Friday, May 24, 2024

‘Surrealist Dinner Party’ is a Love Letter to Surrealism

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Hosting a party includes a lot of steps like preparing food (whether catering or cooking yourself), setting up the space for different groups of guests, and keeping the guests themselves happy. Now what if those guests were Surrealist artists and writers with individual needs and abilities? Surrealist Dinner Party ,designed by Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman and published by Resonym, challenges players to show their hosting prowess to end each party with the most food, drink, drama, and compliments!

What’s In The box?

Surrealist Dinner Party includes 30 large (and wonderfully illustrated by Virginia Mori) guest cards, 1 booklet with bios for the guests, 1 menu and turn overview, 1 silver platter, 10 Faux Pas cards (for advanced gameplay), food, wine, dessert, compliments, and drama tokens, and a bag for the tokens. The game also has flat tokens standing for 3 or 5 of one type of token for larger games where the tokens run out.

surrealist dinner party components

Not going to lie, the best part of the components is the silver platter. It’s just so delightful and obviously on theme, and little things like that really elevate the gameplay experience as compared to a flat board or something similar. The wooden tokens are also of a great quality and the cards as already mentioned are perfect! The large format also makes having them set in front of you immersive because you can really see the details in the art. The game itself is actually pretty small and really portable, making it a game I could see myself taking with me to friends’ parties.

How’s It Play?

Gameplay itself is quite simple but requires a lot of strategy, and as a party game set during a party, is really innovative in its use of the Surrealist artists and writers. Surrealist Dinner Party has three gameplay modes. Casual, where you ignore guest’s abilities for a quick and easy game, normal, where you use abilities but do not use the Faux Pas cards, and advanced, which uses Faux Pas and drafting.

three examples of guest cards from Surrealist Dinner Party with surreal art and 6 circles on the left showing different things like drama masks, compliment masks, food, drinks, and dessert.
Three examples of the guests in Surrealist Dinner Party (from Kickstarter time)

Each of the 30 guests has different appetites, shown on the left of their card, and your goal is to fill as many of them as possible so that when you send a guest home, you can collect all the matched tokens for your stash. If you have the most tokens at the end of the party after all door abilities have been resolved, you’re the winner!

Based on the number of players, each of the six courses (cocktails, hors’doeuvres, apertifs, main course, digestifs, dessert) in the party have a different number of tokens placed on the platter. For example a three player party would unfold like so: 4 drinks, 6 food, 4 food, 10 food (the main course is where things get really spicy), 3 drinks and 3 desserts, and 4 dessert.

A course ends as soon as the last token for that course has been placed.

Players start with six guests in hand, but there can only be up to three guests per player at any one time in the party, so you have to strategize for who you want to have seated first or sent home first in relation to their abilities if playing Normal/Advanced.

Leonara Carrington, for example, in the final version would like two drama, one drink, two food, and one dessert by the end of her time at the party. If you’re able to accommodate those requests, you’ll receive six tokens once you send her home and two more tokens for having a Perfectly Content guest.

silver platter with eight tokens: four red drink and four purple dessert
The silver platter with dessert and drink tokens.

Players can take one of four actions each turn. You can play a guest and either send one of your guests home and/or seat a guest at the table. You can give compliments or start drama, where one of your guests and their neighbor (which could be another player’s guest!) take a drama token or compliment token each. You can serve a guest a token from the platter or throw it in the trash (if trying to sabotage another player).

Once per course you can use any or ALL of your guests’ plate abilities (signified by the plate icon on the left). There’s also special abilities that occur anytime a specific requirement is met and door abilities only used when the guest goes home.

Gameplay continues turn by turn until all the courses are done. At that point players calculate the number of tokens that they have stashed and resolve any impacts (when in Faux Pas mode).

Verdict

I have to really commend Resonym for having one of the most detailed online presences that I’ve seen for a board game company. Even before getting the game in the mail, I was able to familiarize myself to how the game worked because the site has the rulebook and the various components available for people to review! I really wish all game companies did this. You can also play online!

In writing for The Fandomentals, I’ve had the chance to play a lot of different games and Surrealist Dinner Party is in my top five games. My friend and I had so much fun playing and trying to strategize against one another, and this friend is really competitive, so believe me, it was chaos. The art by Mori (a surrealist!) reflects the artists and writers themselves. Sun Ra is stood in Saturn with a ring around him.

The dedication to match the art to the guests themselves reflects the labor of love and joy that went into designing this game. Even if you don’t know about Surrealism or understand all the references (I definitely had to look up a few of the guests), you can tell the game creators really put their all into make this game not only a really enjoyable party game, but an interesting history lesson too.

At only ~$25, the game is more than worth the cost and I know it’ll be a game that I go back to again and again.

Surrealist Dinner Party
9.5 Reviewer
Gameplay9
Presentation10
Value9.5
Summary
Surrealist Dinner Party is simultaneously a party game and a history lesson at once with endless replayability.
Images and review copy courtesy of Resonym

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