Dish ‘em Out qualifies as an educational game since it involves lots of critical thinking and logic. But it doesn’t seem like an educational game, because it’s fun to play.
Up to five players try to serve their diner’s customers their complete orders from a breakfast menu. They need to serve it before some of its components have sat too long while waiting for other components to be ready. Just like in a real restaurant, if prepared items sit too long before they are served, they have to be discarded. Players also can serve only three tables at a time, so they have to continually “turn over a table.” There’s no break in the action.
On each turn, a player will put in their order, but only for a limited amount of items each round. Some items like pancakes and hash browns take longer to cook, so those need to get started two rounds or more before they are needed. Meanwhile, juice and fruit have to wait until the last minute.
Each player has to be looking at their upcoming orders as well as the one they intend to fulfill that round. There’s a penalty for each item missing from an order as well as for each ordered item that has to be discarded because the player couldn’t serve it at the right time.
Players each receive a new customer order card every round. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a combination of customer order cards that will be impossible for you to fulfill. Usually, that will be because you’ve received one of the higher-point-value customer service cards that requires many items. You can decide to serve the order while it’s still missing an item or two, for which you will lose points. But that might be offset by the higher point value of the card itself.
When you first look at the game, and even when you play the first round, it seems pretty easy. By the second round, you start to catch on to all the things you have to be thinking about. Dish ‘em Out can be very challenging, even for adults.
The game requires critical thinking, but there are some practical life skills that players might absorb along the way. The cooking sequence is certainly one of those things since cooks at both restaurants and homes have to think about timing things so that all parts of a meal are ready to serve simultaneously. But the same kind of thinking applies to many life activities where we need to sequence and prioritize to get the best results.
I suspect that Dish ‘em Out will appeal more to players who have some interest in cooking, but I would still invite others to join the fun.