This review of Abandon All Artichokes appeared in Episode 90 of The Five By. The following is the script I used when recording the podcast, and, as such, there might be some discrepancies between the text and audio due to editing for time and flow.
As children most of us probably went through a stage where we would attempt to hide our vegetables in order to avoid eating them. I know I often tried to hide them in napkins or cut them up into tiny bits, hoping they’d pass for scraps to be scraped off the plate and into the trash. My mom would dice them up and put them in our rice or slather them in butter or sour cream, hoping to get us to eat those dreaded green menaces. I’d often balk at my mother’s calabazas con crema as a kid but I honestly love them now because they remind me of being a kid.Thankfully most of us probably grew out of that phase and have had a long and fruitful (heh heh) relationship with vegetables. And like most vegetables, tabletop games can be acquired tastes, so I’m always happy to try out games that can be served up as palatable introductions to a specific type of game. Abandon All Artichokes from Designer Emma Larkins is a deck building game from publisher Gamewright. A review copy of the game was provided to me by Emma Larkins
So, how does the game work? Unlike most deck building games, which usually start you off with a deck of basic cards that can be used to buy other cards, Abandon all Artichokes starts you off with a bunch of artichoke cards that don’t do much. You can’t really buy other cards with them, in fact, you win the game by getting rid of them. If you ever draw a hand of five cards from your deck at the end of your turn and none of those cards are artichokes, you win.
In order to completely remove the titular thistle from your deck you’re going to have to leverage the power of the garden cards. At the beginning of your turn, you can take one of the five cards that make up the garden row. And unlike in most deck-building games, you don’t have to pay for these cards! Which is great because being able to take any of the cards available on offer without paying lets you focus on taking whatever card suits your strategy at the moment.
What can you get for free in a game of Abandon All Artichokes? Well, the garden deck consists of multiple copies of ten different cards. Cards run the gamut from a carrot card that allows you to remove artichoke cards from the game, to a corn card that lets you take a card from the garden row and place it on top of your deck. Once you’ve taken your free card from the market, you’re able to play any number of cards from your hand as long as you can fully carry out the cards action. The corn card, for example, lets you compost exactly two artichokes, granted you have two artichokes to compost. So, it won’t help you get rid of your last artichoke. Oh, and once you’ve used it, the carrot card is also sent to the compost heap. Leek cards let you draw the top card from an opponents’ deck and you decide to add it to your own hand or send it to their discard pile.
Removing cards from your deck and adding cards to the top of your deck are usually pretty good moves to make in most deck builders but they might not be apparent to players that are new to this type of game. Abandon All Artichokes does well to center the game around a few choice actions as a way to get players to become better acquainted with deck-building games.
Another great thing I really like is how players are able to take a garden card and play it right away! Not having to wait for a newly added card to get shuffled back into deck is just one of the many lovely design choices in Abandon All Artichokes that makes the game speedy and approachable.
And while there are only ten different types of garden cards that you can add to your deck, the actions they let you take make for a balanced game. The game often seems like a race to either cut cards from your deck or to grow your deck enough that drawing an artichoke becomes less and less likely. There’s plenty of game in Abandon All Artichokes for a game of its size and weight. Assembling a strategy from the available market cards while keeping an eye on what your opponents are doing to ditch their artichokes makes for a fun, lighter game. The illustrations by Bonnie Pang are suitably cute. While the game does come in a tin, it’s small enough that it’s not an encumbrance. And in all honesty, the game itself, all 100 cards of it, will probably live in my quiver carrying case anyway.
The game’s rulebook calls it a “deck-wrecker” and, honestly, I really love this description as it really gets to the heart of the game. Whether you’re building up your deck or getting rid of the majority of your deck, Abandon All Artichokes serves up a satisfying snack-sized approach to deck-building that is approachable and fun. It’s a game that’ll stay in my collection as an excellent filler. I highly recommend it for those times when you want to play a deckbuilder, but don’t have enough time for a long game. It’s also an outstanding way to introduce deck building games to friends and family. After all, it’s like my mom used to tell me, “como sabes que no te gusta si no lo has probado?” How do you know that you don’t like it, if you haven’t tried it?