17th Jul2020

‘Abandon All Artichokes’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

If you’re going to make a card game these days, you’re going to have a heck of a job on your hands in making it stand out from the crowd. Casual players these days are inundated with choice, having often hundreds of small box, simple games to choose from. When it comes to Abandon All Artichokes however, designer Emma Larkins and publisher Gamewright have nailed every aspect of what I think players are looking for (asides, perhaps, from a convenient way to store it on their shelves!)

Abandon All Artichokes is what I guess you would normally call a deckbuilding game, except in this case, it’s more like a deck-thinning or deck-destruction game. There aren’t many examples of this approach to card games, but one designer who does use this approach is Martin Wallace, and both Milito and Lincoln feature similar ideas, although everything else about those games couldn’t be more different from Abandon All Artichokes.

This is a light and breezy affair that welcomes players of almost all ages and experience levels with open arms, and the cute artwork and eye-catching box make it one of my most “looked at” games when I have visitors (although they are still few and far between whilst the Coronavirus lingers on.) The concept is simple – you’ll begin the game with a hand made up entirely of artichoke heart cards, and cute as they are, your objective is to be the first player who draws a hand of five cards that feature no artichokes at all.

On your first turn, your action is simple – you’ll just choose one of the other, more preferable vegetables from the face up display in the middle of the table. Each “other” vegetable has a specific function that will aid in your overall objective. For example, the broccoli card will allow you to “compost” an artichoke if you have three in your hand, and when composted, a card will be placed in a permanent discard pile and won’t be reshuffled into your hand. In this way, over time, you’ll use veggies to reduce the number of artichokes in your hand and increase the number of other cards.

Each game of Abandon All Artichokes takes just fifteen to twenty minutes, and it plays best with four players, but even at two, it’s still a lot of madcap fun. There is certainly a little luck when it comes to choosing which veggie you want (as the selection is randomly drawn) and of course, it is possible for a player to draw a perfect hand the first time it becomes possible, but it’s very unlikely. More often than not, I found that Abandon All Artichokes builds towards an unbearable crescendo of excitement as the players draw cards from their ever tastier (because who likes artichokes anyway) decks.

Where Abandon All Artichokes really shines is in the way it feels to play. The different veggies all do very interesting things that introduce elements of risk and reward in some cases, or relatively small but predictable outcomes. There aren’t that many different veggies to choose from, but those that are included are varied and memorable, so over a series of games, players become more and more able to assess the board state, choose the best action and then execute it before passing their turn.

I’ve played Abandon All Artichokes as a warm up game with friends and family over the past few months, and I’ve also enjoyed it around the table during a couple of barbecues, where the fresh, green theme really works in an outdoor environment. I am theorising a bit about where else it might work, but thanks to its tin (which is a pain to position on a shelf) Abandon All Artichokes would make a fantastic travel game and I could see myself playing it with colleagues who have no gaming experience, perhaps whilst enjoying a beer or two.

From my children to my older friends, including those who have never played games before, everyone loves Abandon All Artichokes. The game is simple to setup and learn, it looks very attractive and it has a theme that is unique, non-offensive and fun. It even taught my children to love vegetables a bit more – which may or may not be its intent. The one thing I will say is that the visuals appeal to very young kids, but the game is quite dependant on the players ability to read, so it can be a frustrating experience for youngsters unless assisted by an adult.

Regardless of any minor criticisms I might have (which are pretty much limited to the awkward to store box and the high reading dependency), I would still say that Abandon All Artichokes is one of my favourite card games, and one of my favourite lighter games this year. It may even be my favourite game of this weight full stop really. It has everything going for it and very little to criticise, and the main thing is, it’s just an absolute blast to play.

****½  4.5/5

A copy of Abandon All Artichokes was supplied by CoiledSpring Games for review.

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