It’s actually a six-card game, since two cards are player aids and one card is instructions. The six ingredient cards do extra duty since they are also role cards.
Okay, the idea of the game Is half of you are bad chefs who want to spoil the meal and the other half are good chefs who want to save it. Deal out role cards, remember what your role is, then redeal the cards as ingredients. You can either add your card to the pot or throw it away. Table talk is encouraged. If the resulting meal is positive, good cooks win. Negative, bad cooks take the day.
There’s also a fifth player option where the fifth player plays the health inspector and wins if they out what cards are in the meal. Frankly, that might be the most interesting role in the game.
The odd thing about the game for me is that there is no accusation mechanic. Really, there can’t be since the cards, after they assign their roles, get redealt. And I do wonder if that is a crucial loss of control in a social deduction game.
On the other hand, I have to admire the minimalism of the game. Even a game of Werewolf using regular playing cards uses more components by having more players. And the ingredient cards have some interesting interactions. For instance, spices knock out the most expensive ingredient. Which could be sauce or it could be worms. So the game has more considerations than just negative and positive cards.
All that said, I’d be hard pressed to imagine ever playing the game. For one thing, I’m not much of a social deduction player (although the right game and the right group could change that) The card interactions are interesting but I don’t know if they actually ‘work’. More than that, needing exactly four or five players definitely limits it. And while I don’t have a problem with short games, Too Many Chefs clearly is very short. If you have the time, The Resistance or something like that seems like a better choice.
All right, here’s where I can see Too Many Chefs working. When you are waiting and you don’t have any table space. Like waiting line or sitting in the hallway at a convention. Having access to even an airplane tray and the time a flight takes opens up the options well beyond Too Many Chefs.
Nine card games, by their very nature, have a novelty factor. Sometimes we are just amazed that the bear dances at all but sometimes the bear dances well (Cunning Folk, Bomb Squad #9, Farmers Finances, among others) Too Many Chefs feels like a bear that is just amazing because it dances but it is fascinating.