Base price: $12.
3 – 6 players.
Play time: 10 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 2
Full disclosure: A review copy of Fruition was provided by Button Shy.
As is my proud history after each PAX Unplugged, I’m making my way through more games from Button Shy’s back catalogue. They’ve always been a huge friend of the site, and I’ve previewed or reviewed ~40 games of theirs, at this point? A solid ~4% of my reviews, basically. I wonder which publisher I’ve reviewed the most of. Another thing to look into later (betting KOSMOS, just given the proliferation of EXIT games). Either way, getting to see the Button Shy folks in person is another one of many reasons that PAX Unplugged is one of my favorite shows. There will be more Button Shy games reviewed over the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for those. In the meantime, let’s check out Fruition!
In Fruition, players are in a bit of a jam. You’ve got a bunch of categories, and a bunch of letters, and your goal is to be the last player to say a valid word from the given category that starts with the given letter. That said, you can’t repeat words, so maybe if you say a few quickly, you can stun your opponents long enough to take the points for yourself. Your friends might be a bit quicker and cleverer than you expected though, so you can never be too careful. Will your attempts to win bear fruit?
Basically none. Just shuffle the 18 cards, make a deck:
Reveal one card, placing it letter up. Reveal the next one, rotating it so the categories are visible on it. Then, flip a card over to the fruit side. You’re good to go!
Over ten rounds, players compete to try and name words in various categories to score points! Pretty straightforward, in that regard.
Each round, one player serves as the Judge. They announce the Letter and Category for the round. Once they’ve done that, the round begins! Each player can yell out as many answers as they want in real-time (though, for obvious reasons, you probably shouldn’t yell out multiple answers in a row). The Judge’s job is to point at whoever said the last valid answer, so that players can keep track of who’s currently ahead. Once the Judge feels like another valid answer isn’t coming, they can start a five-second countdown. If a player provides a valid answer, the round continues. If nobody does before the countdown ends, then the Judge gives the letter card to the last player to provide a valid answer, earning them a point.
If ten rounds haven’t been played, the winner of the round becomes the next round’s Judge. Rotate the Category Card to show the new letter, flip the Fruit Card to show the categories, and then flip a new card from the deck to be the new fruit. Then, start a new round!
After ten rounds, the game ends, and the player with the most letter cards wins!
Player Count Differences
The interesting thing is that there’s not really a major difference between various player counts, since you’re never competing against all the players at once, technically. There’s only the player with the most recent word and all other players. If you get a valid answer, now you’re the player. Whoever has the last valid word gets the point, so with more players, technically, there’s a higher chance that rounds will go longer, but in practice, haven’t really seen that happen. The interesting thing is that since the winning player becomes the next Judge, it’s unlikely that the winning player will get more than 5 points over the course of the game, so scores could spread out a bit more with more players, which may lead to some randomness? At that point, you really should just focus on getting the last letter, alphabetically. Beyond that, though, I usually see the rounds trickle down until there are two players left rallying against each other until one of them concedes, so even with more players, the game tends to reduce to that state. As a result, I wouldn’t necessarily profess a strong preference for any player count with this one.
- The best I can tell you is to come up with as many words as you can, and only say a word when you absolutely have to. From a gameplay perspective this kind of sucks, since that just means that the game will take forever if everyone does this, but practically, if you see two other players rallying, there’s no reason that you absolutely have to insert yourself into that. You can just wait until they’re out of words and hopefully neither of them have said the word you wanted. That said, there’s risk inherent to this: if they say your word and you can’t come up with a better one, then you’re cooked. So you might want to get in there in the hopes that you can be the one with the last valid answer. It’s worth considering!
- Feel free to demand that the Judge start the countdown timer; it’s your job to make sure they’re being fair. Fair, of course, is relative, but I usually find that after long pauses, you might as well ask the Judge to start counting down, if for no other reason than moving the game along. Some particularly gracious players will just concede the point, and I respect that, but also if someone wants to take the full time to think, that is explicitly their right. Either way, sometimes you need to push things along.
- Given that the alphabetically-last Letter Card is the tiebreaker, it generally makes sense to go the hardest for that one. It’s pretty easy to fall into an obvious trap, here, so be careful. Don’t let your desire to optimize for the tiebreaker be the thing that stops you from getting enough points to win. Some players focus a bit too much on that tiebreaker and then it ends up not mattering. That said, if you’re looking for a card to give 110% for, it’s whatever the last card you see alphabetically is, since winning that wins ties. But more practically, you should be giving 110% for every card.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I haven’t played a Button Shy party game in a hot minute, but this was a fun one! I really like word games, to be fair. Now that I’m looking through my reviews, I don’t think I’ve played a Button Shy party game since (or before) In Vino Morte, so it’s nice to have another one to add to the list. I wonder if there are more that I’m missing. Something to ask about later, I think.
- When two players start rallying back and forth with words, it can be pretty incredible to watch. I’d rather be in the rally, since that means I’m at a pretty good spot to score points, but it’s pretty impressive to see two players go tit for tat with words. I imagine it’s impressive with more than two, as well, but I typically don’t see three or more players all cycling at the same time. It would be cool.
- The art style is pleasant, as well. Impressively, it’s Mary Shcherbakha‘s first game (according to BGG), so nice work, Mary! The kinda-watercolor-esque look of the game makes it look super classy, and I love a super-classy party game.
- The rotating system for cards does a good job making sure you don’t have a bunch of repeats, though if you play multiple games you may want to reshuffle if you get similar combinations. It can happen, so if you play multiple games in a row, just switch the fruit if you’re about to get the same letter-category combination that you got in the last game. That way it stays fresh. There should be enough combinations that you can play for a while without seeing too much overlap, especially if you’re playing with new groups each time.
- I also just like how the cards work; I’m always impressed by how the 18-card constraint lets players play with information presentation. Button Shy games are always an impressive exercise in information presentation and user experience design, and here they’ve done a good job, even though the fronts of the cards are dual-purpose overloads. Having each card cover part of the previous one is an elegant fix to keep players focused, and it all looks good as you play.
- Another very portable game, of course. The wallets are nice for that; I think I had like, ten of them stuffed in various parts of my carry-on suitcase last time I traveled; it was wonderful.
- The red wallet is very nice! It’s a classy color. I heard rumors that our first pink wallet is on its way, so I’m excited to see that. I love Button Shy, but they have tended to lean towards dark blue, brown, and dark green wallets. It’s good to see them shake things up a bit more. Yellow, pink, white; all great choices. I mean, Adder had that cool translucent wallet. I’d love to see more of those.
- The game length can be a bit variable, since some of the rounds can be extremely short and others quite long, depending on the letter / category combo. Feelings that start with C? Long. Drugs starting with J? Short. I think we had one that might have been bugs starting with a J, which led me in an exhausted stupor to almost suggest “Jrasshopper”. Brains go weird places when they’re tired. But the rounds might take a long time or a short time, so keep an eye out for that. The game roughly takes about the same time every play, since those variable rounds tend to average out over the length of one or more games.
- It’s pretty difficult to track what words have already been said in a longer rally. Generally, that’s what the other players are for, but we’ve had some particularly-long rallies where it can be difficult to remember everything. I do appreciate that you can’t just add a suffix (and that’s explicitly called out in the rules) in order to create a “new word”, though; that keeps things a bit tighter.
- There’s some potential for bias, since the Judge is a pretty-explicitly-not-impartial player. This can manifest in a few ways. So, for instance, if you’re the Judge, you pretty explicitly want whichever player is not in the lead to win, so an unscrupulous Judge could specifically favor that player with the timer, for instance, which isn’t great (but isn’t provided for in the rules). More commonly, though, is that the Judge is the decider for the validity of answers, which means that you’re going to see a wide range of tolerability (especially since “clever” answers are totally fine). We’ve allowed some players to protest and demand the Judge be a bit stricter, but I would have liked a bit more clear guardrails around how the Judge engages with other players, since they are, themselves, a player. At the end of the day, though, if you’ve got a player that’s bending the rules so that they can win a party game, you might want to consider that the problem isn’t really the game, here. Just a thought.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I like Fruition! I think the first thing I noticed about the game was that it was extremely striking, and then I realized it was a fun word-based party game like some of my favorites (Anomia continuing to top that list). Having had a chance to play it a few times, it’s definitely a game that I’m enjoying and looking forward to keeping in my party game rotation. My major issue with it is more structural, and it’s just that I think the Judge, as another player, is given a bit too much arbiter power over what’s valid and when the timer starts for their own bias not to creep in, but I hope that that won’t be an issue for most players or most groups (since that usually means one player has put winning above the interests of having fun with their friends, which usually means it’s time for a Different Conversation). Fruition continues Button Shy’s proud tradition of having a lot of information packed into a very limited space. That bodes well for making the game easy to set up, easy to learn, and easy to replay. Plus, thanks to some smart space design, you’ll barely notice that you get three unique types of information off of each card (and the graphic design ensures that the cards look good while providing that information). They’re easy to read and easy to use, which I appreciate. And there’s a nice bit of a catch-up mechanism, as the player who won the round becomes the Judge for the next round (and as a result cannot win that round, letting the other players have a shot). I’m a big fan of winner-out mechanics for a lot of games that I play (usually Smash Bros.), and seeing it here as a way to let everyone participate is nice. I’m looking forward to my next play of Fruition, and if you’re a big fan of word games, you enjoy party games, or you’ve got an impressive vocabulary, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well!
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2 thoughts on “Fruition”
Thank you so much for this review. It’s honestly the first one I’ve seen for this game.
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Happy to review it! Nice work on the game.