Thu, Jul 19, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Game Review: Yes! Ginseng

A card game featuring Taiwanese night market food hits high marks in aesthetics and is an effective educational tool, but players might have to alter the rules to boost the entertainment value

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Yes! Ginseng is a fully English-Chinese bilingual card game that pits players against each other as Taiwanese night market stall owners.

Photo courtesy of Yes! Ginseng

With action cards like “gangster,” “cockroach” and “hygiene inspection” and the tagline “let’s hurt each other,” Yes! Ginseng (夜市人蔘) promises an intense, colorful battle in the cut throat world of Taiwanese night markets.

Whether it delivers or not is another matter, although players can rig the game to make it more competitive.

Yes! Ginseng, which will hit the shelves next month, is a fully English-Chinese bilingual card game that is the latest in a growing wave of entertainment productions that are deeply rooted in Taiwanese culture. The demand is definitely there. Following on the heels of hit White Terror video game, Detention (返校), and board game Raid on Taihoku (台北大空襲), Yes! Ginseng raised more than NT$1 million in just two months on the fundraising platform zeczec.com (嘖嘖).

Like Raid on Taihoku, education is an essential component to the game. It comes with a well-designed, easy-to-read booklet with detailed descriptions of each night market dish, even noting when the pronunciation is in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) such as o a min suann (蚵仔麵線, oyster vermicelli).

But unlike Raid, which is intended to illuminate an oft-forgotten or misunderstood piece of local history, Yes! Ginseng appears to be geared more toward providing a fun way for foreigners to learn about Taiwan’s vibrant night market culture and pick up some Chinese (and Hoklo) in the process as they are required to read each dish they make out loud. As French creator Alban Coueffe tells the Taipei Times, the game is best played by foreigners with their Taiwanese friends, and his product matches his words.

There’s also value for Taiwanese to practice their English as everything is bilingual, and there are many details about the dishes that may be new to the average local as well. But most of all, there’s simply something magical about playing a game that’s directly related to one’s own culture, especially when society is so used to consuming foreign entertainment.

With the package resembling a Taiwanese lunch box complete with a pair of chopsticks, the design is clean and tasteful with various night market motifs such as an octopus and plastic stool in transparent gloss on the white box. The cards mostly feature simple vector graphics that are cute, often tongue-in-cheek and do not overwhelm. As far as design goes, the production team is at the top of its game.

Game play is simple: Each player starts with three “ingredient” and two “action” cards, and players compete to make the dishes on the table while using action cards to boost their business, attack others or defend themselves. Each dish is worth a certain amount of coins, and the first to gather eight coins wins the game. It’s fairly easy to learn, fast paced and the entertainment value is high.

However, the game doesn’t force players to fully utilize the functions of the game. Players can spice things up on their own by buying extra action cards, but where winning is concerned, most people will play it safe.

And there was not much “hurting each other” after the first few rounds. After several trial runs, it became apparent that no player was willing to fork out the two coins to buy extra action cards — especially when it only takes eight coins to win the game. One problem was that players were worried that they would end up with a defensive card, which has no use until someone attacks. Another issue was that the effects of many of the cards were not drastic enough to warrant parting with your hard-earned cash. For example, it isn’t very enticing to spend two coins to get a card that causes a player to lose just half his or her ingredient cards.

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