Design by Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin
Published by AEG
2 – 6 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
AEG has introduced a line of games that are targeted squarely at the family and casual gamers market. The games are designed to be fairly simple and easy-to-grasp, and can be played to completion in about 30 minutes or so. While we gamers tend to ignore games such as these, the vast majority of Americans – and indeed, folks worldwide – fall into this demographic and are the target market for this line.
Point Salad by designers Shawn Stankewich, Molly Johnson and Robert Melvin is one entry into this field. The game consists solely of a deck of cards (108 in total) depicting different vegetables on one side and scoring goals on the reverse. The theme is to properly grow one’s garden so as to meet the demands of one’s customers. Growing a vegetable garden is one that certainly has near universal understanding and perhaps appeal, so that is one potential success factor in terms of the game resonating with the general public.
The deck is shuffled and divided into three equal stacks, with the “point” side facing up. Two cards are revealed from each deck and placed below with the vegetable side showing, forming three columns. Players do NOT receive any cards to begin the game.
A player’s turn is quite simple: he may either collect two vegetables from the face-up selection, or take one of the top point cards. Cards taken are sorted by vegetable type in front of the player, while the point cards are placed in a row above the player’s vegetable garden. In addition, the player may, if he so desires, invert one of his previously collected point cards, adding it to his vegetable garden. Each point card does have icons on two corners indicating the type of vegetable on the reverse side. This may be a wise move if a player feels it will help score more points as a vegetable as opposed to keeping the card as a point card. When a player completes his selection, new veggies are revealed from the appropriate deck to refill the selection row and the next player takes his turn.
The idea is to collect vegetables that will satisfy the requirements of the point cards a player has acquired. For example, if a point card earns the player two points for each bell pepper grown, the player will want to concentrate on acquiring bell peppers. There are 108 different point cards, however, so a player will have numerous goals to pursue. Some point cards earn positive points for certain types of vegetables, but penalize the player for collecting other types of vegetables. For example, one card earns the player three points for each carrot in his garden, but penalizes the player two points for each onion he has grown. Properly balancing one’s garden so as to optimize as many score cards as possible is the key.
There are some point cards that earn the player points by having the majority of a specific type of vegetable. Of course, one’s opponents may also be trying to collect that veggie type in order to satisfy the requirements of their own point cards. So, there is often competition for the veggies. This competition increases with the number of players.
Play continues with players making their card selections until all three decks expire and all cards are taken. As the game nears an end, players may be forced to take veggies they don’t desire, which can sometimes cost them points. After all cards are taken, each player tallies the points earned based on how well he has met the incentives on his point cards. The player with the most points becomes a farming legend and wins the game.
Point Salad is simple, straightforward and easy to play. There are no difficult concepts to grasp, no complex rules to digest and understand, no deep levels of strategy to explore or pursue. It is a light, set collection style game that plays quickly, even with a full complement of six players. The main choices are whether to select veggies on one’s turn, or grab a desirable point card. From there, once a few point cards have been acquired, the main pursuit is acquiring veggie cards that will maximize the points one scores. If a particular point card ultimately proves to problematic or too difficult to achieve, one can always convert it into a veggie.
Hardcore gamers should not expect too much here and should understand the game’s intent and target market. It is clearly aimed at casual gamers and families. As such, it seems to possess many of the features that make certain games attractive to that audience. Several with whom I have played have commented that the game has an “UNO” feel to it in terms of straightforwardness and ease-of-play. I agree with that assessment. I find the game light, cute and fun, which seems to be exactly what it is trying to accomplish. Here’s hoping that the game proves popular with its target market!
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Dale Y: (6 plays) – When reading the rules, similar to Curios, I was struck by how simple the rules were. Sometimes, simple rules lead to a straightforward game. Here, Point Salad finds a nice balance of strategy and depth while remaining simple in its rules and play. I like the challenge of having all the different scoring cards to consider in each game, and then trying to match up your scoring cards with the veggies that you draw. I have seen some players try to get scoring cards early to then guide them towards specific veggies, and I have also seen some players simply try to get large numbers of veggies first and then wait for scoring cards to come up that match the collected cards. If you draw scoring cards early, there is a nice flexibility in being able to flip the card over to the veggie side if it turns out that you don’t have the right veggies to score it. Of course, you lose the opportunity to draw an extra card because you only take one card when you draft a scoring card as opposed to taking two when you go for the veggies. Point Salad has been a pleasantly surprisingly game for me. I have enjoyed it far more than I thought I would from reading the rules. The components are simple – just a deck of cards – and I think that I will repackage the cards into an old double deck box to make this eminently portable. This is clearly a game that will be added to my Restaurant game collection once it is in a smaller box.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Greg S., Dale Y
2 (Neutral): James Nathan, Craig V
1 (Not for me):
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