Point Salad is a fast paced, fruit and vegetable themed, set collection card game, released last year by publisher Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). Designed by Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich, this drafting game sees 2 – 6 players grabbing yellow peppers, collecting carrots and more. Taking around 20 minutes, players collect and choose their own point scoring methods. However, does the healthy theme make for a game with healthy competition? Let’s find out!
Aside from removing a certain amount of each veggie card from the deck, setup is as simple as shuffling the deck and splitting it into three approximate piles. To start, players turn over two cards from each deck. This forms three columns of a facedown deck with two available veggie cards below it. Every veggie card has a unique point scoring method denoted on the reverse. Therefore there will be 3 point cards and 6 veggie cards available at any one time.
On a turn the active player can either take any two cards from the veggie market, adding both to their tableau, or take one objective card. Note that once per turn it is also possible to flip an objective card you have to its veggie side, though the reverse of this (flipping to the point card side) is not possible. If cards from the veggie market were taken then new cards from their column’s deck are flipped to replenish the market. This can see a pile run out, at which point players split one of the remaining decks and play continues. When all cards are taken the game ends. Players then score points based on the objectives on the point cards they have obtained and the tableau of veggie cards they have built up.
All points are awarded at the end of the game, so there is no need to calculate too much during play. Players will however be constantly monitoring what different types of cards will score them. For example, an objective card may say that for every carrot they collect it will score them 2 points. Objective cards stack, which means taking another objective card that awards points per carrot would see each carrot triggering both scoring objectives. On top of others also wanting carrots for other unique scoring objectives, such as sets of 3 carrots, players can find cards that mean they score negative points for specific types of veggies. Taking these objectives may sound an odd choice but they always come with huge point potentials for another veggie type, such as -1 point per carrot but +3 points per cabbage. The winner is simply the player with the most points, with ties broken by whoever is later in the turn order.
Point Salad is a simple game. The choice on a turn is only ever between taking veggie cards or an objective card, with only 9 cards on show. Do you double down and collect a number of scoring objectives that feature the same vegetable type, or spread your bets and gain objectives that score for all of them. Do too many of your opponents also want Lettuces or Onions? Who knew everyone would be fighting over peppers this game! Being made up of so few choices the game is super easy to teach and get to the table. Yet, it manages to hook players from the beginning.
After playing a game players will have seen a variety of the scoring objectives and be pretty much up to speed with what could come out of the deck. This is where Point Salad gets interesting, as it can be as much about denying opponents cards as taking things for personal gain. That first game might be a slightly easy victory for an experienced player but that second game is much more on a level playing field. Nevertheless, it isn’t unheard of for a new player to find a great combo and pull off a win.
Most set collection games see players vying for exactly the same sets, with players having to choose which to go for and which to surrender to their opponents. As everyone chooses their objective cards during play, everyone could be attempting to collect completely different sets of cards. By not having a huge range of vegetables though Point Salad is able to have enough overlap between objectives that all cards will be wanted by multiple players.
As with any game that features a shuffled deck there is an aspect of luck of the draw. The right objective cards can come up on a specific player’s turn and see them gain a handful of insanely point lucrative objectives. Point Salad therefore isn’t about having a go to strategy going into the game. It is more about tactically reacting to what comes up and trying to get the best score possible as a result. In one game everyone may be after tomatoes but in the next they could cause some to lose points, with carrots the most fought over. This means that every game players will be going for something different, making each repeat play fresh, just like the fruit and vegetables depicted.
The colourful artwork isn’t just for the vibrancy it gives the game. The user interface, the readability, of the entire game is boosted. At a glance players at all angles around the table can see what vegetables are available. The simple vegetable symbols go hand in hand with this, to make the scoring cards intuitive. The cards themselves are of good card stock, so there’s no issue with the shuffling the cards will endure over many many plays. The only slight annoyance is that the box could be half the size, which would have made the game much more portable.
Point Salad is a fun and fast game which manages to even be quick with those often prone to analysis paralysis. Each turn has a quick choice to be made, but they build up throughout the game into a huge tableau of veggies and personal scoring objectives. Being a pun on the term point salad, points are thrown at players via the scoring objectives – so a game always feels like some success has been made, regardless of winning or not. The vibrancy and easy to teach nature of the game, with the want to instantly replay, will make this an instant hit with many – and a great go to gateway game.
(Editor’s Note: Point Salad was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, some of which are reopening! Find your local store here.)