Yes! Ginseng

The Game
Yes! Ginseng from Taiwan is a light game about the many delicacies found at a typical Taiwanese night market. The game comes with a pair of chopsticks! They are not used as a game component. They just add to the theme. It looks like you are buying a pack of takeaway food. 
During play, three order cards are made available at the centre of the table. These are what you compete to fulfil. Each order specifies the ingredients needed to complete it. On your turn, when you have the right ingredients, you may turn them in to claim the order card. Whenever an order is claimed, draw a new one to replace it. When the order draw deck is exhausted, the game ends. Whoever has completed the most orders wins the game. 
You earn money when you complete an order. You can spend $2 to buy a special card. These cards have a wide variety of powers, some offensive, some defensive and some supportive. 
The cards are large and pretty. Those with coloured backgrounds are the ingredients. Those with white backgrounds are special cards. The hand limit is 8 cards. You have to discard at the end of your turn if you exceed that. 
The five types of ingredients are grain, meat, seafood, vegetables and soup. 
The special cards drawn in red are the offense cards. The Cockroach prevents an opponent from fulfilling orders for one turn. 
Among the ingredient cards are some which have spoilt. They are useless cards. You can’t discard them until you have more than 8 cards. The card backs are the same. If an opponent tries to steal ingredients from you and he picks a spoilt ingredient, you can laugh at him. So I guess they serve a purpose. 
The order cards are pretty. The semi circle on the left tells you what ingredients are needed. The more ingredients an order requires, the more cash you’ll earn. 
I like the name of this card. This is a support card. On the turn you play this card, you may substitute meat and seafood with vegetables and grains. 
The Play
Yes! Ginseng is a simple game. On your turn you draw 3 ingredients, and then try to fulfil as many orders as you can. If you have money, normally you just spend them to buy as many special cards as possible. When a good opportunity arises to play a special card, you do it. It’s a light game and there is not a lot to think about. Sometimes you think about who to attack. 
Victory is determined by the number of order cards. So normally you will prioritise completing the orders requiring fewer ingredients. That’s a more efficient way of using ingredients. The harder to complete orders do give you more money, and you can spend money on special cards. If you like attacking others, you can decide to go for money. Yes, in this game the rich bullies the poor. Capitalist pigs! 
There certainly is luck. If you are unlucky you keep drawing spoilt ingredients. Player interaction is one way the game naturally creates balance and neutralises luck. Any player who gets lucky and stands out will be ganged up on by the rest. Your completed orders is open information. Everyone knows who is in the lead. 
3-player game in progress
The ginseng card is equivalent to two jokers
I managed to complete 8 orders
The game comes with a booklet which introduces the various local foods in Taiwan
The Thoughts
We should have a category of games called travel souvenir games. In Malaysia, Kaki Lima would be such a game. Yes! Ginseng is this kind of game. It contains cultural elements of Taiwan. A gamer visiting Taiwan would be happy to bring a copy home. This is applicable for non-gamers as well. 
From the game mechanism perspective, the game is simplistic. There is not a lot of depth. There is not a lot of strategy to think about. You play almost on auto-pilot. You’ll always try to complete as many orders as possible, and buy as many special cards as possible. Money doesn’t have any other use, except for being the tiebreaker at game end. You may decide to keep some money when you are near game end, if you think there’s going to be a tie. Normally you just spend it all. There’s a special card which robs you if you have $2 or more. Old timers like me are not the target audience of Yes! Ginseng, unless I’m visiting Taiwan. However the game mechanism being so simple means this is a game that can be easily learned by non-gamers. 
If I assess the game as a product and not just based on the game mechanisms, this is a solid product. It is pretty, accessible and well-produced. It’s the kind of product you like at first sight. 

Categories: Reviews

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