|Setup time||5 minutes|
|Playing time||20–60 minutes (30 minutes) [average]|
|Random chance||High (card drawing)|
|Skill(s) required||Observation, Strategy, Tactics|
Café International is a 1989 board game created by Rudi Hoffmann It is a simple game for 2 to 4 players in which the players take on the role of waiters in the famous "Cafe International". Their goal is to seat customers of various nationalities with other customers from the same nationality, and also to keep the numbers of men and ladies at the tables even. Café International won the Spiel des Jahres award in 1989.
It was published in 1989 by Mattel, 1998 by Relaxx and after the bankruptcy of Relaxx in 1999 by Amigo. The game also appeared as Tactix under the Indian label Leo Mattel toys.
This is essentially a tile placement game. There are 100 tiles which represent the customers. There are four men and four women from 12 countries. Clever readers would have deduced that 12 countries by 8 customers is 96 tiles - the last four customers are jokers, or wild. These customer tiles are drawn from a bag.
The customers are seated in the Cafe, which is represented by the board. The cafe has 24 tables, with four chairs around each table. One or two chairs from each table links into other tables, and so on. Each chair may belong to more than one table.
This is a segregated cafe, as only customers of a single nationality may sit at any table. Each table is flagged to indicate what nationality the patrons have to be to sit there. If a chair links two tables of different nationalities, then a patron from either of the two countries can sit there.
If you can't seat any guest then there is room for 20 patrons at the bar, and they can be from any nationality.
To win this game a player must score points. Players earn points by skillfully seating the various patrons at the bar and tables. Each player begins the game with 5 patrons face up in front of them, drawn randomly from the tile bag. These are the patrons the players must try to seat.
When a player has a turn, he or she must do one of the following:
- Seat customers at tables
- Seat a customer at the bar
- Exchange a wild tile
One or two customers can be seated at tables but they must score points. The more customers at a table, the more points they score. There is an important rule however that says that the numbers of ladies and gentlemen at a table must remain equal, or be one different. For example, you can't have two ladies, but a lady and a gentleman is fine. A couple will score 2 points; a table of 3 will score 3 points; while a full table of four will score 4 points. If a table is completed with 4 patrons from the same nationality, then that earns 8 points. Coloured chips are used to record points.
At the end of their turn, players refresh their hand back up to 5 tiles. However if a single nationality table was formed, then the players hand size is reduced by one.
Customers may instead be seated at the bar, and indeed if no customers can be seated at a table, then one customer must be seated at the bar that turn. The bar is an area in the center of the board consisting of 20 seats, in four rows of five. If you seat a customer at the bar then you will lose or gain points - the amount indicated on the bar stool. This is cleverly done, as the first five seats gain you points, so there's no harm in sitting there. However, the next fifteen seats have negative values, that increases across each row of seats, but then falls back at the start of the next row. Getting good seats at the bar for your customers becomes very much a game of cat and mouse.
The final move you can make is exchange a joker, or wild, tile. Wild tiles can be placed on the board and may represent any nationality, earning points as normal. At a later stage, a player with a tile that can legitimately replace the wild tile may take up the tile and replace it with the correct tile from their hand. This wild tile may then be used again at a later stage.
The game will end when one of four, situations occur:
- The 20 seats at the bar are filled.
- Every chair around the tables is occupied.
- There are only four tiles left in the bag.
- One player has a hand size of zero (having formed 5 single nationality tables.
Every player deducts five points for each customer remaining face up in front of them, or ten points for each joker, and the player with the highest amount of points is the winner.
Within the game there are 12 Nations represented: Central African Republic, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States
The game was published as a board game, a card game and as Café International Junior in a version for kids. Digital versions include a PC, a Macintosh and a version for iPhone and iPad.