Fruit Fair is the game of planting, picking, and bringing fruit to market. While I have learned better than to pigeon hole games with this kind of theme into a children’s category (think Sodbusters), I must admit that I initially did due to the artwork on this game.
This looks like a kid’s game. It has bright primary colors, and a cartoon raccoon. This just doesn’t look like a game for adults, so when I sat down to play, I was expecting it to be simplistic. And it was… sorta…
The game has some pretty easy mechanics. Do you want to take fruit from a tree? How about plant more of a particular fruit? Once you have this fruit, do you want to go to the fair and try to get a pretty ribbon? Or would you rather sell your fruit off to pay for migrant workers? All of these are really simplistic choices, but the outcome of those choices are anything but.
First off, the person who has the most of any given fruit gets a bonus in the next round. You can win the truck, which lets you move workers around after you see what others are doing. You can win the raccoon, which gives you power over how much fruit are on some trees, as well as lets you switch around which kind of fruit gives each bonus. You can win the right to go first, and thus have the best pick of the fruit. Or you can win a migrant worker for the round, who helps you pick one extra fruit. This element makes for a very carefully choreographed dance.
In our games many of our decisions on which fruit to pick came down to “do I want to tie Bob’s number of cherries, and make sure he doesn’t get the truck? Or do I want to take more apples, and insure that I will have control of the raccoon next round?.” It’s those kinds of decisions that make Fruit Fair such a tough game, even though the mechanics are so easy.
Having control of the raccoon adds even another layer of complexity. First off the raccoon starts by eating two pieces of fruit, one from each of two different trees. This lowers the amount of fruit available on those trees (obviously) and thus has the potential to really screw over your opponents (You know Tom needs that apple, why not remove it from play?). However, the two fruits that your raccoon just ate have another purpose. The rewards associated with those two trees flip at the end of the round. So maybe you have been stuck going last for a while, and would like to go first? Swap the player one tree with the tree you have the most fruit from, and voila! First place!
In the end, I think this is a game that you could play with kids, because it isn’t hard to go through the motions. However, don’t be shocked when little Johnny or Susie isn’t very good at this one, because they can’t comprehend strategies that require thinking 3-4 moves ahead. It may look like a game for them, but it’s truly a game for highly strategic gamers.
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