Juicy Fruits is a mouthwatering game from Deep Print and PSC (and Capstone Games in the US) where you're collecting fruit on your island, fulfilling orders on ships and setting up businesses on your island. Tho' the boards look busy, it is gateway-game easy to learn but it's a game with strategy where canny players will be taking care to plan ahead...
The 2–4 players all start off with individual 5 x 5 square boards representing their islands. To set up, players draw 12 ship tokens and place them on the island's shores so that they cover the outer squares, leaving a 3 x 3 inner grid. The ships show the combinations of fruit needed to fill their holds, along with the ship's points value. Tiles representing the five different types of fruit are placed out in the centre and four corners of your 3 x 3 grid. On your turn you slide a tile up to the maximum distance it can travel (that'll be just one square on your first turn) and you take the fruit on that tile. You take as many of the fruit as squares you move, so your board becomes a mini sliding tile puzzle where sliding a fruit tile on one turn can be made to yield a higher return of another fruit on your next turn. You'll want to fulfil the orders shown on the ships around your coast because these don't just earn you points... when the ships sail they also extend your grid and so give you the opportunity to increase your yield of fruit.
But there's more. You aren't just using your fruit to fill the holds of the ships. You can also trade them to claim businesses (tiles on a central 'business board'). These tiles will take up space within your grid but they'll score more points; spectacularly so in some cases. Buying a business also advances a 'license marker' which acts as a game timer. When the license marker reaches 1, the game ends immediately everyone has had their turn for that round.
Other than taking a business tile that another player might want, Christian Stohr's game design doesn't involve any direct 'take that' interactions. The scoring in Juicy Fruits can be quite tight but, as the license marker advances, players will want to keep a weather eye on other players' scores and their scoring potential... Some of the businesses could potentially yield a huge return of points - particularly the set collection ice cream carts. The blue ice cream carts can give 16 points for a set of one of each type of fruit, and if you've built up the stock of fruit and you are able to slide your ice cream cart tile three squares then you could advance 48 points on a single turn! Of course, building up the stock of fruit to be able to rack up such a score will mean you've probably had to forego other point-scoring opportunities, so you'll be coming from behind on the scoreboard. Other players who see that you're building up to a game-winning score that will overtake them on the scoreboard may well try to scupper your plans by buying businesses in order to advance the license marker so that the game ends before you get to make your big score!
The game incorporates what is, in effect, a built-in expansion. As a bonus, you can flip the scoreboard to add a 'juice factory'. This adds an additional score track that's a little more complex, so probably best saved until players have a few plays of the base game under their belts. And as a further bonus, you can flip the island player boards to reveal four different levels of solo game!
We've had a huge amount of fun playing Juicy Fruits. It's beautifully produced, with attractive art by Annika Heller, refreshingly clear iconography and satisfyingly chunky wooden fruits that give the game immediate table appeal. The net result is a very accessible game that's playable as a family game but where the slide-and-score gameplay gives seasoned gamers plenty to get their teeth into.