You can tell from the title that this is a game where the creators, Black Box Adventures, have sought to inject humour into their design. This carries through to the cartoony standees representing each of the several different types of sea creature ‘frutti’ that make up the playing pieces. The board is shaped like a plate of spaghetti. Here though you encounter an initial conflict between design and function. The swirls of the spaghetti lead the eye and players may initially only see spots as adjacent where they follow the swirl. In fact, the spaghetti swirls are merely decorative; players don’t have to follow them when moving their pieces.
In Frutti di Mare: Veni, Vidi, Antipasti!, players each start off with a King Crab and two other frutti. Through generating income, buying and recruiting more frutti, moving and by attacking rivals, players are trying to win by getting their King Crab into the centre spot on the plate. They can also win by eliminating all the other players’ King Crabs or by moving another of the several listed ‘royal’ frutti (fugu, lobster or eel) to the centre spot and keeping them there for an entire round.
Players receive income, boosted for certain of their frutti. They use this to buy and recruit other frutti from the dozen different types supplied in the game. Each type of frutti has its own particular characteristics dictating its movement, number of attack and defence dice and any special abilities. As you’d expect, the better the frutti’s capabilities, the more expensive it is to recruit.
This all makes for a fun looking game but it can be a slog for players to learn and keep track of each of the frutti’s abilities. Even after you’ve played the game several times, you’ll still need to look these up, so it’s good that there are six copies supplied of the ‘menu’. This lists each of the frutti and its cost and characteristics (the game plays up to six, tho’ it’s best to avoid playing with five as that is the one player count that demands an asymmetric set up).
Though the design is tongue-in-cheek, game play is deadly serious. The game may have the surface appearance of a light game, and there is a luck element introduced through the use of combat dice, but this game is essentially a chess-like abstract strategy game where players will be setting up their attacks and defence and vying for positional advantage. Strategy games of this type are often only for two players; it’s unusual to offer a game like this that is workable with up to six players.
You should bear in mind that each player’s pieces are distinguished only by their standees’ coloured bases, so this could be an issue for any colour blind players. You might expect this to improve with repeat plays but even players with no visual difficulties may find themselves struggling to keep track of the threat posed by each of the different opposing pieces if playing this game with more than two. You may want to try playing a few games first excluding some of the frutti types and only then progressing to playing with a full menu.
Frutti di Mare: Veni Vidi Antipasti is not going to be replacing chess any time soon but its quirky design and appealing presentation helps to get it to the table. Bon appétit!