Collect carrots and corn, pick up some peppers and potatoes, and bite some beets and broccoli—but above all, Abandon All Artichokes!
Abandon All Artichokes is a deck-building game for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. It retails for $12.99 and is available in stores or online (including directly from the publisher, Gamewright). The game’s rules are easy enough to make it a good intro to deck-building even for younger kids—I played it with my six-year-old—but the focus on “deck-wrecking” is a nice twist even for those who are already familiar with deck-building games.
Abandon All Artichokes was designed by Emma Larkins, published by Gamewright, with illustrations by Bonnie Pang.
The component list is pretty short, just 100 cards: 40 Artichokes, and a deck of 60 vegetables (6 each of 10 different veggies). There are also 4 player aid cards. The whole thing comes in a small metal egg-shaped tin, with a cardboard insert that holds all the cards in place, and an embossed lid. The metal tin is cute, though I’m personally not quite as fond of odd-shaped tins because it’s harder to stack them on the shelf. Plus, it makes the game a bit bigger than it actually needs to be.
The illustrations of all the veggies (by Bonnie Pang) are delightful, from the cool, shades-wearing broccoli to the skeptical-looking onion to the super-enthusiastic carrot. There are several versions of artichokes, which is nice because they’re the most common card in the game. It’s also nice that the artichokes have a dark blue background so they’re easily distinguishable at a glance in your hand.
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to be the first to abandon all artichokes! In practice, you don’t have to get rid of all of them—you just have to draw a hand that has no artichokes in it.
Give each player 10 artichoke cards, returning the rest to the box. Each player has their own personal deck and discard—you draw from your personal deck and discard to your personal discard unless otherwise specified. If your deck runs out, reshuffle your discard pile.
Shuffle the deck of (non-artichoke) vegetables to form the Garden Stack, and then reveal the top 5 cards to create the Garden Row.
The player who most recently ate a cooked green vegetable goes first!
On your turn, you do the following in order:
The artichokes themselves do not have any effect and cannot be played, but the rest of the veggies have special abilities when played. I won’t list them all here, but there are effects ranging from “composting” artichokes (which removes them from the game), gaining more cards from the Garden Row or Garden Stack, and moving cards between players. Some have guaranteed effects, and some are more luck-dependent, based on the top of a deck of cards or a randomly drawn card from another player’s hand, and so on.
At the end of your turn, if you draw a hand of cards and there are no artichokes, you immediately win, and shout “Abandon all artichokes!” Note that you only win if there are no artichokes in your hand right after you draw—there are are some veggies that may remove artichokes from your hand during another player’s turn, but that doesn’t count.
Abandon All Artichokes is GeekDad Approved!
If you’ve been reading my game reviews for a while, you know that I’m a sucker for deck-building games: games in which each player starts with a basic deck of cards, and then over the course of the game adds to it (and sometimes removes from it) to create a better deck. In some games, that “better” deck is simply one that is worth the most points at the end, but in others, it’s about building a deck to accomplish a particular purpose (like, for instance, getting into a cave and grabbing treasure).
While there’s a huge variety of deck-building games in the world now, they aren’t often aimed at younger kids. If you’re used to playing games where everyone draws from a common deck and discards to a common deck (think Uno, for instance), it can be a little confusing to have your own deck and discard pile and a common deck and market area where players will acquire cards for their own systems. Plus, because of the way many deck-building games work, you often need to spend a bit of time playing to get your engine going—that is, having a good synergy among cards in your deck that support your strategy. That can make deck-building games a bit more complex and daunting, especially for less experienced players who can’t immediately see how various cards might work together.
One of the tactics in deck-building games that is often overlooked by new players is weeding out your deck. Not all deck-building games allow for it, but weeding is removing weaker cards from your deck. Generally, the cards you start with are not as powerful as the ones you will acquire later in the game, so getting rid of your starting cards means that you can play your better cards more often. For many players trying a deck-building game for the first time, it can be tempting to just keep acquiring the good cards, and effects that “trash” cards aren’t as intuitive at first.
What makes Abandon All Artichokes remarkable is that it takes the deck-building concept and makes it very accessible even to younger audiences (I played it with my six-year-old daughter and she picked it up easily), but also that it places a strong focus on weeding as well. Your artichokes are not just entirely useless—they cannot be played and have no effect—but they are also literally preventing you from winning. In many deck-building games, getting rid of your starting cards is simply one tactic that can support your goal; in Abandon All Artichokes, it is the goal.
Because of that, it means that the overall size of each player’s deck doesn’t grow as rapidly as it might in some deck-building games. You’re adding cards from the Garden Row, but removing artichokes. Some of the veggies have one-time effects and remove themselves when played; the onion moves to another player when used. That means that generally players will get to see the effects of their new cards more often, and get a better sense of what happens when you tinker with your system. In games where decks can get bloated quickly, sometimes you may buy cards in the middle of the game and only get to play them once—or not at all. Here, you typically get to play new cards at least once (since they go straight into your hand when you first harvest one), and the smaller decks mean you’ll see them again sooner.
That’s not to say that you can’t build a bloated deck in Abandon All Artichokes. Generally, each player is adding one card each turn because you’re required to harvest a card during your turn. However, there are some veggies that let you take more cards, whether from the Garden Row, the Garden Stack, or even another player’s deck. If you focus on those cards, you may find yourself with a lot more cards than somebody who is going after composting cards more aggressively. There are two primary approaches to Abandon All Artichokes: get rid of all your artichokes so there are none to draw, or load up your deck with so many other veggies that the artichokes get diluted and you have a chance of drawing 5 non-artichokes.
Since you always take a card from the Garden Row each turn, there’s no currency in the game, which also helps to simplify things a bit. You don’t have to count up how much money you have, and compare prices, or any of that: you simply look at the Garden Row and pick your favorite. Instead of more powerful cards that cost more, the card effects themselves help balance out the effects. For instance, the broccoli lets you compost an artichoke, but only if you have at least 3 artichokes in your hand. That makes it great early on, but less useful once you’re not drawing hands of mostly artichokes. The carrot, on the other hand, lets you compost 2 artichokes at once—but also composts itself, and it’s the only action you can do for that turn. It’s a nice mix of abilities, and there are even a few that move cards around, which introduces a little more chaos but also puts a little more player interaction in Abandon All Artichokes than many deck-building games.
While this is a criterion that I hope won’t be relevant for too much longer, Abandon All Artichokes is also playable over video, with some adaptation. The rules are simple enough that I was able to send everyone the rulebook so they had a list of what each of the veggies did, and then even if they couldn’t read the text of the cards over video, the large, colorful illustrations made them easily distinguishable. I handled everyone’s cards for them, and at the end of each turn when a player drew their hand, we just had everyone look away (including myself) while I held their hand up to the camera. Because the artichoke cards have dark backgrounds, they stand out and it only took a quick flash for them to determine whether they had won or not before we moved to the next player’s turn. It does mean that you can’t really plan out your turn as well because I would reveal the player’s hand on camera when it was their turn to play, but I think the simplicity of the turn order made it bearable. I’ve been able to teach several different people to play it over video, and it has worked well enough that they’ve enjoyed it, though they may not be able to appreciate the cute artwork quite as well.
I’m happy to put the GeekDad Approved seal on Abandon All Artichokes. While I do think it will appeal more to those who prefer casual games and may not be, uh, meaty enough for players who prefer more complex deck-building games, I think it’s an excellent design that may surprise you. It plays quickly, so you don’t necessarily have time to build a long-term strategy, and instead need to play more tactically, responding to what other players are doing. I particularly recommend it for those who, like me, are fans of deck-building games and would love a way to introduce the genre to younger kids and newer players.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
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