In this card game review, I deep dive Point Salad from AEG games, a game we just keep coming back to time and time again.
Point Salad is one of those games that you play and then find yourself thinking, “How did it take so long for someone to come up with this concept?”
Disclosure: We picked up our copy of Point Salad in a small book shop in Campbellford Ontario. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
What is Point Salad all about?
Despite being an easy to learn game it took three designers and developers to nail down how Point Salad works. These designers are Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, and Shawn Stankewich. Artwork comes from Dylan Mangini with some design work from Shawn Stankewich. You can find Point Salad under sixteen different names and in even more countries (it originated in Korea).
In this review, I’m looking at the North American version of Point Salad which was published by AEG in 2019.
Point Salad is a two to six player card game that plays in a quick fifteen to thirty minutes depending on the player count and AP of the players. This small box card game has an MSRP of $24.99 US.
Point Salad is a tableau building card game where players each create their own salad from a set of one-hundred and eight dual sided cards. Each of these cards features a single ingredient on one side and a way to score points on the other. Each turn players will draft either one point card or two ingredient cards. Once all of the cards have been drafted players each score their individual point cards.
For a look at the box, the cards and the insert you get with this small box card game, check out our Point Salad Unboxing Video on YouTube.
With Point Salad, you get one hundred and eight cards which come in a serviceable, two well, plastic card insert. The game also includes a very short clear and organised rulebook. The cardholder insert is large enough to accommodate sleeved cards which is a nice touch for some gamers.
While I dig the insert and the box size I am a bit concerned about the card quality in Point Salad. The cards in this game seem very thin. They have a nice linen finish but they don’t feel sturdy at all and they aren’t plasticized like most playing cards are. They actually feel quite flimsy and bend easily when being riffle shuffled.
So far, after more than ten plays, we haven’t had any actual bends or tears, but I do worry about the long term durability of these cards.
How do you play Point Salad?
You start a game of Point Salad by paring down the deck for any but the max player count. This could involve counting off a set amount of cards to use or removing a set number of cards from the deck. For example, with two players you count out six of each ingredient but with five players you would instead remove three of each ingredient.
Interestingly at two and three players, the rules recommend you also split up the rest of the cards so that for two players you end up making three decks and playing three full rounds of the game, while with three players you actually split the deck in half and play two rounds of the game. I think this is a cool way to play, where your points total between all of the games played.
Regardless of player count, the rest of how you play Point Salad stays the same no matter how many cards are in the deck.
The next step in setting up a game of Point Salad is to shuffle everything up as well as you can and then split the deck into three piles.
The three plies are placed ingredient side down so that all you see are three point cards. Everyone should take a look at these so they know which point cards are being eliminated because the next step is to flip over two cards from each stack, turning them face up as ingredients to make a market.
That’s all there is for set up. It probably took you longer to read this description than it actually takes to set up a game of Point Salad.
Each turn in Point Salad, players pick one thing to do. They can either take one visible point card or they can take two ingredient cards from the market.
When ingredient cards are taken new cards are flipped to the ingredient side and are used to refill the market. Note this happens only after the player has drafted both of their cards.
Drafted cards are placed in front of the player in their own individual tableau where they will stay until the end of the game (there’s no shifting around or stealing of cards in this game).
Additionally, players have the option to flip over one of their existing scoring cards to its ingredient side. To help with this, the point sides of the cards have small icons in the corners to indicate what ingredient is on the other side.
Note that you cannot, at any time, convert an ingredient back to its point side. This is a one way street. Once an ingredient, always an ingredient. Also, players can only flip one point card per turn. Something that could be a problem if you build up too many point cards that you end up not wanting by the end of the game.
Play continues around the table until every single card is drafted. At that point, players add up their points.
The point side of every card will show some reward for having specific ingredients in your tableau. These exist in all kinds of combinations and include things like scoring two points per Carrot, or five points per pair of Lettuce, or eight points for a set of three specific different ingredients, or twelve points for a full set of six different ingredients, and a whole lot more.
Each of the one-hundred and eight cards in Point Salad has a unique scoring side, so there are tons of possible combinations here.
At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
That’s it. That’s really it. If I were showing you this game in person the teach would have been even quicker. This is basically a game that I can set up and explain in under a minute. It’s that simple to learn.
Who will enjoy Point Salad?
Point Salad is one of those totally brilliant games where once you play it you find yourself wondering, “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?”
Point Salad makes brilliant use of its two sided cards. They are used in such an elegant way. A way that’s dead simple to teach.
The really impressive part though is both how well this dead simple to learn game actually plays and also how much strategy and tactics are required to play this game proficiently.
This is a card game with semi perfect to perfect information. At the full player count of six, it’s possible to know every card in play. At lower player counts you always know exactly how many of each ingredient are in play, but which point cards are removed will be random. Once you get down to two or three players you can get back that perfect information by playing the multiple game variant we mentioned earlier.
By perfect information I mean knowing every card that’s in the deck before things start.
Often perfect information means low randomness and that’s not the case here. Knowing exactly what’s in the deck may not help you at all, as you don’t know the order the point cards or ingredients will come up in and it’s very common that multiple point cards get flipped over in a single round, never to enter play as points.
Due to this you can’t sit there counting on a set score card to come up but you can plan your ingredient drafts based on knowing there are certain types of scoring cards that exist for each card type. This, when combined with looking at what other people are collecting, can definitely affect your odds of getting something useful to you.
Watching what other people are doing can be a big part of this game and with that comes hate drafting. Often the best move may not be to grab something you want but rather to take something so that someone else can’t have it. That said, I never felt the hate drafting in this game became spiteful. It didn’t feel as nasty as it can be in some games. Though it is worth noting that this is part of the gameplay, as it could turn some groups off from this game.
Besides some groups not enjoying a bit of “Take that!” in the card drafting, the only real problem I see with this game is the card quality concern I mentioned earlier.
These are really thin cards. I am curious to see how they hold up over many more plays.
Overall we have been absolutely loving Point Salad. This is a truly brilliant game, the likes of which I haven’t played in a long time. Playing Point Salad has reminded me of when we first discovered The Duke or Azul, games that we still continue to play time and time again even many years after getting them. I fully expect Point Salad to be one of those games that I come back to again and again.
Point Salad could be a universal game. This is a card game that is going to be right for almost all game groups. It’s light enough that party gamers should enjoy it, as should non-hobby gamers and mass market game fans. The thing is, it’s also got enough tactical depth that it should also appeal to fans of heavier games.
The exception to this would be people who just hate quick filler games or those that cannot abide by any “Take that!” elements in their games. While we found hate drafting common it never felt nasty. However, we know some gamers prefer to have no conflict like that in their games at all.
At this point, I would recommend every game group give this game a shot. Find a way to do a demo, talk to your FLGS, see if a friend has a copy, just find a way to try this one! I really can’t see many gamers not finding something to like in Point Salad.
While I expected to enjoy Point Salad I was really surprised by just how much everyone I have played it with has loved it.
I’ve now played it more than ten times with a range of gamers of different ages and experience levels and each and every one of them has asked to play again. This is a game that, so far, we haven’t ever sat down and just played once. Every time Point Salad comes out we play it at least twice in a row if not more. There aren’t many games in my collection that see that happen.
What’s the last game you picked that you knew you would like, but ended up liking even more than that? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!