Fruit Ninja: Combo Party Review – A Berry A-Peeling party game

 

Fruit Ninja: Combo Party is a push-your-luck party game of card drafting with a slice of dexterity for 3-6 Ninja Apprentices. The aim of the game is to possess the most points at the end of the last round, granting you juicy sweet victory and the honourable title: Combo Master!

Gameplay revolves around picking Fruit cards to build a bigger and better Combo pile. You then decide whether to end/score that Combo pile and start afresh or to push your luck and keep it in an attempt to build that fruity Combo pile up further, as everyone then passes their ever-shrinking hand of cards to the player on their left .

The game takes place over a number of rounds agreed between players (usually two or three). A round consists of 11 turns, each of which has three phases: the Fruit Phase, the Scoring Phase, and the Drafting Phase.

During the Fruit Phase, each player chooses a card from their hand and places it face down in front of them, with the wooden Katana handle positioned within reach of all players. Everyone then simultaneously reveals their face down cards and suddenly some fast ninja action takes place!

Katana-na-na-na, make those bodies sing!

If two or more players reveal the same fruit, they must test their ninja reflexes by being the first to grab the Katana handle! The first player to grab it is rewarded with a Reward card (which can be worth 1, 2 or 3 points). In the event of a draw, the player with most fingers on the Katana handle wins. If they are STILL tied, the player with their hand closest to the hilt/base/bottom of it wins the tie. And if you didn’t have a Fruit card matching someone else’s card or you knocked the Katana handle over? Your shameful behaviour earns you a black ‘-1’ Golden Apple token, and you must train harder next time!

Now that Fruit card picking and ninja reflex training have happened, everyone places their chosen Fruit card on top of their Combo pile (so that every card in it is visible). You can try to build two types of combos here: a Multi Fruit Combo (where every Fruit card is different) and a Unique Fruit Combo (comprising Fruit cards of a single type only).

If the card you chose can be legally placed on your Combo pile, add it on top! If not, then you must discard that card, followed by your Combo pile after scoring in accordance with the listed example on your reference-y Helper card (which outlines Do’s, Don’ts, points and potential Reward cards obtainable when scoring Combo piles of various sizes). A Combo pile can reach up to six cards, so if you reach this limit, you must discard and score your pile in the Scoring Phase.

Multi Fruit Combo is left, Unique Fruit Combo is right.

Speaking of the Scoring Phase, this just happens to come next – what a coinkidink! This is the point where you choose whether to get out while the going is fruity by scoring and discarding your Combo pile, or to press your luck and try to increase your potential rewards! That is, if you haven’t already reached six cards in your Combo pile or chose and placed a non-valid Fruit card on your Combo pile.

If you decide (or are forced) to score and discard your Combo pile, use your super-helpful Helper card as a guide to see how many Golden Apple tokens of which type you are rewarded. In the situation where you placed a non-valid Fruit card and have to score your pile, you don’t get any delicious bonus Reward cards. But remember here that Unique Fruit Combo piles are rewarded with double the number of Golden Apple tokens listed on the top-half of the Helper card, regardless of the reason for your scoring.

Scoring for both versions of a 6-card Combo pile: Multi Fruit Combo (left) and Unique Fruit Combo (right)

Next comes the Drafting Phase. After players have decided whether or not to score their Combo pile and acted accordingly, all players must then pass the non-chosen Fruit cards in their hand to the player on their left and the next turn begins.

This keeps going until the final turn of the round, when players only have two Fruit cards to choose from in the round’s final Fruit Phase. Once this occurs, each player picks one card to discard and one to play on their Combo pile as previously described, then everyone scores their Combo pile. All players then tally up their total points from their Golden Apples and Reward Cards, and write these down on the teeny tiny score pad provided. Rinse and repeat for a second or third round, and the player with the most points at the end of the last round is crowned the illustrious Combo Master!

Be prepared to write small! 🙂

What I Liked

  • It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s flashy, and it’s filler. Sometimes you need a game like Fruit Ninja: Combo Party to kick off your gaming session or to reset your brain between two 7-hour games of Catan/Twilight Imperium (bonus points if you Meta in a run of this during that 7-hour Catan game! Ok, maybe don’t do that).
  • Love the artwork – it has kept true to the bright and flashy memory we all have of the Fruit Ninja mobile app.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Getting scratched – always remember to cut your fingernails before playing this game, because the desire to grab that Katana handle first can really bring out the hyper-competitive player hiding in all of our mother-in-laws.
  • It only goes up to six players. I can see this game being very fun with up eight players (challenge accepted, Other Josh!).

What I would love to see

  • An expansion with more types of Fruit Combos – maybe poker-style (e.g. full house) or alternating Combos (e.g. banana then watermelon then banana again, etc).
  • An expansion with more types of Fruit – I get that Durians didn’t make the cut, but where’s that mango representation we’ve all been hoping for?? Kidding – I would just love to see a wider selection of fruit.

Reward cards: very rewarding

Recommendations

  • First-Timers: Party games and simple push-your-luck games can be great introductions to the amazing land we call modern board games, and Fruit Ninja: Combo Party is no exception. Turns are quick and fun, and the mechanics are easy to learn for first timers.
  • Family: This is a great family friendly game. Adults and kiddos alike will have a LOT of fun ninja-grabbing for that Katana handle.
  • Friends: A solid party and filler game, and it goes up to six players! I can personally see this hitting the table when I get my entire gaming group over for a 7-player go of this.

Conclusion

Fruit Ninja: Combo Party is a fun-filled party/filler game that is elegantly simple and combines push-your-luck, card drafting, and dexterity in a refreshing and citrus-scented way. It is an excellent adaptation of the popular mobile game we all remember missing our bus/train stop for that one time. The artwork is great, and the box art has great shelf presence (at least on my shelf!). Fruit Ninja: Combo party was released at Gen Con 2018 and should be hitting retail stores soon!

BTW Disclaimer: I received this copy of Fruit Ninja: Combo Party for free from Lucky Duck Games

View the BoardGameGeek link here.

Liked my review? You can view my others here!

Liked it? Take a second to support ATGN on Patreon!