Sunday, 17 December 2017

Fabled Fruit

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

The legacy game mechanism is relatively new, but there are already quite a few games using it. The mad scientist game designer Friedemann Friese has taken an interest, and has now released quite a few games using legacy mechanisms. Fabled Fruit was the first of these. The key idea behind the legacy mechanism is a game can change over time. Rules may change. Game components may change. One game can be different from the next, depending on what the players have done during play. In Pandemic Legacy, many changes are permanent and irreversible. Components are destroyed. Cards are written on. People die. The irrevocability lends gravity to your actions and decisions. Fabled Fruit changes from game to game, but has no destructive aspect. If you want to, you can reset the game completely. Your actions will change the game and the actions allowed. Some actions will be disabled, replaced by new ones. The game comes with many different actions, but only a subset will be in use each game. You can play through a long campaign spanning multiple games to see every action come into play. Which actions come and which actions go depend on your group. On subsequent playthroughs of a campaign, you may not get the same combination of actions.

The basic resources in the game are five types of fruits - bananas and strawberries being two of them. You collect fruits to make juice. The game ends when at least one player makes a certain number of bottles of juice. Whoever has made the most bottles wins. In case of a tie, you compare leftover fruits in hand.

This is how a game is set up. Ivan taught Allen and I to play. This was not the first time he played. His copy of the game had undergone a few rounds of evolution to come to this state. The ten stacks in the middle are location cards. The row of five face-up cards on the right are the fruit cards. On your turn, you must move your pawn to a new location (you cannot stay where you are). If there are pawns of other players present, you need to pay fruits to them. Normally you want to avoid doing this. Once you arrive at your destination, you have two options. You may use the ability of the location. Usually it lets you collect fruits, sometimes directly, sometimes less so. Your other option is to make juice. The location card specifies the fruit combination required. If you pay the cost, you claim the location card, flip it over, and place it in front of you. It becomes a bottle of fabled juice. Since a location card has been removed from the play area, you now need to draw a replacement from the location card draw deck. Sometimes it can be a whole new type of location card. You will create a new stack and introduce a new action into the game. This is how the gameplay evolves. There are 59 different types of location cards, with 4 copies per type, making a total of 236 location cards. Playing through this whole deck of location cards is one full campaign.

Let's take a closer look at two of the location cards. You should only send your pawn to the card on the left if you happen to be one of the players with the fewest fruits. You will get to draw a number of fruit cards equal to the number you have in hand. This action is most powerful if everyone has many cards, and you are lucky enough to have just a bit less than the rest. The location card on the right lets you swap your hand with another player, the condition being that he has at most one card more than you. Also, once cards are swapped, he gets to draw one fruit card.

If you decide to make juice, the card on the left requires two types of fruits, and 3 units in each type. The card on the right requires exactly 3 pineapples and 2 grapes.

Identical location cards are stacked together, like the stack on the left. The location card stack on the right has only one card remaining. Once anyone makes juice with this card, the action of this stack will be lost. That grey wooden piece on the right is a player pawn.

The two cards are location cards which have been flipped over, showing the bottle side. The green tortoise marker is a player marker, reminding everyone including yourself which pawn on the table is yours. The strawberry marker is a special marker. It is in play only when a specific location card type is in use. When you own a fruit marker like this, it stands in for any payment you make when making juice. If a juice needs 4 strawberries, I only need to pay 3. The wooden monkey is also a special token brought into play when a specific location card type is in use. Whenever anyone makes juice, the monkey steals 2 of the fruit cards from the payment made.

The number of bottles of fabled juice required to win depends on the number of players. With 3 players, you need 4 bottles. When a player reaches 4 bottles, the round is still completed so that everyone has the same number of turns.

The Play

The game rules are straightforward. It is only at the beginning that you need a little time to digest the location card powers. You do need to internalise them, so that you can see what's more valuable, and when which will become valuable. You also want to watch out for strong combos, and risks. Some cards are aggressive in nature, so you want to avoid getting targeted. E.g. cards getting swapped, or worse - getting robbed.

This is an efficiency game. On average you want to earn two fruits per turn. If you can manage three or more, that's wonderful. You need to have a general idea of what fruits your opponents are collecting. Some actions allow players to take face-up cards, so you can see what fruits they collect. You want to know which locations they will likely want to use. If possible, beat them to it, to force them to pay you fruits, or disrupt their plans. The actions available have much variety, and the pool of actions gradually evolve. There are many tactical decisions. You must stay alert of opportunities and squeeze out all those little advantages. They will add up and help you beat your opponents to the finish line.

I feel the players' progress will be mostly quite close, so it is likely it will come down to the tiebreaker rule.

The Thoughts

Fabled Fruit is a light-medium weight game. If you put aside the legacy mechanism, it is a common efficiency game of resource gathering. However you can't really cut out the legacy mechanism when commenting on the game. It is an integral part of the game. Mutation happens not just between games but also within the same game. You need to adapt. You need to look ahead at what new action may come into play. You need to stay alert of every player's current stock of fruits. You are constantly assessing the pool of actions available to you, deciding which ones are most effective. This is the fun part of the game - adapting to change and creating change at the same time. Fabled Fruit is tactical in nature. You want to make every little tactical advantage count.

Fabled Fruit is no deep strategy game. It is a light efficiency game. What is most enjoyable is adapting to the constantly changing landscape.

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