Full disclosure: A review copy of Abandon All Artichokes was provided by Emma Larkins.
Had to try to get this one out a bit quicker than anticipated, due to a mild scheduling snafu. That happens, but, always fun to write a review on a Sunday knowing you’re going to be posting it in … less than seven hours. The thrill of a sense of urgency. It’s also just a tough day to write! The protests and police violence that have been happening over the weekend have been affecting me deeply. I’ve been talking a bit about it on other platforms and gotten a variety of reactions, from empathy (Twitter) to some guy yelling at me (Instagram), so, that’s been fun. Before I get too into the review, I should just reaffirm that as a black man living in America, stuff like this weighs heavily on me. It doesn’t really come up when I write too often, but it’s sort of threaded into my experience. It’s hard to write without at least some clarity, and if y’all been reading these reviews for a while you know the first paragraph is mostly for me and what’s going on with me, so, just wanted to use the space to organize my thoughts before I got in too deep with this very cute artichoke game. If that upsets you, … I don’t care. This first paragraph is for me. Either way, let’s dive in and see what’s going on with Abandon All Artichokes, one of the latest titles from Gamewright.
Anyways, in Abandon All Artichokes, you … hate artichokes. Powerfully hate them. Potatoes are perfect. Onions? Okay. You’re cool with carrots. Beets are … bonzer? That scans. We’ll leave it in. But artichokes, you just … can’t stand them. Your goal is to compost all of them as quickly as possible so you can live a life unburdened by these delicious vegetables (Seriously; have you not eaten a good artichoke? They’re surprisingly good, especially with butter). Your opponents have the same scheme, though, and only the fastest one can turn that dream into a reality. Will you be the first to cast aside these most hated vegetables?
First, give each player 10 Artichoke Cards:
That’s their starter deck. No real need to shuffle. You may, however, shuffle the other cards to form the Garden Deck:
Reveal five. Have each player draw 5 Artichokes and you’re ready to start!
So Abandon All Artichokes is a game of dumping vegetables, specifically those leafy boys. You hate them. Why? Dark family secret, probably. We’ve all got them; no need to discuss that further. You win if you can successfully draw an artichoke-free hand and put that part of your life behind you. Your opponents seek to similarly unburden themselves, and while that’s relatable, there’s only room for one inspiring story in this game: yours. How do you kick those artichokes to the curb? Let’s find out.
A game of Abandon All Artichokes takes place over a series of turns. The turn loop is simple, so let’s just outline it real fast.
A turn starts with taking a card from the Garden Row. You may take any card you’d like, for free, but only one. Add it to your hand.
Then, play as many cards as you’d like from your hand, following the text on the card. This means you cannot play Artichokes unless otherwise stated, and if a card says you may not play any cards after it, you must abide by that. Certain cards will allow you to draw more cards, steal cards, or Compost cards, removing them from your hand and adding them to a pile in the center of the play area.
Finish your turn by discarding any unplayed cards and drawing five new ones. If there aren’t enough cards in the deck to draw five new ones, draw what you can, and then shuffle your discard pile and make that into your new deck (and finish filling your hand). It is possible that you have so few cards that you cannot draw back up to five, even after doing that.
Once you’ve refilled your hand, check it: if you have zero Artichokes in hand, you win! If not, the game continues.
Player Count Differences
Not that many, but, since it’s got a random market, there’s at least one major challenge, there. Basically, since players are pulling at least one card in turn order, you can’t rely on the market to stay particularly stable between turns. Market volatility isn’t that big of a deal for this game, but it is something you’ll notice when you’re playing with more players. It just makes things a bit more of a matter of luck; you hope that the cards you need get flipped right before your turn, rather than before another player gets a chance of them. At lower player counts, well, there are fewer “other players’ turns”, so, more chances to get the things that you want. There’s also something to the idea that the take-that elements of the game change as you increase in player count, but that’s mostly just that if you are playing with higher player counts, you run the risk of players ganging up on you. Even then, they can only do so much (since most of the take-that is randomish). At lower player counts / two players, your options for targeting diminish, but so do the number of players that target you. Makes sense. Either way, though, I wouldn’t say I have any particular problems with player counts for this one; I’ve enjoyed it at every player count I’ve tried.
- Don’t ever let anyone know how many artichokes you have left. If they know, then they can figure out if you’re ahead of them and start playing cards to help someone else. If anything, try to convince other players that you’re losing badly, if you can, or at least that you’re not in the lead. You don’t want to get stuck with more artichokes, if you can avoid it.
- You can occasionally try to team up with an opponent to whittle artichokes from each others’ decks. It’s like anything else, though: if you’re working with another player, make sure you’re getting more out of the deal than they are, otherwise you’re just helping someone else win.
- Carrots are excellent early-game grabs, but be careful! It’s tough to win the game that way. The problem with Carrots, basically, is that they don’t stick around in your deck, so they don’t insulate your hand against getting artichokes. In order to win, as a result, you basically have to play enough Carrots to get rid of every card, and that seems unlikely.
- Similarly, Beets start (somewhat) losing their utility as you progress through the game. They do allow you to swap cards with an opponent, but it’s random. If you can reveal an Artichoke from your hand and your opponent’s hand, you can Compost them both, but otherwise you swap cards. This is great as a catch-up mechanism if you have a bunch of Artichokes, but don’t play this card if you still have a bunch of other cards in your hand. You could lose them! And end up getting an Artichoke from your opponent! That sucks! I would generally recommend making this the last card you play on your turn. If you have two Beets in hand? … Perhaps don’t play both of them.
- Onions are nice, but you’re almost never getting them back if people think you’re in the lead. You’re essentially just donating them, since you place them in another player’s discard pile. You might be able to trick a player into giving them back if you keep giving them Onions, though? Perhaps? As a sort of quid-pro-quo thing? Does that actually work? It’s very hard to say.
- If you’re trailing, though, Eggplants are a great way to mess up other people’s schemes. If you’re behind and other players are ahead, passing two Artichokes can be a pretty good way to get rid of them. You really want the player to your right to be doing better than you (down to 1 Artichoke in hand) so that you can get fewer Artichokes than you give.
- Leeks are also a good way to go after players who are already doing well. This can mess people up a bit by potentially discarding the top card of their deck (or letting you steal it for yourself, which is also nice). Just, you know, don’t take their Artichokes.
- Broccoli is the longer-term version of Carrots, but it’s a bit more sustainable. It only allows you to Compost Artichokes if you have too many in your hand, so, get them early, use them effectively, and let them go if you have to. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Finally! A really solid introductory deckbuilder. This is a really great thing to have in the space. No disrespect to the classics, but, even Dale of Merchants isn’t necessarily a game I would bust out for players new to gaming. This definitely is, and I love that. It’s a nice warmup, the deckbuilding part isn’t too overt, and it plays pretty quickly. I think it’s a very solid move.
- I love the art. A lot. It’s a very cute game! The artist (Bonnie Pang) did awesome! Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of their art in games.
- You almost feel bad for dumping the artichokes; they’re so cute! I mean I like artichokes, so this is already a tough dilemma for me. They’ve even got different expressions!
- It’s also just a pleasant amount of color, which I like. So few green game boxes (since I don’t own many Friedemann Friese games). It’s very vibrant! I’m a big fan of green game boxes just because I have so few. Cat Rescue’s is good, Islebound is lovely, Ecosystem, Startups, Mr. Face, Dominion: Hinterlands. I guess I have more than I thought, but still, green. Just a suggestion.
- Plays very quickly. Probably 20 minutes tops? It’s very quick to set up and quick to play.
- I’m rapidly becoming more and more amenable to deckbuilders without card costs. I loved it in SPQF and I think it works really well on the simpler end, here, as well. It means you’re not futzing with money as an additional resource and that greatly simplifies the game. Very much into that.
- I think I’m going to always forget to take a card at the start of my turn. I’m so used to the buy phase being at the end! This is a me problem, through and through, but it’s worth noting. If you’re used to a certain type of deck-building, make sure you don’t forget the turn order when you’re playing Abandon All Artichokes.
- I will say that I’m generally not the biggest fan of take-that / card stealing actions, especially in deckbuilders, but I will concede that it’s not that bad in this one. It helps that a lot of the take-that isn’t that bad; it’s usually just stealing or swapping a card that’s usually determined randomly. That’s not too much in the grand scheme of things. I still don’t think I love them, but I appreciate how they add to the overall progression of the game.
- Well that’s a tin that’s not going to fit anywhere. Gamewright loves their weird box shapes. It makes the games seem more vibrant and interesting, and that’s generally fine if you don’t own a ton of games, but from the “I kind of have to regularly move games into boxes” side of the hobby, it can cause a few annoying issues when I have games that don’t fit anywhere. Oh well. I’ll figure out a way to make it work.
- I’m slightly anti-random markets in deckbuilders; I think they can create really lucky circumstances for some players, to the ire of others. It’s not too bad, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed in the games I’ve played. I’ve been sort-of looking for a vegetable in particular and witnessed another player gain the card I wanted on a lucky flip.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Abandon All Artichokes is a great little game! I think, for me, it sits very well in a “early gamers” sort of mood. It’s a solid starter game for folks who are getting into gaming, and it teaches the basics of deckbuilding with a bit of player interaction without getting too much into take-that or complex deckbuilding economies. After this? Dale of Merchants, Dominion, or a variety of other solid deckbuilding titles might be a good move (Spring Rally is very fun!), if you want to further explore deckbuilding. In the meantime, though, Abandon All Artichokes is a lot of fun! It’s bright and colorful, and I love that in games. It’s very inviting! It’s also very simple to learn, and doesn’t take all that long to play, meaning that it’s not too hard to get it to the table and teach it to players. I really like the idea of more games in modern gaming genres that are built to help ramp players up! Hopefully it starts teaching players about that genre well enough that they start figuring out what other things in modern gaming that they’re excited about. That’s a great line of games to make, and I’m glad Gamewright brought Emma’s game to market. If you’re looking for a solid introduction to deckbuilding, you like cute vegetables, or you want a quick card game, I’d suggest checking out Abandon All Artichokes! It’s a lot of fun.