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 "run" a diner and try to serve their customers from a breakfast menu. The customers' orders must be complete before serving, but just like in a real restaurant, if prepared items sit too long before they are served, they have to be discarded.
On each turn, a player will place orders, but only for a limited number 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.
Players can work on only three orders at a time, and since they each receive a new customer order card each round, they have to serve a completed order each round. So there’s no break in the action.
Each player has to be looking at their upcoming orders as well as the one they intend to fill on 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.
Sometimes, a player will end up with a combination of customer order cards that will be impossible to fill completely. Usually, that will be because they have received one or more of the customer service cards that require many items (and gives more points). A player can decide to serve the order while it’s still missing an item or two, for which they 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.