Before I begin, I was provided a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would prefer to check out a video of this review you can do that below!
BOrigins this year was filled with firsts. It was the first time I had been to a convention the size of Origins, first time to Ohio, and the first time I was awarded a press pass. I did not know much about what that meant at the time (for those of you wondering, it means that you get access to the press rooms, to film and record audio, and you are allowed into the rooms a bit early to connect with designers.) When I walked into the hall the first day, about 15 minutes before it opened I ran into a man with a jaunty hat, and ready smile.
We chatted for a hot minute, and before I knew it I had a copy of Processing in my hands for review, another first! As it turns out, I was chatting with the designer Seppy Yoon. Not only that but I found myself sitting down with another member of the Fight in a Box team to demo the game with 5 other people. As is my usual with a review, I will not go into great depth as to how the games is played, but will give an over view and then my thoughts.
Processing itself is a game that takes place in the near, or not so near future. Aliens have come, kicked out butts, and now they rule the planet. You are assigned to a panel that must determine what is to be done with the cows and hipsters. You have three choices, they can be freed (to graze on grass or kale respectively), probed, or processed into meat. (That got dark quick didn’t it). This seems simple enough, but there is a catch.
The catch is that is not just a single alien race that conquered the Earth, no, that would be too simple. Rather it is a coalition of various races, and each race has their own agenda. Each “day” you find yourself under the supervision of a different race, so you are trying your best to make sure that you keep them happy. After all you do not want to wind up processed next! In essence you are all voting on what to do with each set of hipsters and cows. At the end of the “day” you earn points based on how many hipsters and cows you sent to the “correct” place. You then gain “Mad Cow” points for however many you sent to the wrong place. For example the Tentacle beasts only want every thing to be probed, and they do not want anything freed. They do not care if either get turned into meat.
These “Mad Cow” points matter at the end of the game (after three rounds), because whomever has the most of them, i.e. pissed off the most overlords, gets turned into meat themselves and automatically loses. Let that be a lesson to you to not piss off our gracious, glorious overlords.
So what do I think?
First of all this is, despite what seems rather in depth rules, a very simple game at its core. It really comes down to everyone voting with small chits to try to send each of the carts of cows and hipsters to the place that will earn you the most points. Votes are relatively simple majority rules, and ties send them back to the pile of cards. What is cool about the simplicity is that it becomes deceptively tactical once you get into the second round.
You see what happens is that you start the game with an equal number of probe, free, and process tiles, but each round that mix changes depending on what you did the previous round. Suddenly you are looking at your options of overlord to serve that day, and you can find yourself in a bind with a lot of tiles that can only lose you points, if you have not planned well. When we played this caught me off guard for sure, and it was awesome.
I really enjoy that this game is so very tongue in cheek, all the processing cards have quotes from various Sci-Fi movies on the bottom, the hipsters look just like designer Seppy Yoon, and the cards even have different expression on them if they are set to be freed, probed or processed. The art itself is good, and really captures the tongue in cheekiness of the game.
Finally, I really like that the game has a couple options to up the complexity once you have mastered the basic rules. It offers ways to make the Mad Cow points a potential boon as well, as long as you are not the person with the most, and it offers a way to become a “rebel” and change up your goals completely for the round. It is well thought out.
While I like all the art, I do wish that the “character cards”, had unique art on them. Mechanically, they do not do anything other than identify what color you are on the score boards, but it would have been a nice touch to add. However, in a first for me, I do not think that some kind of asymmetric power would have added to the game. The components are also of a fine quality. They are nothing special, but they are also not junky either. Though the cow and hipster meeples are cool.
I think the biggest problem with this game is that it is very hard to describe. This is a game that plays far better than it talks. Even when the designer was explaining it to me, I was not fully sold, but man when I sat down it was just so much fun. In some ways this is a hard game to get to the table because, you just have to say, “trust me it is fun”. Trying to explain to someone “Well you are voting on what to do with hipsters and cows, and if you manage to do the right thing each round you will win, but if you really mess up you get turned into sausage.” People look at you like you have three eyes.
Bringing it all together
This is a delightful game, the art and theme are realized and really provide a fun tongue in cheek experience. The game is simple to play, but the strategy ramps up with every round creating a deceptively strategic game. Other than the cow, and hipster meeples the components are fine, but nothing special. (Though if you have a KS version the acrylic voting tiles are awesome). This is a game that it is really hard to describe the actual experience of playing, but just know that it plays so much better than it talks. You can order a copy of Processing right here!
My alien overlord hates complete sentences
*A very fun, simple to learn but hard to master game
*Completely realized theme, with just the right amount of humor
*Needs at least three players to play, which is a bummer