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Fabled Fruit is the first "fable"-style game. The label has nothing to do with a fairy tale or legendary theme, but rather the way the game evolves across multiple plays. Does it make sense? Not exactly, but it's the label they chose, so we'll accept it.
Fabled Fruit is a variation of a Legacy-style game. Legacy games evolve permanently as you play them, building a history and a uniqueness over time. The biggest complain most people have about legacy games is that they are "consumable". They get used up, so to speak, and once you've finished the set number of games, the game isn't as fun and exciting as it once was OR perhaps it's even not worth playing at all.
The fable system is impermanent, allowing players to reset the game to its starting state or even "save" it across multiple groups. In this sense, it's a striking balance between a traditional board game and a legacy game. Of course, none of that matters if Fabled Fruit isn't any fun to play.
I've played Fabled Fruits several times now, and in each game, I've come to appreciate the unique experience it brings to my table. The theme isn't important, but it's all about collecting fruits and converting them into juices. First to gather a certain number of juice cards win. On the surface, it's remarkably simple. Especially upon initial set up.
If Fabled Fruits didn't change, it would be a decent, if unremarkable, game. But it does change, and as it does, it begins to take on new dimensions. As location cards disappear and new ones arise, strategies evolve. What starts very simple soon becomes more complex. The beauty is that the complexity increases over time, thus allowing all the players to keep up with it.
Tonight, I played four games in a row. The game is fast, especially at first, and teaching took only two minutes. Turns are quick as you basically pick a location, either using its power or converting it to juice by paying collected fruit cards. The beginning locations are all very straight forward and the game can come across simplistic.
But as locations are converted to juices, new locations arrive. These new locations change things up. And other locations disappear, making old strategies unviable.
For instance, when the market was introduced, the ability to trade cards with it put a whole new spin on things. Then the ability to trade a single strawberry card for three non-strawberry cards made strawberries very useful. Then the ability arrived to take all the fruits of one type from the market. The market would become loaded with strawberries, only to have all those strawberries snatched up when temptation hit.
For several games, the ability to trade 2 pineapples for 5 cards became the go to move. Until the ability disappeared, and suddenly pineapples were just another fruit.
Another aspect is that the fruit combinations became more complex. Rather than simply trying to gather as many of one type of fruit as possible, it became a more diversified game.
By the end of our fourth game, all the simple locations that allowed card drawing had been replaced with more complicated choices. The market fluctuated wildly. The value of certain fruits would plummet, only to rise again. And new combos were always arising and disappearing.
And there was still plenty of evolution to be found. We'd only reached Location 15 of 56 (I think). The evolving meta-game had barely been scratched.
Saving the current game state can be as simple as separating all the cards that have been turned into juices and dealing out the top 24 cards, whatever they might be the next game. You can also easily write down those cards, saving the game for different groups of people at different stages of gameplay.
I can't tell you exactly why Fabled Fruit was such a big hit with me and my friends. It's probably because it's fun and fast with a steady introduction of new ideas. There's even simple rules for a "campaign", where points are scored across multiple games. Given the speed of the game, it's a great option.
To describe Fabled Fruit as an experience is bizarre. It's basically a stack of cards and a pasted on theme. But the elegance of the system, the depth it brings, and the accessibility make it a real winner. (And, yes, I know "elegance" gets thrown around far too casually here on BGG, but damn, it fits here.)
This is a great and unique game, and one I'm very happy to have in my collection. Starts as a casual game, evolves into something more. Flexible and fun. My highest recommendation.