Gaming Unplugged: Lord of the Fries

March 25, 2011


One of the recurring settings in James Ernest’s Cheapass Games is Frieday’s, the zombie-staffed Fast Food Restaurant of the Damned. Lord of the Fries, now published in a color deluxe edition by Steve Jackson Games, puts from three to eight players in the paper hats of said brainless zombies as you try to meet the orders by assembling the various ingredients indicated.  

The deluxe edition comes with sixteen double-sided menus (four copies of eight different menus) spanning traditional fast food fare and more specialized cuisine like Irish, Chinese, Italian, Steakhouse, and even a holiday menu. In addition to unique combinations of ingredients, several menus have their own special rules to keep things interesting. 

Whichever menu you choose to play, you first have to adjust the deck accordingly; certain restaurants don’t offer seafood, for example, so you have to remove the “Fish” cards from the deck. There are actually two decks per menu, one for 3-5 players and one for 6-8, and the instructions tell you both what you need to put in to the deck and what you simply need to remove from the full deck in order to construct them. Once the deck is ready the entire thing is dealt out, even if this means some players get more cards than others. The dealer then either calls or randomly determines the first order.

A “called” order is just that: the player looks at the menu, then selects one of the entries on it to be the order for the round. A “rolled” order is determined by two six-sided dice; one (the green one) determines the section of the menu, and the other (black) one indicates the actual order. Staring with the player on his left, a player can either meet the order by playing the required cards from his hand or pass; a player who passes on a called order also passes one card to the player on his left (the next player to try to meet the order), while a rolled order sees all cards being sent to the player who rolled it. 

If a player meets the order, he sets those cards aside and will score them at the end of the “shift,” then he becomes the leader and determines the next order. However, if nobody is able (or willing…) to fill the order, the customer starts becoming impatient and will be less picky. The order goes around the table again, although it can be missing one required card for each time it passes the current leader. If the order ever reaches zero required ingredients the order is abandoned and the lead passes to the left. A “shift” ends when a player gets rid of his last card one way or the other. At that point everyone scores the values of the cards used to fill orders and subtracts the values of the cards left over in their hands. It is recommended that you play four shifts for a full game, but whatever number works for your group will be fine.

Deciding when to roll and when to call an order is perhaps the most important strategic aspect of the game. Rolling might earn you more cards that you can use to make large orders, but is uncontrolled. Calling an order is safer, especially if you know you’re the only one holding a given ingredient, but you don’t get a chance at filling it until everyone else has had a shot, so you better be sure. But nobody plays Lord of the Fries for deep strategy; most of the fun comes from the wacky order names — and in some cases figuring out how the given ingredients relate to it. An average game will take around 45 minutes, but that will obviously vary depending on the number of players and how many shifts are played. You should be able pick up some fast food fun at pretty much any store that carries SJ Games like Munchkin for about $25.