This is Picklemoose's Blog. A small section of Pixelated Cardboard dedicated to topics outside of digital board game ports. Posts here will be less formal & cover a range of topics.
Sorry roll-and-writes, vegetable themed card games are the new hotness. It's a long time coming, in one blogger's opinion, but if you come to my virtual game nights we will strictly be playing this and Point Salad. Abandon All Artichokes is a light, quick, card game of reverse deck building for two to four players from Gamewright and designer Emma Larkins. In it you use ten other, non-terrible veggies to try to rid yourself of artichokes, or at least overwhelm your deck with other cards. Games fly by in 10-20 minutes, mostly depending on player count and end the instant one player draws a hand of cards at the end of their turn and does not draw a single artichoke.
As a starting point, the basic conceit of Abandon All Artichokes piques all kinds of interest. You're trying to get rid of artichokes, an objectively awful vegetable. And the game instantly ends once somebody draws no artichoke cards. Can't that happen really early, with some luck? How do you get rid of artichokes? These are fantastic questions, hypothetical reader, let's dive in to find out.
Each player starts the game with a deck consisting of ten artichoke cards and nothing else, drawing a new hand of five cards each turn. A veggie deck is shuffled and five cards are drawn into a row in the middle of the table. On a player's turn, they must first draw a card from the central row and then they may play as many cards from their hand as they wish. Artichokes on their own do nothing and cannot be played, but the ten veggie varieties found in the big deck are where the action comes in. These allow players to achieve one of two basic goals: ditching artichokes or adding other cards. Each of the ten cards work towards these ends in different ways, but given those coarse options, the strategic path of AAA is clear: either get rid of all of your artichokes or stack your deck with so many non-artichokes that you can draw five of them. There is, as usual, room in the middle of those two, but they represent the two overarching paths.
The details are much more interesting than the 1000 mile view, of course. A carrot, for instance, allows you to compost (nay, trash or cull) exactly two artichokes from your hand. This is clearly fantastic card and should be prioritized immediately by all players, right? Well, maybe. It is very powerful early but the card has two caveats. First, that pesky "exactly" in the card text means once your deck starts filling up with other cards, you might not always draw two artichokes on a turn. Additionally, carrots have the unique condition where if you play them, you cannot take another action on your turn. This limits your combo potential down the line. This often makes carrots powerful early game but filler later one. Which is not at all a bad thing in this game because filler means more non-artichoke cards to be drawn which increases chances of winning.
I can write a few sentences on each and every one of the action cards in the game. They each offer something appealing, depending on your aim for the game, and likely some potential downside as well. Abandon All Artichokes being a light, family game, means that even cards with no obvious benefit to you at the moment at least go into your deck to increase the chances of drawing five non-artichoke cards at the end of your turn and winning. In other words, taking a less than ideal card on an early turn isn't going to cripple your chances down the line. This point feeds into this potentially being a good game for younger games. The box suggests ages 10+, but I could see younger kids enjoying this. Some of the strategy will be lost on early readers, but I think this game likely works well for ages 8 plus if they have previous board game experience.
There are some fun ways to try to win Abandon All Artichokes. The cards which allow you to place other cards on top of your deck to load it up with non-artichokes make for a fun gambit. Games are quick enough that you can try out a strategy one game, fail miserably, reshuffle the deck and try again. In the handful of plays I've had, I would say that composting as many artichokes as possible has been the strongest strategy, but it certainly doesn't win every time. I've had some agonizing defeats with one one or two artichokes in my deck versus four or five in my opponents', but that is what makes the game fun. A highly strategic, cutthroat, low-luck version of deck destruction might work, but I enjoy the lighthearted, low stakes game presented here.
I'm a big fan of deck building games and when I saw that this game took my personal favorite aspect of deck building (trashing cards!) and made that a primary goal, I knew I had to try it out. I've been enjoying it thus far. One aspect I hadn't really anticipated was not seeing some of the action cards come out much at all in a given game. There are six copies each of the ten types of action cards, and it is very likely, especially in a two player game, that you might see one or zero copies of certain cards in a given game. Once you understand all of the card types, it can be easy to anticipate them showing up at some point, but that isn't always the case. In higher player counts they probably will show up, but your chances of grabbing them are very random based on the shuffle and opposing player strategies. This makes each turn in the game a new tactical challenge to solve. The cards feature a fair amount of player interaction, so you must take into account where you think other players are at along the way.
The game comes, unfortunately, in a oddly shaped tin box. That Gamewright went this way suggests they intent to push this game to large retailers and hope it takes off in a way similar to Sushi Go. That very concerned looking artichoke on the tin cover is quite appealing, after all. It is a minor annoyance for a game shelf, however. The artwork is fun, especially if you are a fan of vegetables wearing sunglasses. The card quality is fine, the deck is 60 cards and the thinner cards makes shuffling a bit more achievable. My favorite part of the package is the included sticker which has the box cover concerned artichoke saying, for some reason, "Okey dokey." It has found a home on my random piece of cheap furniture I've covered in stickers.
I think Abandon All Artichokes will continue to hold a place in my collection as a fun, quick, random filler game. I can't really have enough of those, to be honest. It is kind of wild that the game can come down entirely to the luck of the shuffle of player's individual deck. This, of course, is the ultimate case in many, many deck building games, but I can't recall any that are so blatant about it as Abandon All Artichokes. The game proudly wears the badge of "you might have thoroughly outplayed your opponents the entire game, but one fantastically lucky shuffle is going to win the game for someone else" which is a courageous, fun boast in a board gaming world which generally praises the exact opposite. And don't get me wrong, if you have a better executed plan than your opponent your chances of winning will be higher as will your win rate; this game isn't totally random. However, having the "I could win on any turn" aspect hanging over the game at all times is an exciting thought even most games don't end up that way.
The final kicker in this whole crazy artichoke game is that the price is absolutely fantastic. $12.99 (US) MSRP. If you have room in your collection for a fun, quirk, deck deconstruction game in a oddly shaped tin box, I recommend giving Abandon All Artichokes a look.