I attended PAX Unplugged a couple of months back and got the chance to sit down and talk with Michael Pittre of PenTree Games. We were also able to do a short run through of the newly finished Kickstarter, On The Rocks. I had already backed the game as I had watched countless videos and play throughs during the campaign and was very impressed with the artwork and the mancala mechanic used in the game to disperse the marbles for drink orders. So, I was very excited when I got a chance to sit down with Michael and see the game in person.
As I left that meeting, Michael handed me a copy to take with me and I was overjoyed. I could not wait to get back and really dive into this game, much like Tom Cruise in Cocktail (I only make this comparison because of how much I look like him), I was ready to make some drinks and get those tips!
On The Rocks is Michael and Christina Pittre’s first endeavor into the world of board gaming design along with the establishment of their design company Pentree Games. As the very successful kickstarter has now finished, backers should begin to see their copies arrive sometime in August 2020. Pentree Games is also planning to sell copies at GenCon this year.
On The Rocks utilizes a bag drawing marble mancala mechanic to fulfill personal orders from your tableau. Completing those orders will give you victory points. You will be rolling a pair of ice dice to see how many marble ingredients will be drawn from a bag and then players will drop the marbles pulled from the bag into 4-5 small jigger bowls, depending on player count.
The game is designed around a really fun mancala mechanic that allows you to drop the marbles one at a time so that you may stack certain bowls with sought after ingredients. Once you are finished placing the marbles into the bowls, you may draft one of the bowls and distribute the marbles onto your player board to fulfill your drink orders.
There is a lot of great-feeling theme in this game as you are making and fulfilling your drink orders; it really conveys the urgency and balance of making the drinks properly and on time in a way that offers good tension in the game. Everyone will start the game with 4 types of drink orders to fulfill: an old fashioned, a hurricane, a martini and a highball, each with some clever and familiar names for those who partake in the consumption of spirits (such as a mojito, pina colada, Blue Monday, Rum and Cola, and many, many more). These drink orders are worth a specific amount of victory points once completed. If you have completed a drink order, you will draw a card from a tip deck which will give you more victory points but will offer you the chance to possibly spend the tip to adjust or mitigate scenarios in the game.
On The Rocks uses the order fulfillment mechanic to move the game along through what will be a total of 12 drink orders, or 4 orders per round you are currently in, as it is very possible that you may move onto your next 4 drink orders before others. After you have competed your first four orders, you may then draft any type of drinks you wish to fill your player board.
Some drinks that are harder to make would take more time but offer greater victory points. You could also take easier to prepare drinks and try to essentially speed the game toward the end as well, but that may not always benefit you. You will have to decide whether you need to gain small amounts faster or larger amounts of victory points slower. I love this aspect of the game because it feels so very tied to the theme of tending bar.
All in all, On The Rocks is 3 rounds of fantastic marble dropping, drink making, mancala playing, bar tending goodness all presented on four beautifully artistic player boards. These boards resembling a drink menu outwardly and once opened, look like a classy counter top bar.
If you happened to miss the Kickstarter on this one, you can pre-order On the Rocks through the Pentree website. You’re going to want to pick this up when it hits retail and drink in all this game has to offer. Pun extremely intended.
Pentree Games provided us with a prototype copy of On the Rocks after their Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game that has not yet received a mass market release.