Full disclosure: A review copy of Fruit Picking was provided by Korea Boardgames.
The second of the Korea Boardgames titles! I’ve also got some titles from Mandoo to check out. One is going to require more players than I can currently support, so, that’s on hold, but the merchants one looks super exciting, so, looking forward to that one. But I digress. Last week was Four Gardens, this week is Fruit Picking! Still colorful art and very naturey, so that’s a nice mix. Let’s see what this one has to offer and how it shapes up against last week’s title!
In Fruit Picking, you play as farmers who are, well, picking fruit. It’s nice when things are straightforward like that. Your goal? Get your fruit to market and sell it to impress one of the four districts of Market Island to make a name for yourself. Unfortunately, you’ve got competition: each other! As you do in most competitive games. Will you be able to corner the market?
So there’s two ways you can set up. Either way, set the Market Island Board in the center:
And give each player a Fruit Island:
Now, have one player shuffle up their Farm Cards:
Placing one in each slot except for the top slot (the Harvest House). Other players should place their cards so that everyone’s board is the same. Alternatively, you can have every player randomize their boards. Up to you. Either way, shuffle the Market Cards:
And place four face-up below Market Island. Give each player beans matching their Farm Card color:
Each player should take 6 seeds, placing two on each of the three spaces clockwise from the Harvest House. Once you’ve done that, pick a player to go first and you’re ready to start!
Your goal is to earn a title from one of the trading houses on market island, and they’ll only be impressed by certain sets of fruit! Earning fruit is a challenge, though, so you’ll have to work hard to get that title.
A game of Fruit Picking is played over several rounds, each round being a turn for each player. You’ll have two phases per turn, so let’s go through each.
Choose a farm on your Fruit Island board that has at least one seed on it. You cannot choose the Harvest House. Pick up all the seeds on that spot, and place one seed from your hand on each space moving clockwise until you run out of seeds. The last spot you placed a seed on becomes your Active Farm, for the turn.
If your Active Farm would be the Harvest House, you may immediately take another turn, starting from another space on the board as normal. This continues as many times as it needs to; you cannot pass your turn.
Use the Active Farm
Once you identify the Active Farm, you may do one of the following two actions:
- Water Plants (If you’re on a raindrop, you must take this action.)
- Collect a Market Card
If you choose to water plants, take one seed from the central storage space for each fruit / raindrop depicted on your space (1 / 2 / 3) and place them onto the Active Farm.
Collect a Market Card
To collect a Market Card, look at your Active Farm. The only card you can buy is a card of the same type. If there are some in the market row, pay a number of seeds from the Harvest House equal to the number of fruit depicted on the card (1 / 2 / 3) + the number of spaces away from the rightmost slot it is (3 / 2 / 1 / 0). Then, also place all the seeds on your Active Farm back into the center, and claim the card. Claiming cards is how you win the game!
If you cannot buy a card, you cannot take this action and must Water Plants instead.
End of Game
The game ends when a player has fulfilled one of these conditions:
- 5 different cards
- 4 of the same card
- 3 of one card, 2 of another
- 3 different pairs of cards
When a player does that, finish the round, and the player who completed their set wins!
Player Count Differences
The only real thing that you need to watch out for in terms of player count differences for this game is market churn. Players will buy cards out from under you and may completely wipe the market out of everything that you want before you can get to it. Naturally, at lower player counts, that happens with less frequency because there are fewer players between your turns. That’s … honestly about it, as far as differences. Your board is largely unaffected by other players’ action, so you can kind of just churn along and buy cards no matter what your player count. I do prefer it at lower ends of the player count spectrum, just because I prefer lower entropy in my gaming experiences, but it’s not a huge preference.
- Having lots of seeds is good, but having fine-tuned control is good, too. There are definitely players that just load up on as many seeds as they can get as often as they can, and there’s a lot of merit to that strategy. You can always buy from the Market, for instance. The problem is, when you want to land on a specific space, you may have too many seeds on the board to have a good sense of what you need to do across a few turns to land it. That happens. Fewer seeds, you can’t buy as easily, but it’s easier to plan out moves in your head. The trade-off is part of what makes the game interesting, but it’s good to keep in mind that the trade-off definitely exists.
- Once you know what cards you want to buy, set yourself up so that you can always make that space your Active Farm if you need to. This is where that seed management is going to become super important. If you have to keep overshooting or undershooting the farm that you want to be your Active Farm, you’re going to be wasting a lot of turns while your opponents land what they need to land to get ahead.
- Taking multiple turns by continually landing on the Harvest House can really build up your supply, but make sure you don’t run out of seeds to move with! The repeating turns via the Harvest House is an incredible strategy though, if you can use it to build up your Harvest House so that you can take a card that you need on this turn. If you’re sloppy, you’re going to get stuck localizing all of your seeds on your Harvest House, and you’ll have to take a really crappy few turns with very few seeds to get back on track.
- It may not be a bad idea to take a card if you see that another player needs it. Cards explicitly help you, and throwing off their plans helps you because then you don’t lose. Normally, I advise against this kind of direct nonsense but that might be the only way to prevent an outright loss. I don’t think it’s sustainable, though; eventually random chance catches up with you, or your opponent gets something that they need.
- Try to think a few moves ahead. You need to know where your seeds need to be so that you can get them where they need to go next turn, not necessarily this one. Be prepared for that so that you can be in the right spot to buy the cards that you need to win. You don’t want to be overshooting or undershooting constantly; this is a game about efficiency.
- Players tend to avoid buying strawberries due to the additional cost, if you’re willing to pay. It may be that they start backing up the Market and you can score a couple quick ones if you have enough in your Harvest House, but be careful; players get wise to that sort of thing extremely fast, and they’ll start buying them out from under you.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the color scheme in this game. It’s very bright, upbeat, and welcoming. It’s just a good-looking game, all around.
- It’s also a pretty family-friendly theme. It’s a very cute game. Provides a nice contrast to the mildly-horror-themed game I’m also reviewing this week. You always gotta love the juxtaposition.
- Pretty easy to learn. It’s mostly just learning the mancala mechanic (moving spaces equal to the number of tokens on your space) and figuring out how to buy cards. The card-buying is a bit obtuse, but it makes sense why it has to be in order to drive the game’s action.
- I like that there are options for randomized and consistent layouts. More flexibility is always good, though I wonder if there are certain layouts that are “better” than others, due to how they’re placed relative to the Harvest House? I would need a computer and some time to figure that out, but I’m definitely suspicious.
- Also, another good insert. Korea Boardgames has been crushing it on inserts, lately. Very impressed.
- Double-layered player boards are also a nice touch. It’s one of my favorite components, honestly, in most games. They just feel classier. And everything spills less, which is a huge bonus.
- I do appreciate that the game gradually builds towards a conclusion. As you play, you keep adding seeds to the Harvest House and buying cards. A player will inevitably win after they take 7 cards, I believe, so there’s no way that the game will stall out. I think that’s a smart bit of design, especially for a quick family game.
- I wish the seeds were a bit larger so that they were easier to pick up. I’m not sure why I’m so bad at it? Maybe I just have gently uncoordinated hands? Unclear. Either way, having larger seeds would make it easier for me to grab them en masse, and I would appreciate that.
- It can be fairly random, meaning that some players are difficult to stop. There are very few things less satisfying than having a player one move away from winning and you successfully buy the card that they’re trying to go for, only for the exact same card to be revealed from the deck. I get that luck of the draw happens, but I wish there were ways to exert a bit more agency in those situations. Thankfully, it’s a short game, so you can just pick up and play again. A lot of times, though, your strategy is somewhat determined by what cards come up.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think Fruit Picking is a cute and quick game. I’ve enjoyed trying it! I think it shines quite nicely as a family game mostly targeted at having something fun to do with newer gamers, since it doesn’t rely a ton on complex math, but it’s still fun to move the seeds around even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I do have some concerns about the size of the seeds if you’re playing with younger folks, but this is why I’m a board game reviewer and not a parent. Plus, it’s definitely engaging for players, as well; it’s bright, colorful, and has a nice tactile component as you move the seeds around! It’s interactive in the sense that you’re competing over a tight market, but there’s very little take-that outside of “you bought what I wanted”! My main gripe is my consistent gripe about random markets; sometimes they help you, sometimes you get screwed by them. This is a pretty easy game to get screwed by an open market. It just … matters less, because it’s short and easy to replay. And you can just do that! Add in a variant mode for even more randomness and you’ve got some fun mancala-based action in a great-looking package. If that’s your scene, or you’re looking to brighten up your gameplay experience, I’d recommend trying out Fruit Picking! I’ve enjoyed playing it.