For a long time, Hey Waiter (a copy of which was provided to me for review purposes by R&R Games) sat on my shelf unplayed. Every time I took a look at the rules, I became confused by the card design and related game rules. The cards in the game come in four colors and each one has left and right columns with three symbols. Somehow you were supposed to play two cards together at a time, with the right column of the left card affecting the left column of the right card, but also with the symbols in rows having some meaning.

Eventually, I decided to just sit down and give it a try, whereupon I discovered that it wasn’t as difficult to figure out as I thought it would be. The game is based on service in a restaurant. Each player gets a stack of poker chips, which represent the dishes that need to be served to customers—red for pizza, green for salad, blue for pie, and white for soup. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of one’s entire stack, that is, serve all the dishes. Each player also gets a set of four busboys and a hand of six cards. On a player’s turn, cards are played two at a time, with one card dictating the action to be taken and one card the object of that action (the player chooses which is used for which). When a green card is played as the action, everybody serves a dish (discarding the top chip off the stack if it matches the color of the other card played at the same time). The white card is used to call a busboy, which is a slower way to serve dishes but doesn’t require cards to match them in color and only applies to the player who’s turn it is. With the blue card a player can split a stack of chips in to two, making it possible to serve multiple dishes at once. And the red card is used to trap another player’s stack by placing a cover on it.

Overall, then, the game plays pretty quickly (around 30 minutes), yet presents some interesting strategic choices—for example, should I spend a turn and invest a card from my hand in splitting my stack of dishes—and alternate paths to victory—letting everybody’s waiters serve the same dish or using my busboy to be the only one. The concept is fun and the art is cute. I still wonder about the benefits of the card design. But I’m glad I made that initial leap. Hey Waiter is a game I’ve played several times and will happily play again.