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Frutti Di Mare


Maarten de Schrijver

Black Box Adventures, Gameland

No. of Players:



Gamebox author Eike Lang writes about the game:

Frutti Di Mare (subtitled “Veni. Vidi. Antipasti.”) is an entry-level wargame that combines some light worker placement and resource management with dice-based unit combat, and sports a cute look as well as an original back story.

I mean, come on, seafod fighting for dominance of a pasta plate? It doesn’t get much more original than that! Even the game rules are labelled “Recipe” and each player receives a menu-styled quick reference booklet.

Before getting into the game proper I need to get one thing of my chest: In my very humble opinion this game makes for a lousy two-player experience. So this review will focus on the merits of the game when played with three or more players. Played with two players the game is too linear, too predictable and too boring with a distinct advantage for the player who goes first.

Having gotten that out of the way, let us take a look at the game: As I wrote in the introduction, the game board is a rather large plate of spaghetti. Each player commands an army headed by a king crab and consisting of a number of seafood-themed units, aptly named “Frutti”. Each player strives to achieve dominance over the pasta plate by achieving either of these goals:

  • Moving their king crab to the center of the plate, scoring an immediate win.
  • Moving a so-called “royal Frutti” to the center of the plate and maintaining control of the center for a full turn.
  • Eliminating the king crabs of all competing players.

Each player normally starts the game with their king crab on the throne, one pearl in the royal treasury and one worker (a mighty mussel, no less) and one (weak) combat unit.

The game proceeds in rounds, each of which is subdivided into three phases:

  • Income phase: In addition to one coin of base income, players will receive additional coins according to the type of worker unit they have placed on a worker spot (which are specially designated places on the game board)
  • Recruitment phase: Players can spend their coins to recruit new Frutti into their ranks.
  • Action phase: Players can move their Frutti and/or attack enemy units.

Independent of the current phase, each king crab is allowed to give an “inspirational speech” at any point during its player’s turn. Giving an inspirational speech allows the king crab a specific action. Performing an action will affect the amount of pearls in the royal treasury which doubles as the king crab’s life gauge: Lose your last pearl and you are out of the game. One type of speech allows you to move your crab to an adjacent spot on the game board and will gain you an additional pearl while the other speeches will cost you pearls. The effect of these other speeches are benefits like an additional action phase for one of your Frutti and, as one would expect, the greater the benefit provided by a speech, the more pearls you will have to invest, crowned by “sleep with the fishes”, which allows the player to immediately remove an opposing Frutti (which obviously can not be another king crab) from the game board for the hefty cost of four pearls.

Combat is resolved using dice: The attacking Frutti rolls a number of attack dice determined by its type, the defender rolls a number of defense dice, and if the attacker achieves more successes than the defender, the defender is removed from play. King crabs lose one pearl from their treasury for each hit scored against them and do not roll defense dice, but roll a special die for a one-in-six chance of avoiding an attack altogether. In addition, most Frutti have a special ability that modifies their attack or defense in a certain way.

Barring some minor details the preceding paragraphs pretty much sum up the entirety of the game’s rules. This, combined with the simplicity of the board and manageable amount of units, makes for a quick start into the game.

After the first two or three turns that mostly see players getting a mighty mussle into place and recruiting a unit or two, the action generally starts to heat up pretty quickly. Unless you manage to completely fly under the radar and and have the other players battle each other, the game will have you on your toes most of the time because the next threat is typically within movement distance from one of your units and if you heed my suggestion and play this with at least three players, you will never quite know where to look.

Gameplay progresses quickly and even if you play this game with a group of hopeless over-thinkers like myself you are likely to finish it within the projected 30 minutes of playing time.

While the rules are deceptively simple, there are quite a few nice details that ensure a well-balanced game that has little chance of dragging itself out. First of all, it is not allowed to recruit more than one of each type of Frutti in each round, which keeps players from biding their time hoarding money and then rushing the board with a host of cheap units. The worker Frutti are regular units (and weak ones at that), which can be attacked and killed by your opponents. And finally, only one of the very powerful royal Frutti can be recruited into any single army.

The choice of (royal) Frutti allow different playing styles ranging from hit-and-run attacks using fast units to slow, methodical approaches. There are units like the “creamy caviar” that have no attack or defense capabilities of their own but can be removed from play to recruit another Frutti in their stead (at regular cost). Opponents will be faced with the decision to pursue these units and have their forces tied up in the pursuit, or risk a more dangerous unit being recruited in a location that may threaten their king crab for them.

Another interesting aspect is that of the king crab. While sitting on its throne it is untouchable, effectively making its player immune to elimination from the game, but at the same time leaving the crab on the throne bars one of the three possible routes to win the game, and the most direct one at that. Even when chosing a strategy involving one of the two other ways to win, players are unlikely to be able to completely forego the benefits offered by the king crab’s inspirational speeches. However, in order to obtain the pearls needed to hold any of the speeches that actually affect the game flow, the king crab needs to move, leaving the safety of the throne behind, leaving it open to attack for at least one round after leaving the throne.

If, on the other hand, a player tries to make a beeline to the center they will find that they can only move four spots before the royal treasury is at capacity, effectively barring further movement of the king crab until the player has found a way to shed pearls (i.e.&xnbsp;hold at least one different type of inspirational speech). Only after spending spending two pearls they can reach the center of the plate, which is six moves away from the throne. At the same time, the king crab is quite vulnerable and opposing players will nibble away at those pearls (which, remember, double as the king crab’s life points), making it very likely that your king crab is picked off before it ever reaches the center.

Likewise, holding the center for one round with a royal Frutti is no easy feat. First of all, you have to consider that no spot on the board (save for the thrones) is more than five moves away from the center spot and that some Frutti can move as far as three spots and the maximum attack range of some Frutti is also three spots. Secondly, all other players know that they’ll lose the game if they don’t manage to kick you out of the center. This means they will most likely set aside any fighting for the moment and strive to kill your Frutti. All it takes is one hit, and your Frutti (along with the considerable amount of coins you had to spend on it) will be sunk.

The visuals are cartoony and simple, they provide good recognizability of the different units and keep the tone light. As remarked intially the manual is named “Recipe” and each player has a quick reference “Menu”, which adds a nice touch, but the designer has not gone overboard and has chosen clarity and understanding of the rules and information as the guiding principle rather than making the contents more recipe- or menu-like. The quality of the materials is very good and the designer even went through the trouble of making the name of each type of a Frutti an alliteration in all of the four languages for which the game includes instructions (Dutch, English, French, and German), which suggests an admirable attention to detail.

All these little details amount to endless variation in playing styles and winning strategies. Right on the box the game positions itself as an “introduction to wargaming” and it fulfills that role admirably, thanks to the quick setup, short round lengths, and simple rules. At the same time it offers enough depth and complexity to allow for quite a number of rematches before players feel the need to graduate to more complex games.

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