Monday, January 29, 2018

Cabbage Quest - mechanically slight but thematically rich

Cabbage Quest was an entry in the 2016 Children’s Print and Play Game Design Contest on Boardgame Geek. It doesn’t actually an entry on the Geek but I came across enough references to people crafting that I decided to to try it myself. It didn’t hurt that it only required printing three pages and no other construction.

Cabbage Quest is a solitaire game where you play someone in a fairy tale world who accidentally ate three cursed cabbages and got transformed into a donkey. Now you need to break into magical gardens and try to eat three enchanted cabbages to turn back into a human being.

Basically, Cabbage Quest is like a very short Fighting Fantasy game book. You stat out your donkey by assigning 1, 2 and 3 to kick, bite and stubbornness. Plus, you get three points in determination, which serves as your health points. Lose them all and you’ve given up, deciding to live your life as a donkey.

Since what skill you will need on any given area is randomly determined with an equal chance for each skill, I’m not sure if there is meaningful difference which stat gets which number. However, you get a different special, one-time use ability based on what you assign the 1 to.

The map consists of four magic gardens that are increasingly difficult. Each garden consists of four tables: one that determines the skill challenge to get in; one that determines the results of the cabbage you eat; one that determines if the wizard or witch who owns the garden sees you (the chances go up the more cabbages you eat); and one that determines the skill challenge if the garden owner does see you.

Mechanically, the actual game part of Cabbage Quest is a push-your-luck game. The real decisions are how many cabbages will you eat in each garden and how dangerous a garden will you break into, since the more dangerous ones have better cabbage odds. Really, from a mechanical, game standpoint, Cabbage Quest isn’t that interesting.

HOWEVER, what makes Cabbage Quest interesting and fun is the theme. This short, little game is positively dripping in well written, fairy tale theme. The game may be at the mercy of the dice but you always get a fun fairy tale story.

Cabbage Quest is an odd beast. It’s a contest entry that never really went past the beta stage. However, the flavor text is so charming and well written, it has stayed on peoples’ radar, as opposed to sinking out of sight. 

And it’s on my radar as a children’s game when my son gets older. It’s amusing and charming for adults but it might be really engaging for kids.

Cabbage Quest is, at best, so-so as a game. It’s not a game I’d play over and over. However, the theme does such a good job that it was worth printing those three pages.

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