OK, let's get this out of the way so I can talk about a good game without stringing you along. Sometimes a theme helps players engage with a game, helps them understand mechanics intuitively and provides a framework for what they're doing and why. Soooo... playing anthropomorphic edamame beans rearing baby dragons for a one-off first blood contest is not a theme that immediately worked for me; in fact, it actively made the game harder to learn as - strangely - I didn't have a frame of reference.
That said, quel est Edamame? Well, since it is almost indescribable in non-gamer terms, I'll say that Edamame, designed by Kentaro Yazawa and published by Happy Baobab, is an engine-building game with the ultimate objective of giving your opponents a black eye. The adorable legume-heavy art by Aiko Kitamura and Yoko Takei is excellent, although - with the progression of the growing dragon aside - largely irrelevant; in fact, it almost feels as if the art has been slotted in from a different game entirely, to runner alongside the effective graphic design elements. There is no central board; all the elements are separate, which makes for a rather messy table presence.
Broadly speaking, players are rearing dragons, making them strong enough to contest the endgame showdown. Dragons have Vitality, Attack, and Speed statistics, which also play their part in the main engine-building phase of the game. Some Beans enhance these stats, but mostly your workers are employed exchanging coins and resources in a manner akin to Century: Spice Road (Plan B). You can only have as many spare Bean hearts as your Dragon has Vitality, so managing your workforce efficiently is key.
Each of the 2-4 players starts the game with an egg on the scoreboard, a baby dragon's head and tail, and two basic worker Beans which convert Coin to Power and Power to Coin for a net profit. Appropriately, there is a seeded row of cards to buy from that offers improved exchange rates and bonus dragon stats. Players choose one of four actions on their turn: to use one or two worker Beans: Recruit a new Bean; Grow your dragon's fore or aft; or Rest and recoup some profit.
Profit? Indeed, a nice twist to the engine-building aspect of the game is that as well as using one of your own worker Beans in the first of those actions, you can use one in front of another player. Instead of paying the cost to the supply, you pay the Bean itself and its owner takes this 'income' when they Rest. The trade-off to having a two-for-one action is that you're giving resources to an opponent. This doubling up really fuels your engine as well as meaning that a player who gets a 'great card' does not have exclusive use of it. Being seeded, the worker Beans available increase in cost and benefit as the game progresses: tho' we felt the Attack resource Beans came out too long after we were ready for them.
Growing your Dragon requires similar timing to Century: Spice Road's trade routes: cards are available to everyone, so you'd best make sure you get the one you want before an opponent snaffles it. Each growth spurt brings the final showdown a step closer, as well as triggering some variable mid-game bonus victory point scoring. The initiative order in the final fight is determined by Speed and pits Attack against Vitality. This denouement might feel a bit half-baked after all the rewardingly frantic prep leading up to it, but it does provide an end that your beans must work toward.
Edamame is a fun, quick engine-building game with a purpose (albeit a bizarre one). Players very much need to weigh up the pros and cons of using others' workers, as well as keeping an eye on their opponents and how strong their dragons are likely to be. The learning curve starts steep, but levels out fairly quickly, revealing a fulfilling plate of well-meshed mechanics, if not completely original ones. While I have to say the theme fell a little flat for me, the actual gameplay found much fava.
(Review by David Fox)
And, for a different perspective...
Edamame - A Review by James Fox, age 10.
It was wonderful. Art is green, but good. The theme is splendid: you try to raise a dragon and kill the other dragons. There are good options, excellent strategy, and what you are trying to do is interesting. The cards are amazing and worth getting: super funny as the people are beans.
It is very hard to set up and the Recruit option is confusing.
It is an excellent game but hard to set up.