Kickstart This! #233: Chai: High Tea

Designers:  Dan Kazmaeir (Chai), Connie Kazmaeir (Chai)

Artists: Mary Haasdyk (Chai), Sahana VJ (Chai)

Publisher:  Steeped Games (Chai)

Genre/Mechanisms: card drafting, card game, economic, expansion, set collection

Funding Status: At the time of this posting, Chai: High Tea is already fully-funded. Pledges currently total more than 4.5x the initial funding goal with less than 5 days to go on the campaign.

Player Count: 1-5

Solo Mode:  yes

Complexity: light

Risk: medium-high

What It’s About: With Chai, “step into the shoes of a tea merchant, combining tea flavours to make a perfect blend. Specializing in either rooibos, green, oolong, black or white tea, you will buy and collect ingredients to fulfill your customers’ orders.” Chai: High Tea is “an expansion for Chai Merchants to spice up their teahouses with new player powers, featuring afternoon tea to refreshing horchata, or a sip of yerba mate. This expansion includes 6 ability boards with 12 unique abilities, in addition to 2 transparent dice. Additional rules make the expansion compatible with Chai’s solo and co-op gameplay.”

How It Works:  “Chai is played over 5 rounds. Starting with the first player and going clockwise, each player will take a turn by performing one of the three main actions: Visit the Market, Visit the Pantry, or Reserve a Customer and use 1 Ability Card, and after, if they wish to, ‘Fulfill a Customer Order.'”

When Visiting the Market, the active player takes 3 Coins from the supply, and then must buy a Flavor Tile from the Market. The player takes all of one Flavor Tile type in the same orthogonally-connected group (tiles that are touching on any of their sides, but not diagonally), paying the amount of the single-most expensive tile of the group. The player then slides all the tiles to the left to fill in the gaps, and may then make another purchase. Players can hold a maximum of 12 Flavor Tiles and must always discard down to 12 if they acquire Tiles causing them to have more than the maximum.

When Visiting the Pantry, the active player may first spend 1 Coin to reset the board. The player then selects 3 of the Pantry’s 5 Items, refilling the Pantry back up to 5 Items after their selection. Players can hold a maximum of 6 Pantry Items and must always discard down to 6 if they acquire Items causing them to have more than the maximum.

When Reserving a Customer, the active player takes 1 Customer Card from the row or top of the deck, places it next to their player board, and refills the open spot if the player took a card from the row. Afterward, the player can use 1 of the 3 Ability Cards. A Player may only ever have a maximum of 3 Customer Cards.

When Fulfilling a Customer Order, the active player can choose a Customer in the public row or in their private area, paying the Pantry Items and Flavor Items from their player board as well as 1 base Tea Token. When fulfilling an order in another player’s color, the active player pays that player 1 Coin, and then uses one of that player’s base Tea Tokens to complete the order instead of one of their own. The active player places the Customer face-down next to their player board for end-game scoring, and then flips one of the Tip Jar Tokens face-up; and if it was the last remaining unflipped Tip Jar Token, the round ends.

After the end of the 5th Round, players score points for their completed Customer Cards, and 1 point for each remaining Coin. In a 3-5 player game, players earn 1 additional point for each differently-colored base Tea Token in their fulfilled Customer Stack. The player with the most points is declared the winner, with ties broken by the lowest number of fulfilled Customer cards, and then by the player with the most remaining money.

The High Tea expansion “includes 6 ability boards with 12 unique abilities, in addition to 2 transparent dice. Additional rules make the expansion compatible with Chai’s solo and co-op gameplay.”

Comparisons: A relatively simple set collection game, some good comparisons include the just-recommended and still-on-Kickstarter The Whatnot Cabinet along with the games recommended in the comparison section of The Whatnot Cabinet’s Kickstart This!: Arboretum, Azul, Barenpark, Between Two Cities, Kingdomino, Lanterns, Quadropolis, and Patchwork. But whereas The Whatnot Cabinet is ultimately a tile placement and set collection games, Chai focuses more on its drafting element along with its set collection. Here, then, are a few more solid lightweight games that put card drafting front-and-center: 7 Wonders, Century: Golem Edition / Century: Spice Road, Gizmos, Jaipur, and Shipwrights of the North Sea. Throw Bunny Kingdom into the bunch if you’re also interested in area control, and Wingspan for something leaning more towards medium-weight.

What Should I Pledge?:
$20 Chai: High Tea Expansion: includes a copy of the new Chai: High Tea Expansion.
$65 Chai Deluxe Edition: includes a copy of Chai: Deluxe Edition, all of the first campaign’s stretch goals, the GameTrayz Insert, and 30 Metal Coins.
$79 Chai Deluxe & Chai: High Tea: includes everything in the two previous pledge levels.
$450 Chai – Tea Master Set: includes everything in the previous pledge level; plus a custom wooden box and custom wooden tea token boxes, including overlays; a Certificate of Authenticity; wooden & acrylic lasercut tiles, tokens, and coins; upgraded silk bags, 40 art prints and a handwritten thank-you note; and 2 metal lapel pins.

$15 Metal Coins
$25 Playmat
$12 Coloring Book
$19 Art Prints, Limited Edition
$29 Acrylic Pantry Tokens & Enlarged Bags

KS Exclusives
The additional stretch goals from the first campaign in 2019, including the metal coins and first player token, 20 new character cards, GameTrayz insert, 3 additional ability cards, 5 wild tea flavour translucent tiles, 5 wild pantry tokens, 4 extra tips, 2 solo dice, and the refecltive spot UV box, are all Kickstarter Exclusives.

All-In Total: In the continental U.S. (and assuming you’re not considering the ultra-expensive Chai – Tea Master Set), then you’re looking at $79 for the Chai Deluxe & Chai: High Tea pledge level, $25 for the Playmat, $29 for the Acrylic Pantry Tokens & Enlarged Bags, and an estimated $21 in shipping for a total of $154.

Chai: High Tea completes its Kickstarter on Wednesday, June 24th and tentatively ships in December 2020.

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