Abandon All Artichokes is a card based, vegetable themed board game, which is the latest release from publisher Gamewright. Designed by Emma Larkins, featuring artwork from Bonnie Pang, as the name suggests players want to rid themselves of an abundance of artichokes. Playing in around 15 minutes, with 2 – 4 players, potatoes, onions, broccoli and more will fill players’ hands. However, will such a healthy game be craved? Let’s find out!
Setup is extremely simple, provided you previously packed the game away into an organized deck. Coming with 40 artichoke cards, each player starts with a deck of 10 artichokes – the rest being returned to the box. Players draw 5 cards from their deck, which will all be artichokes, to form their starting hand. If required, each player can also grab a reference card at this point, which handily has a reminder of the player area – denoting the names of decks and cards – and the order to perform actions on a turn. The remaining 60 vegetable cards are then shuffled, becoming the central draw deck known as the Garden Stack. The final part of setup is to reveal the top 5 cards of the garden stack to create a market of cards, which is referred to as the garden row.
On a turn players will perform 5 actions in a specific order. Whilst not necessary on the first turn of the game, the first step is always to replenish the garden row to 5 cards. Once this is done the player must choose one of the available cards and add it to their hand. The active player can then play as many cards from their hand as they wish, as long as they are played legally. Any unplayed cards and those played are then discarded into their personal discard pile. The final stage of a turn, when you could win the game, is to draw a new hand of 5 cards from your personal deck. If at any point when drawing cards your deck runs out, you simply shuffle your personal discard pile to form a new draw deck.
The aim of Abandon All Artichokes is at the end of your turn to draw a hand of 5 non-artichoke cards. This is done by playing vegetable cards that allow you to discard an artichoke from your hand not to your personal discard pile but the community discard pile – otherwise known as composting a card. To help you do this there are 10 types of vegetables in the garden stack, each with their own unique action. As an example, Beets see you and an opponent randomly reveal a card, potentially composting matching artichokes or otherwise swapping the revealed cards.
Carrots are a great example of why it may not be legal to play a card. Playing a carrot would be your only action that turn and requires you to compost it along with exactly two artichokes. Therefore, if you only have one artichoke in hand it cannot be played. Each of the vegetables have a different action, some being more situational and others more to screw with opponents than get yourself closer to victory. Eggplants are a bit of both, with players having to compost it along with an artichoke and forcing everyone to pass two cards from their hand to the left.
Abandon All Artichokes sits in an odd point midway between an entry level card game and one for lighter orientated gamers. This isn’t to say that the game cannot work with non-gamers, the cute style attracts players and each card having the action written on them helps the game’s accessibility. However, an introductory style game where only a selection of the vegetables are included would make teaching the game, and the initial play, less daunting. As it stands in the first game there is a lot of uncertainty about what is best to take and how they work together. It ebbs away quickly after a game or two but a simplified version for a learning game, with less variety of vegetables, could have made for a smoother introduction.
Another aspect to this is that the game uses some vegetable themed names for normal gaming terms – which takes a little getting used to. Instead of saying to purge a card or remove it from play it is composting a card. The central draw deck is referred to at the Garden Stack and the market of cards a Garden Row. Each of these are easy to learn but they are something to learn, whereas using more commonly used terms could have made the game effectively pick up and play, due to the actions being denoted on the cards.
Some of the excitement is lost in a 2 player game. This is predominantly due to the fun free for all like gameplay being replaced by a one on one cutthroat experience. It isn’t helped by cards like the aforementioned Beets, where passing cards between 2 just isn’t as entertainly chaotic as with 4. With more people around the table the feeling of ruthless competitiveness dies down, allowing players laugh at their own misfortunes and the fun to flow freely. Coming with 40 artichoke cards, a 2 player game also highlights that a huge chunk of the deck is made up of plain artichokes that have no abilities – as 20 of them are simply returned to the box. While the crux of the game is that these cards cannot be played on their own, it is hard to get past 40% of the cards being used in this way.
The visual flair of Abandon All Artichokes is elevated by the card design. The colourful vegetables, with smiling and entertaining faces on a stark white card emphasises the artwork. The use of colour extends to the bottom of each card, where the powers reside, further helping to make the cards different at a glance. The quirkiness extends past the cards to the “Gamewright 100% Fresh” embossed sticker on the metal tin. Yes, the game comes in a metal tin, something that some gamers are instantly offended by. Nevertheless, it is the small packaging that helps the game have such portability.
Abandon All Artichokes grows on you. After a game or two players will start to know the abilities the vegetables offer, and this tremendously speeds the game up – with players no longer needing to read every card when it comes out. This is very reminiscent of Love Letter in a sense of the game vastly improving once everyone has the knowledge of what could come out of the deck. There is a real sense of anticipation when drawing the cards at the end of your turn, as you sit on the edge of your seat praying for 5 non-artichokes. While it isn’t a game I’d grab for only 2 players, many will enjoy the family friendly vegetable themed experience at the full player count!
(Editor’s Note: Abandon All Artichokes was provided to us by Coiledspring Games for the review. Check out the games official webpage here.)