Wednesday, November 09, 2016

"You like da juice, huh? Juice is good!" (10 Questions About Fabled Fruit)

  • Designer: Friedemann Friese
  • Publishers: 2F & Stronghold Games
  • Players; 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Times Played (so far!): 11 "games" with a review copy provided by Stronghold Games
Far be it from me to reinvent the wheel… I’ll leave that as something for Friedemann Friese to work at on Fridays. (Though, to be fair, “wheel” is actually “Rad” in German… which doesn’t start with an F.) 

The wheel I’m actually referring to is Dale Yu’s excellent preview and description of Fabled Fruit's gameplay in his Opinionated Gamers post. If you need more details about how the game works, you should start there.

And then come back here.

10 Questions About… Fabled Fruit

Q1: Is Fabled Fruit a good family game?

A1: Yes. 

Of course, that depends on what you mean by “good family game”. If you’re asking about the ability to play with a wide variety of ages, the answer is a qualified ‘yes’. While the game will work best if all players are able to read well the juice cards are face up on the table and younger players (mid-elementary) can be assisted with decisions as necessary.

On the other hand, if you’re asking about the game working well with players of varying levels of gaming experience, the answer is an UNqualified ‘YES!’. I think it’s actually a great gateway game – the decision tree is never overwhelming but there is ample opportunity for clever plays and discovery of interesting combinations of cards. I plan on packing this in my luggage over the holidays - it will go over very well with my non-gamer family members. 

So, to sum up, yes.

Q2:  I’ve read the rules to Fabled Fruit… but I don’t get why people are so interested in it. What makes it interesting?

A2: Fabled Fruit is a near-perfect balance of simplicity (on your turn, you move your piece and either take the action on the juice card or buy it) and tactical cleverness (finding the right action to assist your plans without leaving your opponents in a better position than you). 

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest taking some care with reading rules to make snap judgements about the quality/enjoyment of a game… especially simpler games. Personal story: I avoided Knizia’s Res Publica for a long time on the basis of reading the rules… which was a major mistake. (It’s a great game.)

Specifically, since the majority of the game-changing rules are on the cards in Fabled Fruit, you’re missing a big chunk of the actual game in your evaluation.

Q3: OK, it’s clever… but is it fun?

A3: Yes.

Of course, if you’re the kind of gamer who would describe fun as the following equation…

FUN = long-term strategy + engine building

Fabled Fruit is not the game for you.

Q4: Does Fabled Fruit work as a 2 player game?

A4: Yes.

Of course, I need to point out that we’ve found the game to be more enjoyable with 3-5 players. With two players, it feels like there is too much “room” in the game system. 

While I wouldn’t say “no” to playing it with 2 players, I’d prefer to play it with 3+.

Q5: With such simple gameplay, doesn’t Fabled Fruit start to feel a little same-y?

A5: I don’t think so – our experience has been that the morphing of the game state (through the changing juice cards) makes each game feel a little bit different. There are definite shifts between types of cards… but we’ve been intrigued enough to play on a regular basis since the game showed up on our doorstep.

Of course, that morphing will happen differently for each group – and certain juice cards can hang on in the 24 card tableau for multiple games, changing the options and combos that are available. (Currently, we have cards from #8 to #30 in our tableau – that’s a big spread.)

Q6: Can you compare Fabled Fruit to any other popular games?

A6: Well, it’s a set collection game, so it’s got a definite Ticket to Ride vibe in collecting particular types of cards.  While you acquire juice cards for scoring, there’s no tableau building (well, at least as far as we’ve gotten).

Of course, I don’t know of anything quite like the Fable system for morphing the game. The closest thing is the stacked Legacy deck from Pandemic Legacy.

Q7: How long does a single game last… really?

A7: It takes a minute or two deal out the cards and lay out the tableau… and then you’re off to the (jungle) races to concoct fruit smoothies. 15-20 minutes later, it’s done. (Our longest game was about 25 minutes with 4 players and a combo of cards that made it more difficult to amass the appropriate fruits; our shortest was about 10 minutes with 3 players.)

Of course, we play 2-3 games in row, awarding 2 points to the winner of each “game” and 1 point to everyone but the lowest player. That takes 40-55 minutes for 3 games.

Q8: How many “new” games can you actually get out of this system? 

Q9: We are averaging changing out 9-10 juice cards per game… at that rate, it should take 24-25 games to reach the end of the juice deck.

Of course, the order in which juice cards are purchased (and removed from the game) will make for different combos… and that means that you can play the game again and have a similar but not identical experience. (Look, I think this Fable system is right up there with the Legacy design ethic… both take gaming in some nifty new directions!)

Q9: Give me the elevator pitch on why I should buy this game…

A9: Fabled Fruit is easy to teach, fun to play, and offers a plethora of opportunities to make clever moves in your quest to quench the thirst of your jungle friends.

Of course, it’s also the first Fable game… and for those who are interested in game design, it’s a pretty amazing piece of work to dig into.

11 games in and I’m still excited to get it to the table.

Q10: I don't get the title of this review. Can you explain it?

A10: Hard to believe the SNL skit I referenced in the title of this post is 23 years old.

Of course, a few of us at work were joking about Garrett Morris' Headmaster of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing... just checked - it was first broadcast 41 years ago.

It's official. I'm older than dirt.

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