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Subject: Fruit Fair: MHG Approved rss

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Mad Hatter Gaming
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Fruit Fair is another excellent offering from Wattsalpoag (see Jet Set) that is equally accessible for family play and serious gamers. In Fruit Fair players compete to gather various fruits and turn in turn use these fruit to collect worker cards or fair prizes (worth victory points). As play progresses the type of fruit a player has gathered also gives access to special tokens such as first player or control of the Raccoon.

Each round of the game is divided into 5 phases.

In the first phase players secretly assign what types of fruit their Pickers and Gardeners will access. This is deceptively simple, but a major part of game strategy. By careful selection a player can corner the market on one type of fruit and also choke access for subsequent players. This also has the consequence of making things very rough for the last player.

In the second phase the Raccoon eats, taking 2 random fruit if no player controls him or 2 fruit selected by the controlling player. The Raccoon limits the quantity of fruit available and also swaps the fruit responsible for assigning control of the various special tokens. This is a subtle part of the game and keeps one player from locking down a particular token.

In the third phase players reveal their secret assignments from phase one and in turn order collect fruit (Pickers) and place in the wheelbarrow for restock(Gardeners). Between the players and the depredations of the Raccoon fruit supplies will eventually fall below equilibrium and not all players will be able to collect their maximum each turn.

In the fourth phase players “Go to the Fair” and trade in fruit for either Extra Worker cards or prizes. The Extra Worker cards act as combo Pickers/Gardeners and are powerful, but players are limited to purchasing two. The prize tokens come in the form of medals and ribbons and are purchased for varying amounts of fruit.

In the last phase special tokens and turn order is reassigned. We've mentioned the special tokens a few times now, they are “Turn Order”, “The Migrant Worker”, “The Raccoon” and “The Truck”. At the beginning of each game the markers for these tokens are randomly assigned to a tree. (For example they might be Apple, Cherry, Lemon and Plum respectively) The player with the most Apples would get the Turn Order token and become first player with the rest of play order determined by each players number of Apples. The Migrant Worker allows one “extra” fruit pick during of phase 3 or from the stock if all trees are empty. The Raccoon token allows the controlling player to select which trees the Raccoon eats from in Phase 2. The Truck allows the controlling player to rearrange his Picker/Gardener assignments from Phase 1 on his turn in Phase 3. This is very useful if the other players that have gone ahead of you cleared out a tree.

When 5 or fewer prizes remain (of the original 25) one last full turn occurs. Points from prizes are then totaled along with any remaining fruit.

So, at the start of the review we called Fruit Fair a family game and this is true, assuming you can turn off your “Gamer Brain”. (The Gamer Brain being a portion of the Reptile Brain that seeks to crush your opponents and exult in their defeat.) You could play Fruit Fair with the wife and kids or take it to Thanksgiving dinner for the enjoyment of your extended clan. Without excessive competitiveness it can be a simple, fun game. That said there are a few subtle rules that will appeal to serious gamers. Those being the Raccoon and the fruit swap. We skipped over the fruit swap earlier, but in phase 3 if one of your Pickers goes to a tree that has been cleaned out you can swap a fruit you already have for one of the targeted type with another player. Using our example from earlier, Apples control Turn Order, players further down the turn order can swap their less useful fruit for Apples to have a chance of seizing first player. This, along with the Raccoon, makes for some tactical decisions that can alter the trajectory of the game.

Pros:
Quick play, with simple rules
Some subtle strategy that will appeal to gamers.

Cons:
Art work may make it a hard sell to your friends. (It's sort of goofy)
You will want to kill the guy controlling the Raccoon.

Final conclusion:
Fruit Fair is an excellent game that should be a part of your regular play rotation.
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