Emma Larkins Tells Us The Story Behind Abandoning Those ArtichokesMay 6, 2021
In this Meeple-Sized Interview, we talk with Emma Larkins, the designer behind Gamewright’s Abandon All Artichokes. A card game for 2- 4 where players are trying to prune their individual decks of artichoke cards while growing their deck with other veggie types.
What is the story behind the creation of Abandon All Artichokes?
Emma: In July of 2017, I set a series of “game design daily” challenges for myself. One of those challenges was to come up with a list of alliterative game names. So, on the bus on the way to work one day, I wrote out my list – stuff like “Tulip Temptation” and “Incredible Ice Injuries.” I posted my list to social media later that day and one name stuck out – Abandon All Artichokes. Someone already wanted to buy the game, even though it didn’t exist yet! It wasn’t until later that year in October that the game took shape. I’d issued myself another challenge – design and prototype seven games in a week, one each day. Remembering the name Abandon All Artichokes from my list months earlier, I decided to make a game name-first. The idea of “abandoning” things made me think of a deckbuilder. I had to keep it simple in order to finish and test the game in a day, so the game originally featured only four different cards – strawberries, pineapples, bananas, and of course the eponymous artichokes. Pineapple let you blow up an opponent’s hand, forcing them to discard one or more cards using an adjacency effect. Strawberry trashed cards to remove them from your deck. Banana drew cards. You started with a deck of all Artichoke cards, playing as many cards as you wanted on your turn and then discarding the rest of your hand and drawing back up to five cards. If you drew a card of no Artichokes at the end of your turn, you won! I tested it with my husband that same day and it was fun enough that I decided to keep working on it. The rest is history!
You went through all sorts of card abilities, it sounds like. Is there one that didn’t make it into the game, that you hope to one day add to the game as a promo?
Emma: One that’s been on my mind a lot lately is putting Artichoke cards back into decks from the Compost pile. Yes, it’s the Rise of the Zombie ‘Chokes! It’s an incredibly fun idea – people who playtested that version loved it, even though it moved them further away from the win condition and thus the end of the game. As I implemented it back then, it had the potential to make the game go on much longer than I wanted, so I ultimately had to cut it. I could see something like “Compost up to three Artichokes. Return an Artichoke from the Compost to your discard pile. If one or fewer Artichokes are put in the Compost, Compost this card as well.” It’s a bit wordy though and probably overpowered. I’ll have to workshop it!
Do you think we will see the return maybe via promo of one of the fruits you mentioned above?
Emma: Probably not fruits – Abandon All Artichokes is *technically* all vegetables (although *technically* eggplants are berries and artichokes are flowers… biology is complex!)
We saw Sushi Go! get a dice game. Have you thought of a bag builder – or rather a bag deconstructor game for Abandon All Artichokes?
Emma: I love the Sushi Go! dice game! It’s so fun to be able to play around with a popular game IP in a new way. I’m not thinking too much about future implementations of the Abandon All Artichokes theme for now – happy to ride the wave and hope that people keep playing and enjoying the original game. I am always thinking about new card powers, in case there is a need for more promos in the future!
As we wrap up, Abandon All Artichokes really has done well since its release and even in stores outside of friendly local game stores, thanks to Gamewright. Did you ever imagine this quirky game about artichokes would take off like this?
Emma: One of the many nice things about working with Gamewright is they know their stuff when it comes to publishing games. Some publishers take a scattershot approach, throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks, but Gamewright puts a lot of work into developing and marketing each of the games it publishes. I was able to put all my focus into making the best game I could make, knowing that Gamewright would put their focus into making the game appealing to a wide audience. Still, no one can ever predict exactly what is going to succeed in the market of games and what won’t. It’s gratifying to see our hard work come to fruition. And Gamewright has also done an amazing job of adapting to a tough and strange year, finding new ways to connect people to games and bring them joy.
Thanks, Emma, for taking the time out to do this interview.