- Designer: Emma Larkins
- Publisher: Gamewright
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 10+
- Time: 15-20 minutes
- 4 Plays with review copy provided by Gamewright
I just received a box of games from Gamewright, and I’ll admit that I am very impressed with their newest selection of games. In the past, I had always thought of Gamewright as more of a family-oriented company (Slamwich, etc) – but this year’s selection of games looks to be turning a new corner. Sure, the games are still perfectly suited for families, but two of the three games come from distinguished designers in the genre. These games are the sort that I’d be happy to pull out when I have non-gamer guests over, but they also have the pedigree behind them to work for the usual gamenight.
Abandon All Artichokes (AAA) is the one game from the bunch from a designer that is previously unknown to me. However, the idea of the game instantly caught my eye. As you might know, I have a super large soft spot for deckbuilders. AAA is not quite a deckbuilder, it is more of a “deck manager”, but the concepts are very similar. In this game, the main idea is simple – I mean, it can be explained in a paragraph.
Players start with a deck of 10 artichoke cards. On a turn, players choose one action card from the display on the table, and then they are allowed to play as many cards as they are legally able to play. Once the actions are resolved, all unplayed cards are simply discarded and a new hand of 5 cards is drawn from that player’s deck. If you are able to draw a hand that has NO artichoke cards in it, you immediately win!
Yup, that’s it.
My thoughts on the game (and maybe some more of the rules)
This game is really a great introduction to the idea of deck building/destroying. The overall game is quick, and the cards aren’t overly complicated. There are 60 action cards in the deck, 6 each of 10 different varieties. The action of each card is written in moderately small print at the bottom of each card. It’s a bit hard to read the cards when fanning them out in the usual fashion, but honestly, after a game or two, you pretty much learn what all the cards do. From the pure usability standpoint, it might have been nice to have icons in the upper corners, but it is perfectly playable as is.
Unlike some of the other Deckbuilders, there is not a fixed tableau of cards – instead, you have a row of 5 faceup cards, drawn from the top of the deck. So, when it’s your turn, you simply have to evaluate the five offerings and choose the best one for you. This makes it a lot easier to grok strategically because there isn’t any Turn Zero strategizing. You simply react to the cards available to you on your turn and move on.
The composition of your deck changes with each turn; and of course your goal is to get rid of artichokes – because the easiest way for you to win (by drawing a hand without any artichokes in it) is to have fewer artichokes to possibly draw… Thus far, it seems like our games are won with players who have only 2 or 3 artichokes left in their deck. Most of the action cards are drawn into your deck and then stay there. Others (Carrot, Eggplant and Onion) help you thin your deck but they are removed in the process – so keep that in mind when you are selecting an action card.
You can pick up whichever card you like from the display, but you can only play cards from your hand if you are able to fulfill all the requirements of that card. Though, obviously, your goal is to get rid of artichokes whenever you can, there could be plenty of reasons why you might choose an action card that you’re not able to immediately play. Adding an action card that stays in your hand is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, it’s still a card that isn’t an artichoke… and as there is no limit to the number of cards you can play on your turn, you might be able to play this card as well as others on the next time it comes up in your hand.
In the end, this is a game that is super quick to learn, and the games play quickly, Like many deckbuilders, the individual turns are quick, and given the nature of win condition, the number of rounds of each game seems to be limited to a fairly small number. As you add a new card to your deck each round, you’re always making the artichokes less frequent, and with many of the actions causing the removal of artichokes from said deck, it is simply a matter of time before someone draws a hand without one.
This is meant to be a light game, and sure, there is a slightly imbalanced endgame condition – as it seems likely that the first player will always have an advantage given the sudden death nature of the game end. But, for a light game, I just don’t really care about things like that. The games are short, and just make the winner of the game play last in the next one – it’ll all even out, and everyone will enjoy it.
The cartoony art is appealing and humorous, and it will help attract non-gamers to the game. The vegetables are cute, though not kawaii-cute. There is a succinct player aid that pretty much gives you all the rules in a 2×3 inch area. And, while I’m personally not a fan of games in tins – multiple people who have played the game have commented on how much they like the artichoke shaped tin. Which is I’m sure why Gamewright has packaged it in that way.
For gamers, this is a nice filler that has the advantage that it can be played with both gamers and non-gamers. The card interactions are interesting enough to challenge your brain for a bit. For non-gamers, this is a great introduction to games showing that there is more than just rolling dice and moving a pawn the designated number of spaces. It also proves that card games might have more interesting rules than making sure you play the same number or color as the previously played card. This is the sort of game that I expect to see on the front table at bookstores, and I think it will make a great gift for both gamers and non-gamers. A slam dunk for your vegan gamer friends!
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan: (…or your friends that love to eat vegetables [without necessarily adding restrictions on what else they consume].) Anyway, yes, I too was pleasantly surprised with how much fun I had playing this. It’s lighter and a bit luckier than my usual fare may be, but it’s quite enjoyable. I’m with Dale in wishing that there was some iconography in addition to (or in lieu of) the text descriptions, but I suppose bogging what might be the intended audience down in icons is perhaps not the best production decision.
Jeff Allers: I was excited about this as I am always looking for games that I can teach a wide variety of people. It went over well as a warm-up game with experienced gamers, but I was surprised how difficult it was to grasp for players who enjoyed games but have never played a deck-builder before. So although I admire the game from a design perspective, it didn’t quite accomplish what I had hoped with my audience. I’m still optimistic that other casual gamers will enjoy it more, and I’ve brought my copy to Germany to try it again there.
Talia: I’ve only played this one 3 times so far, but it was pretty “meh” for me. Then again, I generally dislike deck-building for deck-building’s sake. And this was basically a super-simplified Ascension where you got a free card from the central row each round, and then used your hand to destroy your artichoke cards, which are akin to starting with 10 Dominion Curses. Like Jeff, I was surprised at how difficult it was for folks to pick this up if they were not already familiar with a deck-building game. I guess even the most simplified deck-building is a bit unintuitive for anyone that hasn’t played a game from the genre before. The packaging and the game’s look & feel are great, but there are so many better 20-minute card games you could be playing instead (such as Biblios, Jaipur, Capital Lux, Mandala, Fox in the Forest, Illusion, Silver & Gold, Hanamikoji, and the list goes on and on).
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Eric M.
- I like it. Dale Y, James Nathan, John P
- Neutral. Talia, Jeff A
- Not for me….