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Compete to create the most fabulous latte art and win the judges with your expertly poured brew!

Currently on Kickstarter, Latte Throwdown is the most recent game from Analog Game Studios. It is a light, competitive dice game, set at a latte art competition.

Gameplay

The board is placed in the center of the table. The latte cards are shuffled and four (three in a two player game) are revealed, and placed face up. The barista cards are also shuffled, and three are revealed. Each player chooses a color, takes the five matching dice, and places their player token on the scoring track. Finally, ten surplus dice are placed within reach and the game begins.

On your turn you roll all your available dice and then choose to add some or all of them to latte cards and/or use them to activate barista cards. You may assign dice to multiple latte cards in a single turn and multiple barista cards.

Each latte card requires two-to-five dice to complete and lists what numbers they need to be. When you assign dice to a latte card, you do not need to assign all the required dice at once. Dice you assign will stay on the card until the card is completed (by you or an opponent) or at the start of your next turn if you choose to recall any of your assigned dice before you roll. Each latte card also lists how many points it is worth, from two to five.

Barista cards each require one to two dice of certain values in order to activate them. They grant you various special abilities. They might have you add some surplus dice to your dice pool, or allow you to change a die’s number, or even gain a point. You can also use two dice of matching value in order to discard all the barista cards and replace them.

After you have assigned your dice, you take any latte cards you completed, everyone takes back any dice they had assigned to that card, and you move your scoring token up the relevant number of points. You do not replace the completed latte card on the board, however. Next, you return to your dice pool any dice you still have on the barista cards and it is the next player’s turn.

Once all four latte cards have been completed, the round ends. Any surplus dice players have gained are returned to the board. The player whose scoring token is currently in last place gets a surplus die to add to her dice pool for the next round, new latte cards are revealed, and a new round begins. The first player to reach twenty points immediately wins the game.

Latte Throwdown close up

Review

Latte Throwdown has fast turns and a fast game time. Even at the max player count, the game plays smoothly and quickly and is a pleasant, enjoyable experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome but still gives you a chance to come back from an unlucky round.

The theme is different and original and Analog Game Studios has done a superb job of bringing it out in the components. The board itself is really nicely organized to make playing the game a smooth process but also to make it easier to teach. The artwork on the round latte cards also nicely represents latte art, and there’s a pleasant aesthetic holding the game together.

It’s a dice game, with lots of luck involved, but there’s an interesting strategy in choosing between the latte cards and the barista cards, particularly when there are barista cards on the table that can help you in the long term — such as granting you surplus dice, or cards which combo nicely off of each other. You also have to decide whether to split your dice between multiple latte cards at a time, and also when to directly compete for a card against another player or when to focus on the currently uncontested cards.

Aside from a couple of barista cards, there’s not a great deal of direct player interaction. However, this does fit thematically and there is definitely a tension as your opponents move closer to twenty points and you have to base your decisions off the score board and not only what latte cards will benefit you the most, but also which ones could win the game for another player. This also comes into play when choosing when to reset the barista cards, both to get abilities that will help you and also remove some from another player’s reach.

The catch-up mechanism for giving the player in last place an extra die works well. It keeps you in the running without feeling like too major an advantage, particularly since it's also possible for other players to also gain extra dice through clever use of the barista cards.

Latte Throwdown is light, breezy, and pleasant. It’s a great casual experience, with some interesting choices, great aesthetics, and minimal effort required for set up or teaching. If you enjoy light dice games, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and go check out its Kickstarter page.

Pros: Great artwork and components, unique theme, fast turns, fun balancing barista cards with lattes

Cons: Minimal direct player interaction

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.