as a stick. The plate is placed at the center of the table, at an equal distance from all players. The “closed” card is shuffled with five other cards, and placed at the bottom of the deck. And with that, we’re ready to play Kushi Express!
All of the blocks and strips in the game contain holes, allowing them to be (somewhat) easily skewered on the stick. Each round of Kushi Express involves one card being flipped face-up onto the plate in the middle of the table, starting a frantic race for all players to see who can complete the order the fastest, delivering to the plate first! Some cards only require a single ingredient, because let’s face it, sometimes you’re just craving a grilled pepper on a stick. Other cards are much more complicated, with some requiring bacon and/or cheese wrapped items. The order of these items, and how the strips are wrapped, is super important, and a player is eliminated from the round if they place an improperly ordered skewer on the plate. Each order card gives a player points, and once the “closed” card is flipped up, the game is over, with the winner being the player with the most points!
One extra twist to the game is the “Touting” cards. If one of these is revealed, players quickly race to stand up from the table, toss their arms up in the air and shout “KUSHI!!!” The player who manages to do this first gets to steal a random card from another player, which can absolutely be the difference between victory or defeat.
Both Big Bean and Little Bean loved playing with the components of Kushi Express, which are of stellar and durable quality. When I looked at the box art and the contents within, it was pretty clear to me how the game was to be played, but my munchkins had their own ideas. Perhaps inspired by games like HABA’s Animal Upon Animal, they were absolutely convinced that this was a stacking game! At one point, Big Bean used the blocks and skewers to make a little window, which was she was extremely proud of. Little Bean’s favourite part was destroying Big Bean’s creations, and watching the rubber blocks bounce around on the floor. Silly beans!
Eventually, though, we set out several of the order cards on the table, and worked together to complete many of them. The strips were a challenge for both of them, and I was a bit worried that they were going to rip a new hole into them while trying to wrap their blocks! Despite that challenge, it was a fun tool to sharpen their fine motor skills, and they have pulled the game out several more times, unprompted by me. Always a good sign!
Kushi Express has also made it to our game night table several times, and as an adult party-style dexterity game, it’s been an absolute riot! When the pressure is on, I am an absolute failure at wrapping the blocks in cheese and bacon, and was amazed to see how quickly some friends could put together the more complicated orders. Most of the cards have some sort of ingredient wrapping involved, and finding an effective way to quickly execute that action is definitely critical to winning the game. As you may have guessed, I have yet to win the game, but still had great fun!
Although my beans aren’t quite yet able to play Kushi Express as intended, they still had fun with the bits, making it a great game to pick up if you’re looking for a title that can be enjoyed during the day with little ones, and also good for some laughs with the grown-up kids after the sun goes down. Our verdict…
Two Little Thumbs Up!
Two Big Thumbs Up!
Thanks to Mandoo Games for sending us a review copy!